ISPs in AU and NZ start censoring the internet without legal precedent

Posted on Mar 18, 2019 by Caleb Chen
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voat censored

Several websites including Voat, ZeroHedge,, LiveLeak, and others have been blocked in Australia and New Zealand in direct contravention to civil liberties that citizens are supposed to have. The biggest of these internet providers, Telstra, has published a blog post defending their censorship action – even acknowledging that free speech has been sacrificed by company decision:

“We appreciate that it is necessary to ensure free speech is carefully balanced against protecting the community – but with these sites continuing to host disturbing content we feel it is the right thing to do to block them.”

In fact, some of the blocked sites have been unfairly lambasted in mainstream media as “refusing” to take down offending material. Let’s be clear, each and every one of the blocked websites operates lawfully – that includes removing illegal material when requested. These internet service providers (ISPs) in Australia and New Zealand have taken it upon themselves to play judge, jury, and executioner in their condemnation of these websites and their visitors just for exercising free speech.

In New Zealand, mobile internet service providers take it upon themselves to enact censorship

Starting over the weekend, Spark NZ, Vodafone NZ, and Vocus NZ were the three New Zealand ISPs that have taken it upon themselves to block these sites. On their part, the ISPs and smartphone network providers are claiming that these are only temporary blocks. Temporary blocks that have lasted multiple days – more than long enough to change people’s’ browsing habits. Even the perpetrators of this censorship are aware how unprecedented it is. Geoff Thorn, a chief executive at New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF), commented to CIO:

“This is an unprecedented move by the telecommunications industry, but one that they all agree is necessary.”

CIO additionally confirmed that the ISPs are working together to ban the same sites.

In Australia, censorship also happens at the whim of the internet providers

Unsurprisingly, the over-reactive censorship has even started spreading around the world. Starting Monday the 18th, Telstra and Vodafone in Australia have also implemented these blocks network wide – that means even the many Australians using Vodafone reseller networks are affected by Vodafone’s censorship decisions. Of course, Facebook is not one of the sites that has been blocked.

Vodafone has even confirmed that they were told to place the blocks, and they will remove the blocks when they are “advised” that the illegal content has been removed.

Censoring free speech is never “the right thing to do”

The internet providers in Australia and New Zealand are sliding down an incredibly slippery slope against free speech. Previously, in Australia and other parts of the world like Russia and Philippines, ISPs would not censor access to websites unless clearly told to by the government. The precedent that internet providers can decide when to start blocking sites seemingly arbitrarily has now both been set and abused… All in the name of “doing the right thing.”

Simply put: It’s not the right thing to do. Free speech is an absolute concept and by that virtue alone – this is not the right thing to do.

A full list of blocked websites can be found below:

Please let us know in the comments below if any blocked websites are missing from this list.

About Caleb Chen

Caleb Chen is a digital currency and privacy advocate who believes we must #KeepOurNetFree, preferably through decentralization. Caleb holds a Master's in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia as well as a Bachelor's from the University of Virginia. He feels that the world is moving towards a better tomorrow, bit by bit by Bitcoin.

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  1. Jack

    LOL. Another idiot who doesn’t realize that the concept of “free speech” only applies to _governments_.
    No private company or individual is required to carry content they don’t want to.
    This is is private companies deciding they don’t want to propagate hate.
    Complain about that if you want, but it’s not a free speech issue.

    9 months ago
    1. Your Dad

      You’re a fucking idiot. I hope you die ASAP so as to help further the progress of our planet toward a righteous prosperous goal, not a cynical ignorant one as you exemplify.

      9 months ago
    2. Bob

      I hope you get taken to the gulag for having offensive videos on your hard drive. You don’t deserve to use the internet lol.

      9 months ago
    3. Macro

      Corporations are, of course, creatures of the government and not private companies.

      Applying the label “hate” to content that you don’t like makes you look like an idiot.

      It absolutely is a free speech issue.

      9 months ago
    4. Joe Blow the Lover Man

      Listen, idiot: companies don’t just get to do whatever they want.

      When “private” actors who collectively control almost the entire market collude to restrict speech or access to services, then the government has an obligation and a right to intervene in order to protect subjects against undue restriction. This is the exact idea behind anti-trust laws and laws against exclusive dealing; it’s also the same thinking as sits behind the common law principle that one has a right to cross another man’s land if doing so is reasonably necessary for access to one’s own property.

      Of course all of this is only relevant if we suppose that the claim that this action has been undertaken without government involvement can be accepted at face value, which is a questionable supposition at best.

      9 months ago
    5. JK

      Regardless of the idea of free speech (a concept that is a little looser in Australia than the American equivalent), an ISP company is bound by several things: a contract with the customer, a responsibility to present factual information. It’s likely that 1 or both of these are violated by censoring sites like the above.

