Telstra appoints itself Oz net censor

Hijacks requests for gay porn website

Australian telco Telstra has appointed itself guardian of the Lucky Country's net morals after an embarrassing advertising blunder directed fans of Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan to a US gay porn site.

The company's internet tentacle - BigPond - earlier this week placed an ad in Melbourne's Herald Sun and Sydney's Daily Telegraph congratulating said chanteuse on her triumph in the Oz equivalent of Pop Idol. Sadly, a "simple human error in the last-minute preparation of the ad" pointed enthusiastic punters to steamy caseydonovan.com, rather than whiter-than-white caseydonovan.com.au.

Realising its error, BigPond began to redirect requests for caseydonovan.com to caseydonovan.com.au. The ISP's corporate affairs manager, Craig Middleton, told The Register:

I am happy to clarify the situation which has prompted your inquiry.

The change has been made using the BigPond Domain Name Server, which identifies requests from BigPond customers for the caseydonovan.com website. They will see a splash page, which provides them the opportunity to confirm whether they wish to go to the Australian Idol winner's website or the US adult site. Noone seeking the US Casey Donovan site is restricted from doing so. The owners of that site in fact offered to place a diversion on the site themselves, but this was conditional on BigPond publicly promoting another, and this time hardcore, Gay porn website. We declined.

Which is all tickety-boo and hunky-dory, is is not? Well no, not really.

Splash page or not, BigPond has taken it upon itself to deem the content of caseydonovan.com inappropriate and hijack legitimate requests for a perfectly legal website. The question is: by what yardstick does BigPond measure the appropriateness of web material?

Despite lurid accounts in some quarters about the content of caseydonovan.com, the site has a landing page containing no full-frontal male nudes and clearly offers: "By clicking below, I certify that I am at least 18 years of age & wish to shop for explicit adult gay videos and DVDs. I further state that materials containing male-to-male sex do not offend me or the standards of the community in which I live." By internet standards, it's a pretty tame affair.

Caseydonovan.com.au, on the other hand, offers no landing page warning that you are about to be subjected to a rendition of Ms Donovan's debut single Listen to your heart - a harmless enough composition but certainly offensive to anyone who considers formula pop an affront to humanity.

Whatever. The fact is that BigPond complained to the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) about the content of caseydonovan.com after it had already acted to redirect traffic from the site. This leads to the suspicion that it was attempting to find some retrospective justification for its actions - actions which were provoked in the first place by its own cock-up. The ISP ought to be thoroughly ashamed of itself for this blatant piece of arse-covering, explained by Craig Middleton to one Aussie online publication as an attempt "to 'leave no stone unturned' in a bid to protect the interests of Australian teenagers". ®

Bootnote

Caseydonovan.com.au doesn't have much in the way of content at the moment, but it does have this apology from BigPond, dated 23 November:

BigPond today offered its sincere apologies to Australian idol winner Casey Donovan, her family and her fans following the publication of an incorrect web address in two newspapers today.

BigPond Corporate Affairs Manager, Craig Middleton, said BigPond deeply regrets the inclusion of the incorrect website address in an advertisement celebrating Casey’s Australian Idol win.

The correct site is www.caseydonovan.com.au

“BigPond apologises for any embarrassment or offence to Ms Donovan, her family and to anyone who has accessed the incorrect website,” Mr Middleton said.

“Since being alerted to the error, we have taken a number of steps to reduce the risk of customers accessing the incorrect site, including the placement of a page on the BigPond service which will direct BigPond customers to the Australian Casey Donovan website,” he said.

BigPond also has advised web content filtering providers of the US site’s content, to have it blocked for customers who subscribed to Internet filtering services.

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