March 25, 2009 (CAP Newswire) — At first, Australia Communications Minister and Senator Stephen Conroy denied that the recent lists of websites that appeared on Wikileaks (a website dedicated to publishing and commenting on “leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct”) had any connection to the Australian government's official watchdog lists.
Now, it appears that he may be changing his story.
"Senator Conroy admitted that the latest list, dated March 18th, 'seemed to be close’ to ACMA’s current blacklist," writes Chloe Lake, Technology Editor for Australia’s news.com.au, in an article from today’s online edition.
(ACMA, or the Australian Communications and Media Authority, is the department that mandates government intervention in that country's media and communications. An official government blacklist of Internet sites would most likely come from this office.)
What was really controversial about last week’s leaked lists, though, was the inclusion of many reputable, widely respected companies among the thousands of pornography and criminal activity-related websites — including Betfair, the world's largest betting exchange.
Many in the Australian media are understandably upset at the list, and the implications it represents — that the Aussie government can randomly select which Internet destinations it allows its citizens to visit, without any kind of public hearing on the matter.
“When ‘they’ (‘they’ usually being the government) tell us it’s … for our own good and to ‘trust us’, it’s time to be concerned,” Media Man Australia’s Greg Tingle told CAP. “The recent actions by the Australian government regarding censorship of the Internet are the sort of actions that inspire riots, something our friends in America and France would be well aware of.
“When things become ‘illegal’ or ‘banned’, the world history books effectively show that these matters become more popular, often more profitable, but less regulated, so that consumer protection measures are reduced or dissolved.”
Mr. Tingle goes on to claim that not only Betfair but also PokerStars and PokerNews are on the published lists, although whether this is true or not is difficult to confirm in an official capacity.
So, the big question comes back to authenticity: Are the lists really the official black lists of the Australian government?
That still hasn't been confirmed — and perhaps cannot be, given the understandable reluctance of Aussie politicans to claim responsibility for such a controversial topic.
Independent Australian news agency Crikey has been reporting furiously on the topic, publicly calling on Senator Conroy's office to confirm whether or not the new lists were indeed the ACMA blacklist. The jury is still out on whether or not it is, but the lack of an official denial or confirmation is just adding fuel to the fires of controversy at this point.
If there's a silver lining, it's this: Perhaps this storm of criticism will inspire the Aussie government to rethink the very notion of Internet censorship, a concept to which most citizens seem firmly opposed.