Optus, Telstra, Vodafone Block Sites For Hosting Footage Of Christchurch Attacks

Image: Carl Court/Getty Images

In the wake of community and political pressure following the livestreaming of the horrific terrorist attacks at Christchurch on Friday, Australian ISPs have started blocking some sites used to rehost footage of the livestream, including the infamous 8chan image board.

Users began noticing today that some sites, including 8chan, 4chan and Kiwi Farms, were suddenly inaccessible:

Telstra noted on Twitter late yesterday that they had begun preemptively blocking websites, but a post on the Telstra Exchange this afternoon went further, saying that "with these sites continuing to host disturbing content we feel it is the right thing to do to block them".

These are shocking events and the idea that this footage could in some way be used to incite or support hate is a sickening thought. We will continue to do whatever we can to assist and to support a diverse and inclusive community.

A spokesperson for Telstra told Kotaku Australia over email that the blocks are temporary and wholly down to the sites continuing to host the livestream, either in part or in full. "We understand this may inconvenience some legitimate users of these sites, but these are extreme circumstances and we feel this is the right thing to do," a Telstra spokesperson said.

A representative from Optus also confirmed that they have begun blocking sites temporarily. While they would not confirm the full list of sites that have been blocked, they did outline their reasoning in a short statement.

"Reflecting on community expectations, Optus has blocked domains which are hosting video footage/sensitive materials relating to the recent Christchurch attack in New Zealand," an Optus representative told Kotaku Australia over email.

Affected users on social media are reporting that 8chan, 4chan and Kiwi Farms are impacted. It's believed other sites like Voat are also on the temporary blacklist, although it's not confirmed what other sites are affected. Representatives from Telstra and Optus declined to confirm the extent of the bans when contacted.

Update: Vodafone's media team, at the time of writing, was yet to respond. The company did confirm publicly on Twitter that they were blocking sites:

However, it's not entirely clear whether the block is still being implemented. Some sites that were supposedly blocked, like 8chan and 4chan, were still viewable on mobile at the time of writing.

This story is developing...


Comments

    I don't use this sites, but holy shit we are in a western country and this is flat out wrong.
    If I want censorship and to be controlled about what I think id go live in China.
    This is actually fucked.

      Yup, as disappointed as I am I'm not surprised in any way. We all kept saying it would happen when they came up with the bright idea of filtering websites to "combat piracy"... and now here we are. I'm worried this is just the beginning of what might be a dive down a very slippery slope.

        Yeah this was one of the big concerns when they first proposed their filters. Time to break out the VPN.

        Side note: I think if they were blocking specific content I'd be less annoyed but when you block a whole site... NOPE!

      Fucked up big time FUBAR'D

      Even if I disagree strongly with what these sites have to say I still think that sunlight is the best disinfectant and banning these sites will just drive them deeper underground.

      Ikr? At least it'll be easier to get a mortgage and book last min flights with my high social credit points over there haha

    And that's how it'll get us, through our morals and emotions.
    This is how liberty dies, yadda yadda, thunderous applause, yadda yadda.

    This is an exercise in pointlessness - anyone who wanted to see it has seen it or has found a way to circumvent these blocks.

    Also it's unlikely to be 'temporary', I can see them just leaving the filtering in place. This all seems well and good because it's a reprehensible event and nobody can object to removing the video, but it's a dangerous precedent of filtering content found objectionable. Even if you don't care about 4chan etc, it's concerning that entire sites can be blocked over one video.

    I knew this would happen. If they couldn’t take down 4/8chan they’d do the next best thing.

    Gimme my imageboards back, Optus.

    I feel like I need to clarify my tweet in the article, as I discovered something later on: Apparently, on an iPhone, it's not possible to set the DNS server for the mobile data connection, only for wifi connections.

    Hence, while I thought I was using 1.1.1.1 at the time of the tweet, I apparently was not.

