A spoof John Howard website that featured a soul searching "apology"
speech for the Iraq war has been shut down under orders from the Australian
Richard Neville, an Australian futurist and social commentator was "mystified"
to discover his satirical website johnhowardpm.org had been blocked on Tuesday
with no explanation from either his web hosting company, Yahoo or the domain
name registrar, Melbourne IT.
He said that after two days of silence, a customer service representative
from Melbourne IT today informed him by telephone that the site had "been
closed on the advice from the Australian Government".
Mr Neville's satirical "apology" speech ran on a mocked-up version
of a spoof website that resembled Mr Howard's own, and after going live on Monday,
received 10,500 visits within 24 hours.
Bruce Tonkin, the chief technology officer at Melbourne IT, said the site had
been shut down in response to a request from the Prime Minister's office on
basis that it looked too similar to its own site.
"If we receive a complaint from an intellectual property basis claiming
that a website directly infringes the rights of another site we would check
it, and if it is a direct copy we would suspend the site," he said.
He said the issue of whether or not the content was satirical was of no consequence
to Melbourne IT. "To us it looks like a phishing site," he said.
Mr Neville contests that there are any similarities between a satirical website
and a phishing operation, which would typically carry an intent of data or financial
"I don't see how you can make judgements that ignore the content or intention
of the site. To give the satire more impact it was important to make it look
like an official speech. Obviously there was no hacking of the original site,
and I did not choose to make it too close to the actual design, and my name
and address were readily accessible," he said.
He added that one of the reasons he had chosen Yahoo's hosting service was
because it did not have any obvious policies that restricted the nature of content
that could be published.
"If there were objections to the content on the site, isn't there a democratic
tradition that I be informed of it," he said.
Mr Neville describes the parody as an act of satire and culture jamming, and
is now running a link to a PDF
copy of the speech on his website.
He has been involved in satirical publishing since the 1960's when he edited
Oz magazine, which covered contentious issues of the time. However some of the
subject matter led to obsenity charges for him and his colleagues, that were