1200 Australian websites were blocked by ISPs after an ASIC stuff-up.
Under the cloak of a little-known law, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) asked major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block a website last month causing an additional 1200 websites hosted on the same web server to also be blocked.
Using section 313 of the Telecommunications Act, Federal Government agency ASIC used the law to ask ISPs Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to block a website believed to be defrauding Australians. The IP address given to the ISPs was that of a shared server the website was hosted on, rather than the website's domain name. This resulted in an additional 1200 websites hosted on that server to be blocked until the issue was rectified days later.
Section 313 states that ISPs must “give officers and authorities of the Commonwealth and of the states and territories such help as is reasonably necessary” for enforcing criminal law. This section seems to be very loose in terms of who is able to enforce the law. One could suggest that any public servant could be referred to as an officer of the Commonwealth and of the states and territories.
ASIC has confirmed that it is reviewing its processes for future section 313 requests to ensure similar instances don’t occur.
Should the government have the power to block websites and, if so, should the blocked websites be listed for transparency?
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