ASIC and s313

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of ASIC’s handy work in accidentally(!) blocking 250,000 websites under s313 of the Telecommunications Act and the good work of pirate activists in extracting information about other incidents of s313 blocking.

I applied at about the same time for similar information but extended my request to include some of the policy or protocol statements regarding the agency’s use of the powers s313 granted it, as well as minutes or records of any meetings.

a) Internal policy or protocol statements, guides or memoranda regarding the use of s313 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 for the purposes of requesting from Internet Service Providers, Carriers or Carriage Service Providers, the blocking, filtering or other interference with access to websites determined by ASIC, or by a judicial authority on application from ASIC, as warranting such action, produced or currently valid for the period 12 months prior to this request.

b) In particular, documents, reports, memoranda or internal communication relating specifically to the request by ASIC to Internet Service Providers, Carriers or Carriage Service Providers to block the websites mentioned in the ASIC Media Release 13061MR[1] entitled ‘ASIC warns consumers about Global Capital Wealth’.

c) Memoranda, records or minutes of any meeting or correspondence, between the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the Attorney General’s Department or any other Ministry or Government agency for the purposes of discussing the use of s313 of the Telecommunications Act 1997, within the last 12 months of the date of this request, as discussed by Ms Sachi Wimmer, First Assistant Secretary, Cyber Policy and Homeland Security Division in Senate Estimates, in the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee on Monday, 27 May 2013, at page 82.[2]

I received many documents [PDF] already released to Brendan Molloy, with the addition of a slide show from the FSE Forum, 18 December 2012 on s313 blocking, as well as some scans of articles from Delimiter and the SMH.

Also the breadth of departments and agencies that have been debriefed on s313 is revealed with the following participating in the AGD/DBCDE convened conference:

  • Department of Immigration and Citizenship (IMMI)
  • Attorney Generals Department (AGD)
  • Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
  • Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Australian Crime Commission (ACC)
  • Australian Federal Police (AFP)
  • Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBDCE)
  • Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
  • Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)

Quite a few documents were refused access, because they’d prejudice the operation of ASIC if they were to be released, or would compromise the investigative/detective/preventative operations of ASIC if they were to be released. That will be appealed in due course.

What is perhaps more troubling is the documents that weren’t uncovered, because they didn’t exist. Policy or protocol statements. Government agencies have the authority and power vested in them by virtue of s313 to block access to huge slabs of the Internet – yet have no guidance or policy statements on how that power should be executed. Troubling.

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