Search giant Google has hit out at the Australian Federal Police and corporate regulator ASIC over the use and abuse of powers in the Telecommunications Act to block websites, with the IT giant calling on the Government to repeal the ‘outdated’ laws.
In documents recently released to the Department of Communication’s freedom of information log, the federal police agency and the corporate watchdog both signalled an intention to continue to use the controversial section 313 of the act, despite ASIC having revealed it had accidentally blocked over 1000 websites last year in an attempt to take down just one.
The AFP used the legislation to block 21 websites between June 2011 and February 2013. It reported that these sites had been listed on Interpol’s ‘worst of’ list of child abuse websites, the FOI document stated.
ASIC made requests to block ten websites between June 2012 and April 2013. A third agency was revealed in May last year to have also used the controversial section but its identity has consistently been kept a secret.
The agency in question falls under the Attorney-General’s portfolio, former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy confirmed last year. He cited “national security” concerns for not revealing the agency’s identity.
In a December submission to the Department of Communications on reducing the cost of regulation in the communications sector, Google head of public policy Iarla Flynn complained that Australian law enforcement agencies had been interpreting the legislation more widely than intended.
“It appears that this law has been interpreted broadly by various Australian government agencies to include the take down of websites that are deemed illegal,” Flynn said in the submission.
“Google believes that section 313 does not contain sufficient safeguards, and could potentially impact significantly on the availability of information and content on the internet through the overbroad blocking of websites.”
Flynn said it was “essential” the Government implement measure to ensure transparency in the blocking or removing of website by government agencies.
“Consideration should be given to whether s.313 should remain in the Telecommunications Act or whether a similar obligation with sufficient oversight be co-located with other national security powers.”