    I haven't read it at all, but is this something the lunatic shooter put in his 'manifesto' that he wanted to happen? From my understanding is he expected/wanted people/corporations/governments to encroach on people's freedoms so that more people would be 'driven' to take 'action', even if that action is an act of terror. By censoring whole websites, are companies doing exactly what he wanted to happen? Genuine question, I don't know what he wrote as I have no interest in it

      I have seen snippets. Yes, you are correct, this is exactly what he wanted/expected

      He also encouraged people to share and distribute posts and footage. The whole thing is akin to saying "the gub'ment wants to invade your property!" then setting fire to your house and looking all smug when the firemen break into it to put the fires down.

    Block facebook, too.
    Or are they just wanting to be seen doing "something"?

    Temp blocking these websites is completely in line with established norms relating to objectionable content - ACB would refuse classification without a doubt. Technical challenges re: enforcement aside, the internet is simply a novel form of publishing - the same rules that have always applied, still apply. So yeah, I've got no problem with this.

      That's fine until they block something that you may want to see - when that day comes around, I hope you'll remember that it's someone's definition of 'objectionable content'. It's not the content they're blocking - it's entire websites

        It's got nothing to do with what I or anyone else wants to see. It's about what kind of content is legally allowed to be shown in Australia, and what isn't. That's what i meant by 'objectionable content'.

        Yeah it sucks having entire websites taken down. That's not really fair. But if they're not taken down then people can keep publishing the material - which is illegal. In this instance I guess they figured the illegality, combined with the nature of the content itself, outweighed the inconvenience to other users of those sites.

          Okay - so what law was broken and how does said law give you confidence that it cannot encompass anything deemed 'objectionable' by the government?

          I get what you're saying but I am concerned that this is the next step in filtering in a nation that once seriously tabled the idea of an absolute internet filter. All it takes is some sort of moral panic justification to start blocking other things wholesale. You might think it ridiculous, and it's probable that things won't be extended (though the filtering may remain), but it's a terrifying prospect that information can be blocked so readily.

            It's too much to list out here but Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act seems to cover this situation. Although in this instance the Telcos proactively removed access to the content, rather than wait for a take down notice - presumably because they considered it fairly cut and dried.

            Political censorship is obviously bad, but that's not what this is - it's live footage of a violent crime. Kind of sucks that these websites had to go down in order to prevent users of those websites from repeatedly uploading the footage, but until the law catches up with technology, here we are I guess. An uncomfortable middle ground.

              It is not the responsibility, duty or moral obligation of the ISP's to filter content. That is the entire concept of net neutrality, they provide a neutral service to deliver the internet, free from censorship, bias or favouritism, and the content providers are then responsible for appropriate management of the content being delivered. Blocks are handled only at the court level, and then implemented based on court orders occurring as the direct result of due process. By blocking entire sites without due process occurring, the ISPs are blatantly and ostentatiously trampling all over the concept of net neutrality. Companies deciding what we can and can't view or read or participate in instead of lawful and democratically elected institutions regulating it.

                This decision seems to be preempting an inevitable take-down notice from ACMA. It's not the Telcos deciding what we should and shouldn't be able to view, it's the law - they are proactively complying with existing legislation. And yeah, whilst there is certainly cause for concern in unilateral censorship by ISPs, this particular situation is about as cut and dried as you can get. They jumped before they were pushed.

                  The ACMA has no authority over entities like 4-chan/8-chan that have no business interests here in Australia and do not directly deliver content to Australian consumers, nor does current law allow them to hold the ISPs responsible. This is the ISPs acting entirely on their own initiative.

          Totally wrong. The Australian government has never blocked videos of IS beheading prisoners, massacres of captured soldiers by Islamic State. The terrorist acts at Nice (Vehicle attack) or Charlie Hebdo terrorists gunning down a wounded Police officer, none of those were censored or blocked. There are numerous examples of massacres that haven’t been censored. So why does this one get special treatment? You can draw your own conclusions.

            Very good question. It’s a simple answer, though: this time the attack was too close to home and people are outraged and looking for a scapegoat. The telcos are all too happy to give them one while virtue signalling that they’re doing something.

            It's not the event itself - those examples you give would be considered refused classification material too no doubt - but rather the repeated sharing of the video en masse. That seems to be what made the Telcos (not the government...) block the websites in this instance.

