December 10, 2015

Australia should not ask tech firms to block illegal gambling sites

As the Australian government look at ways of blocking illegal online gambling sites offering their services to Australians, many of the leading online companies say it is impossible to block those sites.

Twitter, Facebook and Google all said to wagering review chairman Barry O’Farrell it is impossible to block offshore online gambling sites and the government should not burden the online tech companies to help to do this.

“We consider there to be fundamental flaws and significant practical difficulties with any attempts to filter the Internet such that it may not be possible to automatically block content,” the companies said in a joint submission to the government under their Digital Industry Group association. “Who would determine whether a service is illegal and would entire websites be blocked if there are both legal and illegal services on the website?”.

Figures show that Australian nationals gamble some $24 billion a year and it is estimate $1 billion is to offshore illegal gambling sites that the government want to stop.

The government want tech companies to install web filtering to block these sites but in a joint statement to the review board the companies say it is unworkable.

Those tech giants also have big concerns around its own legal liability should it move to cut access to commercial websites.

“We have concerns around legal liability in preventing access to commercial websites and question what safe harbours would be provided. In addition, internet filters can be easily circumnavigated and information about how to use virtual private networks (VPNs) is widely available. There is no existing legal precedent in Australia requiring Internet companies that are not ISPs to filter access to websites,” the note to the review board says.

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