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New guidelines released for government agencies regarding lawful disruption of illegal online activities

The Turnbull Government has released guidelines on the use of section 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997, which enables Government agencies to seek the assistance of internet service providers to disrupt websites linked to unlawful activity.

The longstanding provision allows government agencies, with the assistance of internet service providers, to disrupt websites in order to enforce criminal law, safeguard national security and protect the public revenue.

The whole-of-Government guidelines have been developed to provide clear and transparent advice on the appropriate application of section 313(3) for the disruption of online services.

The guidelines were developed in response to the 'Balancing Freedom and Protection' report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, and were developed in consultation with Government agencies and industry stakeholders.

The Balancing Freedom and Protection report noted that a small number of agencies have used section 313 to seek to block access to certain websites on a limited basis. Specifically, the Australian Federal Police have used the provision to disrupt access to domains on the INTERPOL 'worst of' list of child exploitation material. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has used it to disrupt access to websites engaged in financial fraud, and agencies have also used section 313(3) to disrupt access to services on counter-terrorism grounds.

As a transparency measure, under the guidelines Government agencies' use of Section 313(3) will be included in the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) annual report.

The Government thanks those who participated in the consultation process and provided feedback on the draft guidelines.

Further information on the reporting requirements and online reporting templates for agencies can be accessed on the ACMA website: www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/reporting-template-for-commonwealth-agencies.

The whole-of-government guidelines are available at: www.communications.gov.au/have-your-say/guidelines-lawful-disruption-access-online-services.