Australia's Web Filtering Plans in a Shamble?

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This week saw the Australian government's plan to pilot its grand experiment in filtering the Internet receive a body blow.

As reported by several Australian newspapers, the supposedly secret list of websites that were to make up the Australian government's banned list was leaked to the whistle-blower website Wikileaks. Now it is feared that those on the banned list will be able to figure out how they got on the banned list and find away around it.

The government is trying to play down the leak by saying it isn't its official banned list, but few are totally buying the argument.

One reason is that the government has been threatening "fines of up to $11,000 a day for linking to sites on its secret censorship blacklist and said Australians caught distributing the list or accessing child pornography sites on the list could face criminal charges and up to 10 years in prison," according to The Australian.

Another is that Wikileaks' pages are apparently being blocked in Australia (as well as elsewhere). Getting to the Wikileaks' site has been problematic at the best of times because of overwhelming demand, but after leaking the banned list it apparently has now gone off-line - at least for a while.

Also causing concern is that some of those sites appearing on the government's banned list are legitimate websites, which is not amusing those who own them. This has also raised complaints that the government might secretly use web filtering for political censorship, a charge it hotly denies.

The Australian government planned to start its web filtering pilots this month, but it is unclear whether that schedule will still be met given this and legal issues needing resolution.

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