Senator Scott Ludlam’s showdown with Senator Conroy last week during Estimates (PDF) was a welcome sign that the opposition had stopped sitting on their hands when it came to filtering. However, as Mark Newton pointed out last Thursday evening, Conroy’s answers to Ludlam’s questions about other international filtering examples were rather misleading.

Tonight Dale Clapperton writes that Conroy also arguably misled the Senate with his numerous statements equating the ACMA ‘black list’ and Labor’s filtering plans with ‘illegal’ content. He says:

Throughout the hearing, Conroy and a Mr Rizvi (the ‘Deputy Secretary, Broadcasting, Regional Strategy, Digital Economy and Corporate’) who was testifying with him, treated the existing ACMA ‘black list’ as synonymous for ‘illegal material’ e.g.:

The situation in the United Kingdom, for example, is that a range of ISPs have introduced black list filtering–that is, the filtering of their equivalent of the ACMA black list. In respect of that filtering in the United Kingdom, the consumer does not have the option of opting out. They get an ISP feed which has those illegal sites filtered out. [p 77.  This comment is also false because in the UK, only one ISP has a ‘clean feed’ and it blacklists only child pornography’]

The problem with Conroy’s statements is the ACMA ‘black list’ is not restricted to material which is ‘illegal’.

The ACMA ‘black list’ is a list of websites or URLs (it’s unclear which is the case) which have been identified by the ACMA as ‘prohibited content’ but which are hosted outside Australia, so the ACMA can’t force the material to be removed.  Instead, it adds it to the black list which is distributed to manufacturers of various Internet filtering products, so they can block access to those sites.

The ACMA black list is simply a list of material which the ACMA could forcibly remove from the Internet if it were hosted in Australia.  Nothing on there is necessarily ‘illegal.’

Dale is right. The ACMA blacklist can contain content as tame as MA15+ and above. The British Telecom list is not equivalent to ACMAs blacklist.