      9 months ago
    6. Anon

      No retard. The concept of free speech applies to everything, not just the government. Your pea brain is thinking of governments who do not punish there people for exercising their free speech. There is no reason why the protection could be extended to not being punished by private entities.

      9 months ago
    7. int19h

      It’s the entirety of the Internet industry acting, in effect, as a cartel, except they’re doing it for the purpose of censorship rather than financial gain. Which, unfortunately, makes it legal, but any citizen of a free country should ask themselves what their legal process is really worth, if it can be so easily circumvented by a bunch of unelected CEOs.

      9 months ago
    8. Ron

      ^Another idiot who doesn’t understand the relationship between big telecom and government. This is not about what a company is required to do by law. This is about what they are doing.

      9 months ago
    9. I am Jacks complete lack of surprise

      LOL another idiot who thinks corporate rule is a good idea. Imbecile.

      9 months ago
  2. Matthew Jones

    anonymize dot com has also been blocked.

    9 months ago
  3. Sam

    I’m glad a major VPN provider (who I subscribe to) has put the truth of the censorship out there.
    The only thing that bothers me is I’m routing my traffic through one of the New Zealand nodes and their government could potentially order the network carrier to investigate who is using it. Is that something PIA has seen before?

    9 months ago
    1. Dan

      If I recall correctly PIA used to have servers in Russia but they then shut them down when the Russian governemtn implemented some law that would force internet services in the country to keep records of everything.

      9 months ago
  4. -Redacted- is blocked here, too.

    9 months ago
  5. Donna Stevens

    Outraged!! This certainly helps in my voting preference!! Liberals OUT

    9 months ago
  6. Winter

    Here are a couple more that went down in NZ:

    9 months ago
  7. Anon

    Encyclopedia dramatica also blocked.

    9 months ago
  8. John Smith

    We still have free speech. If you aren’t happy with that “censorship” you can choose another internet provider of your choice. I mean 4chan and kiwi-farms etc break laws all the time. Now internet providers are done with their bullshit and you call that censorship ? If someone comes to your house acts like a total douche-bag and you want to get rid of that person would you also accept a “but its censorship”. Its their services and so these internet providers can do what they want with their service. But if you are thinking that is is good idea to share such videos i will cancel my PIA subscription.

    9 months ago
    1. Jack

      You sound a little butt hurt??

      9 months ago
    2. Mr. Biggus Dickus

      Hah. Ok. Such a weird analogy. Plus you apparently still needed to hide your real name Mr. “John Smith”. Soon that’ll not be an option if these so called liberals will have their way you know..

      9 months ago
    3. Wise Advice

      4chan and kiwi-farms are breaking no laws. They are simply exercising their God given right to free speech. Just because you are offended doesn’t matter. Act like an adult and not like a spoiled child. Have we all forgotten sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Here is a tip. Sites like 4chan have no real political agenda. They are trolls trying to get a reaction out of you for entertainment. If you ignore them you win and they disappear. Stop feeding the trolls

      9 months ago
    4. Anon

      It is censorship. The ISPs are legally allowed to do it, but it is censorship none the less. And when every available ISP censors the web, you can’t just “choose another internet provider” and when the government encourages such censorship, this becomes akin to modern day book burning. The ISPs and the AU and NZ governments will be on the wrong side of history like the Nazis and Soviets.

      9 months ago
    5. Alex

      Cancel it then you fucking idiot

      9 months ago
    6. Mafew

      You’re a little retard faggit

      9 months ago
    7. Jack

      Facebook has broken the same rules as those sites in regard to this incident yet hasn’t been blocked. Why, because they’d lose money.

      9 months ago
    8. Wayne King

      Nice false equivalence, did your two brain cells stay up all night trying to come up with that analogy? How can you legitimately think it’s OK for your ISP to determine what you can and can’t view based on their own “moral” standards. Can you not see what a potential slippery slope that is. Today it’s a shooting video, tomorrow it’s a whistle-blower document revealing government corruption or recordings of said corruption. Stop being a government bootlicker and use your two brain cells to think for yourself.

      9 months ago
    9. Bob

      LOL what about facebook breaking laws dude? They’re totally in the clear, right? Try to think of the implications of the NZ government massively overreaching in their censorship. People who don’t want a free internet are just appalling.

      9 months ago
    10. Dan Hammond

      Yes let’s ignore the fact that those ISP’s that are censoring these sites make up the majority of the market and an even bigger majority of mobile users. Your analogy is flawed and in this day and age being able to restrict anyone’s access to information, especially when they PAY for that service, is essentially an attack on liberty itself.

