Aus politicians puppeted by hackers

Hearty endorsements of net censorship carpet Christian message board

Red faces all round at the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) after a posse of seriously unchristian hackers overloaded its shiny new message board with spoof messages, and the ACL blog toppled over.

The story begins with one sharp-eyed Reg reader, who drew to our attention a large number of highly impolitic comments apparently being made by leading Australian politicians on the new ACL blog site. In some cases, the name of the supposed commenter is given in full, together with a link to their website: in others, it is just the link that gives the clue.

The blog opened with a message of goodwill supposedly from Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, which announced: "Keep up the good work guys. I am trying my hardest to ensure that Internet Filtering becomes a reality. I hope that in the future we can (with God’s help) and some improvements in technology, filter millions and millions of pages."

This is followed by a short comment from someone who wishes simply to be known as 'Kevin' (like outgoing Australian PM Kevin Rudd*) welcoming the "update" and ending with a stirring message: "God bless the ACL, the Rudd Government, but not Playboy".

Prominent soul-barers appeared to include Australian Senators Barnaby Joyce and Kate Lundy, with the latter allegedly claiming that she is "very much FOR Internet censorship". However, her role was "to weaken opposition by appearing to have a conciliatory position".

Family First Leader Stephen Fielding’s name was there, as was that of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, reportedly saying: "My dream is an Internet that is full of safe and happy young Australians and Good News, not one where anyone can promote their views on objectionable topics like euthanasia, promiscuity amongst teenage girls, and evolution."

So has the Australian political establishment finally decided to come clean about its views on internet censorship? Have they mistaken a public Christian forum for the confessional – and decided to let us in on their innermost thoughts?

Er, probably not. We asked various politicians named in this blog to confirm that these comments originated with them. We received no reply from Lundy, Fielding and Abbott. However, a spokeswoman for Senator Barnaby Joyce did get back to us.

She showed the comments to Senator Joyce, and confirmed that the Senator described them as “rubbish”, before adding that he does not blog and categorically denying that the comments written on the ACL site have anything to do with him.

A little later, the same spokeswoman got back to us to say that she had spoken with ACL’s CEO who was "all apologies" about this matter. She told us: "Apparently someone got into their system and set up blogs for not only Barnaby but other politicians."

While we are pleased that this matter is now resolved, we did ask much the same question of the ACL ourselves – and are still waiting an official response.

On the surface, this issue is mostly a source for public entertainment. However, it is worthy of note that an organisation with strong views on internet censorship and personal responsibility on the net should set up a message board that was so easily spoofed – and that three out of four politicians whose names were misused as a result of that spoofing did not get back to us.

The board is still up – but the questionable content is no longer there: it disappeared shortly after the Reg alerted ACL. Also gone is the - possibly hacked - lead message that stated: "So far, we’re finding the comments very eye-opening..."

However, many of those posting are still referring back to what went before – and ACL are still accepting posts from possibly dodgy commentards, including a follow-up from 'Kevin' – and several from a Mr J Goebbels. Subtle. ®

Bootnote

*At time of writing, Australia's Prime Minister was still Kevin Rudd. In a surprise move by the parliamentary Labor party yesterday (or Thursday morning down under), Mr Rudd was deposed and Australia is now celebrating the appointment of its first female PM, Julia Gillard.

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