By Jeremy Nadel
Apr 4 2023

‘Informal’ block requests don’t need to be reported on.

Australian government agencies are making direct, “informal” approaches to internet providers and telcos to block access to websites, rather than continue to use a controversial power in the Telecommunications Act.

The use of “informal” requests means agencies can also avoid reporting the block requests to a central register that was set up to bring transparency to the space.

The register, run by the he Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), relies on agencies that request website blocks under section 313(3) powers in the Telecommunications Act 1997 voluntarily reporting their request numbers.

It was designed to avoid a repeat of a notorious overblocking incident that impacted 250,000 legitimate websites in 2013.

But almost a decade on, while an overblocking incident of the same scale hasn’t materialised, neither has an accurate central register of all website takedown requests.

There are two issues at play.

First, while the ACMA encourages federal and state, territory agencies to report S313(3) requests they make, a spokesperson told iTnews that this is “good practice” and not a legal requirement.

“As such failure to report to the ACMA on the use of section 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act is not illegal,” the ACMA spokesperson said.

Second, some agencies are avoiding the issue entirely by not using section 313(3) at all.