      9 months ago
    11. mariska

      “If someone comes to your house acts like a total douche-bag and you want to get rid of that person would you also accept a “but its censorship”. ”
      Ummmm…this is more like your landlord deciding who can come to your house that you’ve paid rent for, than you deciding for yourself. That’s what censorship is, someone else deciding what is acceptable for you because, well they can and they know better. Why would you give up the opportunity to choose for yourself? Is critical thought that taxing? Even if you do let someone else do your thinking for you, did you ask the other tenants in the building if they’ve decided to let the landlord choose for them too?

      9 months ago
    12. SJD

      Could you please say it again but in Russian?

      9 months ago
    13. Joe Blow the Lover Man

      And I suppose next you’ll be saying that it’s up to the postal and courier services to open your parcels and decide whether or not they want to deliver to you certain news journals or political literature. And moreover that if they all adopt, in unison, a policy if restricting your access to third-party services, then that’ll be just dandy. How dismally short-sighted you are!

      9 months ago
    14. Bob

      Good riddance to your terrible attitude. You will not be missed.

      9 months ago
    15. Dave

      You’re a short-sighted fool who does not understand all the subtle implications of this.

      9 months ago
    16. tarq

      fuck up.

      9 months ago
    17. ManualFocusRing

      Your argument is the most idiotic one I’ve read thus far. Allowing internet service providers to start blocking websites without a legal authority calling for the site to be blocked because of its content is a slippery slope from which there is no escape. What next, they block sites run by anti abortionists because of pictures they don’t like? Or perhaps a website that espouses a certain political viewpoint? Where does it stop? In the absence of a legal mandate to do otherwise, internet providers are supposed to act as dumb pipes regardless of the content.

      9 months ago
  9. ShutTheGate

    I believe is banned. Couldn’t access it at the same time the others went down, they had a thread on the shooter along the lines of “incel shoots up mosque”. I need others to confirm.

    9 months ago
  10. him

    this comment will prob be blocked but you really think that blocking hate speech and the spread of a video someone murdering people is a bad thing? sickening tjat you defend those sites

    9 months ago
  11. Mark

    I’m in New Zealand, and all those sites load perfectly fine for me. I’ve never seen them before and first click they all loaded. So sounds like a load of bs to me tbh.

    9 months ago
    1. bob

      Are there any Australian mobile providers that aren’t censoring these websites? I’m sick of this and want to switch, but fear all the providers are censoring.

      8 months ago
  12. Jackie Wong

    How funny is it that Caleb Chen, an ethnically Chinese person is complaining about censorship not being the right thing. Go tell your masters over in your communist shithole motherland that block anything left right and center.

    9 months ago
  13. straya_quint

    boom boom boom

    9 months ago
  14. Stop Censoring Us

    These ISPs can try to censor the population all they want in Australia but any one who knows a thing or two about IT will likely use VPNs now to circumvent this over the top reaction. Sure the “normies” won’t be able access sites like bitchute anymore, but they’re not the people this censorship is being targeted at. It’s the right leaning / conservatives that these LEFTY ISPs are trying to censor. Jokes on them though, most people in this group are usually Gamers and/or tech savvy, thus more likely to know how to use VPNs to flip the proverbial middle finger to said ISPs. Well done Telstra and Co. You just bought yourself a shitload of negative PR for very little, overall result :p

    9 months ago
  15. Aaron

    Free speech is a concept; not a strictly legal definition, and telecommunications companies restricting it is not materially any different than a government doing so.

    9 months ago
  16. Ano

    That video is now legally banned in NZ so it makes sense if ISPs block access to sites known to be hosting it.

    9 months ago
  17. Aaron Osborne

    It’s pretty easy to get around the block tho. Just use PIA or CloudFlare’s DNS.

    9 months ago
  18. Anonymous

    Encyclopedia Dramatica is also currently blocked.

    9 months ago
  19. Kate

    Someone please tell me how I can change networks? Currently I am with Optus but I refuse to financially support any corporation that bends over somreadily to gov censorship

    9 months ago
    1. Kate

      *so readily*

      9 months ago
  20. Gemma

    I am SO angry! I am a regular at
    What about my rights to view “the real world” instead of bubble-wrapped BS that our media likes to show?
    I have rights!

    9 months ago
  21. MOOKY


    9 months ago
  22. Dan

    Based PIA, screw censorship, regardless if it’s coming from governments or from giant pseudo monopolies. Imagine being okay with people’s human rights being taken away from them because instead of the government doing it it’s a corporation that has almost as much power over the flow of information as the government itself.

