Aussie Web Agency Changes its Tune

BRISBANE, Australia - The Australian agency in charge of Web regulations will be changing the way it operates, following the leak of a blacklisted website.

As reported Tuesday by AVN Online, the Australian Communications and Media Authority threatened to fine website forum Whirlpool and its hosting company, Bulletproof Networks, up to $11,000 Aussie dollars a day for displaying the link to a banned anti-abortion site.

The threat came after a complaint about "offensive content" on the blacklisted site, reports AustralianIT.

The ACMA responded and then took action, adding the site to its "secret" blacklist, but failed to investigate thoroughly, critics said. And word spread on message boards and blogs. Now, the organization must advise complainants of the outcome of their complaints, and will take additional steps before adding sites to the blacklist.

"ACMA has modified its replies to complainants to omit the URLs of prohibited content and potential prohibited content," said an agency spokesman. "ACMA is aware of only a handful of instances from the 6,000 investigations completed since January 1, 2000, where a complainant has published ACMA's response."

AustralianIT notes Whirlpool owner Simon Wright doesn't understand why his hosting company was notified along with his site. 

"ACMA should have contacted us first. We felt compelled to remove the link to avoid getting Bulletproof into trouble," Wright said. "Threatening friendships is something mobs do, not governments."

The slight policy adjustment doesn't change the big picture, opponents maintain. ACMA still has the power to levy fines and still has a blacklist of sites.

Meanwhile, the Aussie government continues trials of filtering software with a group of Internet companies. The goal is to eliminate child porn, officials claim, but free-speech groups and Internet-rights organizations believe it's a war on all porn and adult content, as well as some lifestyles and political thought.