Feeds

Oz censorship debate censored on Comms minister's website

It's all kind of ironic when you think about it

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

If you’re planning to censor free speech on the internet, what better approach to take than to, er, censor debate about how you’re planning to censor free speech on the internet? Brilliant.

That, according to one sharp-eyed Register reader, is the game being played by Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, whose ministerial website is currently set up so as not to show searches on embarrassing terms such as "ISP filtering".

An increasingly common feature of interactive websites is the "search cloud": this is a listing out of search terms on a site, often with the added feature that the most frequently appearing terms are picked out by size or weight of type.

The Minister’s official site is no exception, and visitors wishing to know what other visitors are searching on just have to take a look at the search cloud at bottom right of the landing page. Well that’s all they need to do unless they wish to find out about "ISP Filtering", an issue that has been the cause of some controversy in Australia over the past couple of years.

Nip below the page surface and you will find a clever bit of code that sets a counter to record the frequency of any given term, ranks the most frequently occurring terms – and then sets the size of that term within the cloud according to its rank (highest ranked is largest, lower ranked are smaller).

So far so good, unless the search term happens to be "ISP Filtering". Because the other clever thing that the code does is to exclude that particular term from the search cloud. Sorted. Or not.

In recent weeks, protests against the minister’s censor-tastic activities have reached new heights, with a DDoS attack directed both at the Australian Parliamentary website and at the site of the Communications Ministry. This action was characterised by Conroy as irresponsible – presumably on the basis that in a democracy, government attitudes should be changed by debate and there is no need for direct action.

By contrast, evidence that the debate is being skewed in this way will undoubtedly add weight to those who claim that the government is not interested in discussing issues – and the only way to make them sit up and listen is through direct action.

Meanwhile, appearing before the Environment, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee earlier this month, representatives of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), revealed that they would not be pursuing an investigation of how Wikileaks got its hands on ACMA’s list of banned URLs.

While they intend to tighten up processes, in the hope that such a thing will not happen again, they also acknowledged that the Federal Police "considered the prospects of success under their guidelines not sufficiently strong enough to push on with the prosecution".

In addition, there were other more pressing "operational priorities". ®

Bootnote

The code in question appears to be:

for(var i=0; i<unique.length; i++)
  // Important! increase this "15" by 1 every time
  // a keyword is excluded below
  for (var i=0; i<=15; i++) {
    var z=0;
    for(var j=0; j<split.length; j++) {
      if (unique[i]==split[j]) {
        z=z+1;
      }
      counts[i] = z;
    }
    var size = getTagClass(z);
    //Customise the tag-cloud to display what shows up
    if (unique[i] == "ISP Filtering") {
      continue;
    }
    document.write('<a class="'+size+
      '" href="http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au/search?q='+
      unique[i]+'">'+unique[i]+'</a> ');
  }
  document.write('</p>');
}

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.