In an appearance before Senate Estimates this evening, ASIC has admitted that, in addition to accidentally blocking 1200 sites in April, in March it found that it had blocked 250,000 websites by accident, as part of its efforts to force Australian ISPs to block access to scam websites.

ASIC told Greens senator Scott Ludlam that it used its powers under s.313 of the Telecommunications Act to block websites 10 times over the last year, but had only commenced doing so in 2012.

Australian site Melbourne Free University found itself blocked in April and was unable to find out from its ISP who had ordered the blocking. Eventually the blocking was traced to ASIC, which had ordered ISPs to block access to a scam site, and in doing so had removed over 1200 other sites, including that of Melbourne Free University.

In relation to the 250,000 sites blocked in March, ASIC advised the committee that “the vast majority (in excess of 99.6%), appear to contain no substantive content. In this instance we that less than 1000 actives sites (less than 0.4%) may have been temporarily affected. None of thse are .au sites.”

ASIC also stated that “a small number” of other sites had been blocked on the 8 other occasions it had used its s.313 power.

ASIC’s opening statement to the committee can be found here (PDF).

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