    9 months ago
  23. gay

    also censored:

    9 months ago
  24. Tom is also blocked

    9 months ago
  25. F blocked, bullahit they can do This

    9 months ago
  26. CBD

    Free speech free thoughts
    Free air
    Free water

    9 months ago
  27. geoffrey tonnet

    Communist Scumbags What are they trying to hide

    9 months ago
  28. Matt

    It’s not free speech that’s being censored. It is the natural right of enquiry. These sites have their right to publish content. But it is still accesible. What is happening here in NZ is a coverup for a real life drill one that echoes 9/11.

    9 months ago
  29. P. Lev

    I think this post is illegitimate because in a free economy companies should be able to do what they want. People can show their disagreement by changing to another company but should not ask the government to intervene. That’s how the world works. Grow up. Don’t force your ideals over others. Those ISPs didn’t block naive websites, they are free to allow people use the net the way they want it and I think that liberals tend to think that they should control the way companies work. Your approach threatens my freedom. So back off.

    9 months ago
  30. frank

    this isn’t about removing free speech, it’s about removing hate, racism and bigotry. The sites you listed all encourage these things and were all happily sharing video footage of the terrorist attack that took 50 lives here in New Zealand.
    Once they removed the video in question they were no longer blocked.

    Also, nobody I know here in NZ gives a damn that those sites are blocked.

    9 months ago
    1. not really anonymous

      This is just factually wrong and sickening on so many levels. The worst part is this is the spoon-fed mainstream opinion. The list only grows from here and yes they are still blocked. Censorship across the west is ramping up at a crazy rate in the past few years and especially the past few months. E.g. Just yesterday Tommy Robinson was effectively deplatformed and censored off his last mainstream platform youtube, god forbid you realise he’s not actually a neo-Nazi or whatever they depict him as or learn anything from discussion in the comments! Alternative to youtube – BitChute? BLOCKED. Funny how individuals and platforms that expose the corrupt establishment and/or advocate for free speech, liberty, truth and critical thinking are targeted most by the establishment/corporate media and their braindead minions and ‘progressives’.

      They want to make it so you can only get information from MSM and social media (most net users are centralized on these platforms) which is increasingly becoming an extension of mainstream leftist garbage from the US and if you have dissenting opinion you will be buried by ‘lack of likes’ on echo-chambers, doxxed, threatened, defamed, blacklisted, labelled as ‘alt-right nazi’ or face legal repurcussions for wrong-think a.k.a. offensive & hateful speech.

      9 months ago
  31. anonish

    /****************************************/ is missing from the list

    Surprisingly not (a reddit clone build on gun db like

    9 months ago
  32. Jas has been blocked on and off the last few weeks

    9 months ago
  33. Real list

    Here’s a list of over 40 blocked sites:
    and it doesn’t include some of the domains I see on this page. So the number of blocked sites is probably approaching 100 at this point.

    >actively hosting footage
    is of course pure libel for 90% of the sites. They criticized, or had posters who criticized, the NZ government. The blogs ZeroHedge and are good examples of this.

    9 months ago
  34. Matt Robertson

    Aren’t we s’posed to be living in a free county.The government only wants us to hear and see what they want us to see. The traditional media is full of Fake news. It is every free person’s right to know what is happening in this world and as long as they are adults should be able to see all the good and bad that goes on in the world around us.

    9 months ago
  35. Mike


    You *do* understand that disseminating the video of 50+ people being shot to death in a hate crime is, in fact, illegal down under? That people are currently being prosecuted for it? That the AUS and NZ people are perfectly within their rights to decide that they’re OK with their government enforcing their own community standards? That the telecos and ISPs have a pretty good understanding of these issues?

    Australians don’t generally have the same sort of acrimonious relationship with their government as Americans do with theirs. For example, after the Port Arthur massacre, the Australian government implemented a gun buyback program – and most of the population agreed that it sounded like a good idea, and did, in fact, hand in most guns for disposal. Similarly for the censorship thing: you can’t put objectionable content on prime time TV (which is government-administered censorship), and there’s no reason why that community shouldn’t decide to apply those same standards to readily available internet content.

    I’m aware you’ll probably find it incomprehensible that anyone could trust their government (my American wife certainly does). But in most western countries, citizens have far less reason to fear their government than do citizens of the US.

    9 months ago
  36. Apex

    There’s more that were blocked as well. Funnyjunk and iFunny are blocked on the Optus network, and despite what Telstra has claimed, 4chan is STILL blocked by them.
    There’s a lot more websites that have been blocked than you realise, and the ACCC hasn’t said a word about it.

    8 months ago
  37. jeff

    The ISPs are only doing DNS blocks. If you change the DNS server in network settings from Auto to manual and then use one of the many International DNS servers like google’s DNS
    This will bypass any blocks Telstra and other ISPs have in place

    8 months ago