In the lead-up to the no-WTO protests in Sydney in September 2002 the NSW Police Minister and NSW Police Media Unit publicly announced their intention to shut down a number of activist internet sites.

The trigger for this was when an anonymous individual posted a shopping list for protestors attending the no-WTO protests on open-publishing independent news websites in Melbourne ( and in Sydney. The posting advocated bringing marbles and baseball bats and provided links to other sites explaining how to make sling-shots and smoke bombs. Although other Indymedia users quickly identified this post as spam and suggested it had been posted by provocateur intent on catalysing police violence at the protest, it was seized upon by the NSW Police Minister, Michael Costa, as a reason to shut down these two websites.

He referred the matter to the Federal Communications Minister and the Federal Justice Minister hoping to have the sites refused classification by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA). Once refused classification, material can be banned either through forced removal or adding the sites’ addresses to internet filtering software under online content legislation if it contains detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use.

Two weeks before the protests began, the ABA concluded their investigations and found that none of the websites in question breached any government guidelines or regulations. The Office of Film and Literature Classification stated: The criterion looked at was whether these sites incited people to commit violent offences and it was decided that it did not reach that threshold. As a result the two Indymedia sites continue to operate despite very public attempts to ban them, with the issue being used to generate extremely negative publicity about the protests well before they occurred.

(From the Legal Observers Report no-WTO Protests published by the UTS Community Law and Legal Research Centre )

Activist websites may also be subject to claims of defamation.

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