07 Jun 2013

The ASIC ‘accidentally’ blocks 250,000 legitimate websites

It has been revealed by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) that when the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) tried to block an IP address in March of this year, they inadvertently blocked more than 250,000 websites incorrectly.

The ASIC uses Section 313 (of the Telecommunications Act) notices to take down websites that it feels is engaging in criminal activity. The problem is, there are currently no checks and balances to ensure that the website has been correctly classified, or even that the website address is correct. The Telecommunications Act is also very broad and open to interpretation. The law requires that ISPs “do their best” to prevent services from being used to break state or territory law, while assisting “officers of the law enforcement authorities” in protecting national security and public revenue.

The potential implication for websites that are incorrectly classified is both obvious and devastating. A small business owner for example could find themselves with a blocked website with no notification, wreaking havoc on their business operations. It could also leave consumers without access to legitimate websites such as online banking and social media tools.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is currently looking into improving the use of Section 313 notices by making the law clearer and more transparent.