6th Jun 2013
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ASIC blocks 250,000 websites
ASIC blocks 250,000 websites

In a Senate Estimates hearing on Tuesday, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)  revealed that it had ‘accidently’ blocked 250,000 websites in March this year.

As reported on 22 March 2013, ASIC came under fire when 1200 innocent websites, of which the majority were owned and operated by Australians, were inadvertently blocked by the government agency. This occurred when ASIC issued IP address blocks instead of domain name blocks to local Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The inadvertent blocking of 250,000 websites was only uncovered when ASIC reviewed the nine previous instances whereby they issued notices to ISPs to block specific IP addresses. ASIC stated to the hearing that even though 250,000 websites were blocked, only about 1000 of those were ‘fully-fledged’ active websites and none of those were .au domains.

ASIC has vowed to report annually on its blocking of websites.

Read more from Computerworld.

Where is the accountability?

The World Wide Web has changed drastically over the past 15 years, so it is dumbfounding to many that a 15-year-old-law in the Telecommunications Act has been exploited by government agencies to block websites.

For those who don’t remember, back in 2011 the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy’s proposed Australia-wide web filter was met with strong opposition from the general public and from businesses. Late in 2012, he back-flipped on the issue.

Instead of disclosing to the public of Australia that these practises were now common-place, government agencies such as the ASIC have acted in secret to exploit a law introduced back when the number of websites in existence was less than 1 per cent of what exists today. Frankly, heads need to roll at ASIC and any other government agency involved.

It doesn’t take a genius, or even someone with an IT degree, to realise that blocking IP addresses can, and most likely will result, in the blocking of innocent websites.

As a website owner, I was disgusted at the disregard shown for the rights of the general public and, more importantly, the owners of the websites shown by ASIC at the hearing on Tuesday. To suggest the damage done wasn’t anywhere near as severe as it sounds, due to a large portion of those websites not containing enough information to be considered ‘fully-fledged websites’, is preposterous. This attitude simply reinforces the negligence of the organisation in this perplexing stuff-up.

There is currently no accountability or transparency in the system and amendments to the Telecommunications Act need to be made immediately to outlaw this shady exploitation of an outdated law. Furthermore, public consultation needs to take place before any more notices to block websites are issued and a specific department needs to take control of this procedure with full public disclosure.

What do you think? Is Drew right that those who approved the blocking of websites need to be fired? Is the government trying to enforce a police state on the web? Do you still trust our government to make the right decision when trying to protect you from threats?





    COMMENTS

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    Kaye Fallick
    6th Jun 2013
    9:49am
    I think Drew makes a strong point ....
    BUT i do think we live in a 'mistake-free' universe where celebrities, governments, large companies and high profile individuals are no longer allowed to make a mistake.
    We ALL make mistakes from time to time, so is it fair to expect others to never never never make one?
    Pass the Ductape
    6th Jun 2013
    12:15pm
    Kaye - if you think ASIAC 'accidentally' blocked 250,000 websites then you have a lot more faith in this department than I do.
    Kaye Fallick
    6th Jun 2013
    1:31pm
    Sigh! You are probably right Ductape but i do believe mistakes are made by the large and the small. Life is about mistakes, isn't it?
    Paddles
    6th Jun 2013
    4:34pm
    The lives of some of us dear lady, are a mistake in themselves.
    Jen
    6th Jun 2013
    11:05am
    As a website owner, I am also disgusted at the disregard shown for the rights of the general public and, more importantly, the owners of the websites. An innocent mistake? I wonder... And yes, someone's head should roll. These websites represent someone's livelihood and an ENORMOUS amount of work. We need to know this will not happen again.
    Wstaton
    6th Jun 2013
    11:57am
    I assume ASIC went through everyone of these 250,000 websites and determined that the vast majority were not fully fledged. Wonder how long it took them. Apart from this I have created customer websites that have not been much larger than 600kbytes in size yet bring in a sizable number of customers for them. If they determined this just by creating a list by size which would have been the quickest way and then determined that anything under x size is not fully fledged then they are wrong. Another thing a great many domains are simply gateways to main website domains which may have another IP address.
    BrianP
    6th Jun 2013
    2:20pm
    Instead of just commenting, Aussies need to TAKE ACTION to prevent the rapid increase of corruption and lack of accountability in Government and the regulatory bodies like ASIC. They use billions of tax payers' dollars and ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOB PROPERLY. People need to take action such as joining together in support groups to lobby decision makers. There is power in people joining together. One such group is the Banking and Finance Consumers Support Association at http://www.bfcsa.com.au/

    6th Jun 2013
    5:20pm
    ASIO is a puppy compared to the CIA, FBI, MOSSAD, KGB and what these organisations do in the name of their PEOPLE is becoming rather sickening (rendition, torture, drug dealing, supporting terrorists (financially & weapons), overthrowing democraticly elected governments, installing dictators.... the list goes on)..

    No wonder they hate Julian Assange and Wikileaks with a vengeance....... their dirty, disgusting deeds are being revealed.

    How gutsy and brave is Julian Assange and all those wonderful human beings that are whistleblowers....really, really amazing people!

    Without Open and Accountable governments, we have NO DEMOCRACY - we need to know who is pulling our politicians strings and how much is going into their coffers for doing what they are told by powerful corporations.

    George Orwell's 1984 was dated just a bit too early and in OUR current and real scenario, it is the CORPORATIONS behind the governments that control us, through their very own propaganda media and puppet politicians who are desperate to get elected.

    Julian Assange has shown he is willing to put his very life on the line to bring Open & Accountable governments and more importantly, our 'secret services'. So put The Wickleaks Party into the senate to PROTECT your rights and to promote an Open & Accountable Government.

    Do NOT allow the elected government to control BOTH Houses of Parliament - WE NEED CHECKS & BALANCES. We need OUR democracy to be PROTECTED!

    6th Jun 2013
    5:27pm
    Julian Assange has written a book called CypherPunks and it talks of how governments and corporations are counteracting our Internet freedom, etc by spying big time on all and EVERY one on the Internet.

    I have just purchased it from OR Books but haven't been able to get to it as yet, although the intro has been enough to make me sit up and take an interest.
    Boof
    7th Jun 2013
    10:33am
    I found ASIC to be of little consequence, when I was in small business, for a little while. They were good at collecting the annual fee, but that's about all. The big boys' are just too smart for them. I suppose they had to do something to advertise their existence.


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