              Those videos were also hosted and mass shared on those sites as well; the only difference is that this event was geographically and culturally closer to home. The telcos never took any action back then.

                I'm guessing they were shared less, or there was there less public outcry perhaps? I dunno, you'd have to ask the Telcos why they didn't do it for the other videos. Either way, they're all footage of violent crimes - all would be considered refused classification materials.

        There's a lot of work being done by that "they" in the "until they block something". This isn't a unilateral decision by the telcos, this is a decision made after pretty overwhelming public outcry.

        The problem with censorship isn't that some things aren't available. If we accept that free speech is powerful, we also have to acknowledge that power can be used in ways that undermine our society just as much as it can undermine a totalitarian state. The problem with censorship is that it's some person in an office making a decision instead of the people, in a way that can undermine our ability to even have a democracy.

        In this case, it's pretty clear-cut. We've already had the public debate. The best argument in favour is a slippery slope argument, which is hardly an argument at all.

          They didn't block a video - they blocked entire websites. By your logic if the general public had a far right or far left extremist slant and demanded content be removed or blocked, then that's okay. Reflect on that.

          Your lines of argument are deeply disturbing.
          Er... yes actually the problem with censorship IS that something is not available - like entire websites! I bet you would not be arguing like that if the censorship were applied equally arbitrarily for other violent content, i.e take down in their entirety - google, facebook, twitter and youtube - the whole situation is completely bonkers.
          Furthermore, how many people were killed under the third reich because of the 'public outcry' argument you have used? Answer - many millions.

          Third, Plato notwithstanding, when exactly did this public debate of yours happen?
          How could there even be an informed public debate without first seeing the evidence anyway? It is not valid to argue the video is beyond the pale - seeing as, there are a lot worse videos and images available showing say, some of the 500,000 Iraqui children murdered during gulf war II or jihadi beheading videos similarly. I guess those dismembered Iraqui four year old girls are just not worth as much in Iraq - mabey they should have been slaughered in Auckland for better consideration? Perhaps then images of dead Iraqui toddlers that we helped slaughter would be objectionable under NZ law too. You see what I did there? That is, to further highlight the generally vacuous and hypocritical nature of 'public outcry'. Naturally, this suggests that decisions to limit the actions of millions of people should perhaps not be made under "football stadium" mentality.

          Forget the straw man fallacy also, the best argument not to censor whole websites is not 'slippery slope' as claimed, it is perhaps 'real, present and arbitrary misuse of power'. Why do I say misuse? Well for one thing, I've seen the 'terrible' video and it is rather disturbing because it is a sloppily made fake. Whenever our muslim kindred were killed they were certainly not killed when the 'livestream' was filmed. Now I would suggest everyone challenge my outrageous claim that the 'livestream' is fake, but wait, oh yeah - you can't see it for yourself - oops!

      The issue for a lot of people though is the precedent that it sets and also, as @soldant said, they aren't blocking just the illegal content, they are blocking the whole websites that are much more than just the posts created by lonely miserable people.

      For example, I learned how to build a shelving unit that is sitting next to me on the DIY board on 4Chan, yet instead of doing their research and blocking the boards that this content is posted on, they are blocking the 98% of the website that is filled with morally sound content.

      This is just a PR stunt by businesses but it's repercussions could be significant. It would be the same as blocking twitter or facebook due to people posting unsavoury things on their page, only they are targeting the smaller communities for now, but it is a dangerous action to take as it opens the doors for larger scale movements to happen in the future.

      That would be fine if it was JUST the objectionable content, NOT the whole sites. As someone pointed out above it's on Facebook too - so they should block all of Facebook? It's probably also on Youtube and other platforms too. So block them in their entirety too?

      That to me is the problem.

    8.8.8.8 - is all you need

      Don't know why you got downvoted for pointing out how laughably easy it is to bypass blocks.

        I think they are not routing to their servers IPs now as I tried with both 8.8.8.8 and 1.1.1.1 DNS servers on Optus, and still could not access.

