Recent action by the Australian Government may see Google and many other popular websites banned in Australia under existing censorship laws.
Under the Communications Legislation Amendment (Content Services) Act 2007 sites that link to content that is Refused Classification (RC) are considered themselves to be RC, and if hosted in Australia, site owners can be ordered to remove the link(s), or fined AU$11,000 a day.
The problem is that the provisions potentially make most sites on the internet illegal. Take for example the leaked Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) blacklist on Wikileaks we wrote about earlier. Given that the list was published after ACMA banned a similar list from Denmark, it’s fair to say that linking to the Australian list will be illegal as well from Australia. Note at this point that the content in the list consists entirely of URLs and does not in itself publish pictures or video; under the act, the links in the list are illegal content (RC) because of what they link to. Likewise, linking to that list is illegal because the list itself is now illegal. Any site that links to the list of links then becomes prohibited content. Most sites would have a front page with internal links, so any page on a site that links to the post that links to the list of links becomes illegal. Keeping up?
If I was linking to XYZ blog, and XYZ blog was linking to ABC blog who had linked to the list, all the pages in the chain are illegal, because each one links to prohibited content. Any site linking to me then becomes illegal, and so on.
But it gets better, because it took 1 second for me to bring up a page in Google which links to the Denmark list. If the Denmark list is prohibited content, then Google is in breach of the act as well, and could well end up being banned. And that’s before you even consider that Google itself takes copies of pages through Google Cache (I’m not allowed to link to it, but it is there, in full in Google.)
This is the stupidity of what is essentially a thought crime: criminalizing a list of links which are text and do not in themselves constitute child porn or other physical illegal activity. The law sets off a chain that could potentially result in most, if not all of the internet in Australia being banned by the Government.
Sounds extreme? well so is making laws that say sites are refused classification for a link and not content. Fascism in Australia has a very wide bow.