        However connecting to a VPN loaded the site instantly.

        So glad I bought the NordVPN 3 years for $30 deal.

    They want to lock people up for 10 years who download the video. LMAO, stupid.

      Is it downloading or is it sharing/uploading?

    Since when did the Kotaku comment section become full of libertarian asshats?

      Since when did we celebrate blocking entire websites because of one video, while ignoring plenty of others?

      Since when did you fail and debating and instead resort to ad hominem attacks?

      Is it libertarian to not want some unknown person or persons to decide what you can and cannot look at on the internet?
      Is it libertarian to think it’s stupid to block a whole country’s access to a site because a video was uploaded in one of the many subdirectories?
      Is it libertarian to ponder on how these “notorious sites” got hit with a block for having this video hosted on them while Facebook literally made the news for having like 1.5 million uploads of said video but did not get blocked?
      Because if it is, then yeah I guess I’m a libertarian.

    Liveleak is blocked? Why? It didn't even show the video. Does someone have a workaround for this? I always use the Google DNS and it isn't working. Sorry if I like to stay informed of what is going on in the world....

    Australia is heading down a terrible road.

    sooo, they blocked google drive ? dropbox ?

    Hmmm, I thought the firewalled websites were dictated by the government and that an ISP could not go ahead and do something from their own behest. I'm weary about any kind of censorship but I find it more alarming that an ISP can firewall content at their own behest regardless of the ease of circumvention. How easy could it be for opposing political views to be deemed objectionable and censored without any scrutiny!

    I understand the argument about other similarly themed videos not getting the same treatment, but the Christchurch massacre for many is psychologically different than a killing in a far away land.

      Theoretically an ISP can block any content they like. It'd be in their terms and conditions. It'll just come down to how much backlash they face from their customers.

        I know what you're saying but just because they might have a T&C does not mean the T&C has to be upheld.

        Simply look at a lot of companies that have T&Cs in relation to warranty that are not upheld when challenged appropriately.

        A T&C which impedes freedom of speech etc is contrary to law and would likely be invalidated if correctly challenged.

          This is a discussion that's been had a lot of times so I won't go into it to deeply again. But a couple points, Australia doesn't have freedom of speech enshrined in the constitution like the US. Even if we did it's not binding on a company, especially if they have clearly set out T&Cs that you've agreed to.

          Not saying companies that ignore "freedom of speech" are smart, because they'd face customer backlash which can be more damaging than legitimate legal actions. But I don't think there'd be much of a legal case here in Oz.

          Warranty is a different thing because there is specific customer protection legislation written that addresses it. Particularly the point that there is basically a 12 month warranty of everything you buy. And it's written so a contract can't void that.

    I wonder if the video could be edited to just remove the bits that are objectionable to YouTubes rules and upload it there, then complain to Telstra about not blocking it.

    this is pretty fucked up... when do the thought police get told enough is enough and they cant keep censoring our lives?

    all i want to do is discuss kpop and plastic toy robots, but i cant do that now because some edgelord /pol/tard kiwi has a mental disorder.

    Knee jerk, shotgun censorship that anyone with half a brain can bypass (VPN or simply using Google's DNS). Unethical and ultimately pointless. Asshats.

      simple DNS appears to not be working for at least some (optus looking common link there) and with a VPN theres a 99% chance you wont be able to post.

    It's such a slippery slope, but... tbh, the more time passes, the more I'm convinced that the Internet needs fixing.

    I don't know. Blocking websites really is an old way of trying to fix a new problem, bandaid on a broken leg and all that, but I don't really know what the answer is. How do we stop this from happening, and how do we stop it from spreading?

    So let me get this straight, the kiddy-fiddlers get less time than those who share a bad video?

    I read an article somewhere that someone who shared it is facing 28 years...

    They are also blocking some political sites that have nothing to do with the Christchurch tragedy. SouthFront is blocked today and ZeroHedge is also blocked at times.
    The censorship has little to do with the massacre, that is simply the excuse. Currently it's to limit information about Julian Assange.
    It seems we don't need Governments, the corporations now make the law.

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