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Voluntarily censor one of the internet's oldest mediums

Sprint, Verizon, and Time Warner cable agreed to a nationwide block on access to Usenet newsgroups that offer child pornography, wrapping up an eight month undercover investigation and complaint from the New York Attorney General’s office.

“The pervasiveness of child pornography on the Internet is horrific and it needs to be stopped,” said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, speaking in a press release.  “We are attacking this problem by working with Internet Service Providers to ensure they do not play host to this immoral business.  I commend the companies that have stepped up today to embrace a new standard of responsibility, which should serve as a model for the entire industry.”

Usenet – one of the internet’s oldest applications – dates back to a time long before the World Wide Web. Its popularity died down as web sites and web-based message boards came into vogue, relegating it to a forgotten “back alley” frequented by niche crowds. One thing Usenet hasn’t been forgotten for, however, is its ability to store and distribute files such as music and, in this case, pornography.

Traditionally, ISPs have stayed out of enforcing restrictions on what its users’ access, citing the legal immunity granted to them by maintaining a policy of noninterference. That immunity has come under attack from a wide variety of sources. Previous aggressors include the content industry, frustrated with ISPs’ permissive stance on piracy, as well as the ISPs’ themselves as they explore ways to further monetize their infrastructure. Now, with its investigation concluding, ISPs can add the New York state Attorney General’s office to that list.

Investigators had to take an unusual course of action, however. Traditional approaches failed; ISPs responded with a routine disclaimer of responsibility for the content of their networks. Instead, investigators chose to invoke a section of each their service agreements that promised to take action against users who distribute child porn; when the contacted ISPs failed to act after receiving a series of anonymous complaints from investigators, the Attorney General’s office pounced by threatening to charge them with fraud and deceptive business practices. The ensuing agreement was a result of these threats.

Cuomo says the unconventional approach was necessary, because traditional methods are not working. Attacking individual distributors has “limited effectiveness,” he said, because American demand for child pornography is often supplied internationally, frequently hailing from countries doing little in the way of enforcement.

“The ISPs’ point had been, ‘We’re not responsible, these are individuals communicating with individuals, we’re not responsible,’ ” said Cuomo.  “Our point was that at some point, you do bear responsibility.”

As part of its agreement, the three ISPs will also pay $1.125 million to underwrite the investigation and “fund additional efforts by the Attorney General’s office and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to remove child pornography from the Internet.”



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RE: Nice try, but...
By BladeVenom on 6/11/2008 4:41:53 AM , Rating: 2
But they aren't going after the producers. They are just covering up the fact that it is being made, by censoring it from being easily seen by casual internet browsing.

Apply the same thing to the war or anything else people find objectionable. Instead of stopping the war, you just censor the news. Instead of stopping pollution, just ban pictures of it. etc.

They are going after newsgroups, which is where it's pirated. They are actually protecting the producers by reducing the piracy of child porn.


RE: Nice try, but...
By nosfe on 6/11/2008 6:10:50 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
They are just covering up the fact that it is being made, by censoring it from being easily seen by casual internet browsing.


when have you last "casually browsed" to a usenet group? last i checked usenet isn't even known to the masses, let alone easily accessible to Average Joe


RE: Nice try, but...
By Garreye on 6/11/2008 6:31:02 AM , Rating: 2
Google Groups: http://groups.google.com/
quote:
Searchable archive of more than 700 million Usenet postings from a period of more than 20 years


I've never used this, and I'm guessing that its probably censor and that you can't download binaries, but this and other sites like it could make it fairly easy to casually browse to a newsgroup page, because they come up in search results (ex: google 'cypress ez-usb fpga' check out the 1st 2 result). Although I'm betting the average Joe would probably not be aware they were on a usenet group message board..


RE: Nice try, but...
By BladeVenom on 6/11/2008 7:58:04 AM , Rating: 2
Browsing is the normal traditional way to use newsgroups. Newzbin and other indexing sites came later.

It's as easy to use as email.


RE: Nice try, but...
By mindless1 on 6/12/2008 5:45:53 AM , Rating: 2
Huh? Browsing isn't the normal traditional way, the normal traditional way was to download the list of groups your ISP or 3rd party offered in a newsreader, pick out the ones you want to subscribe to, and have the news reader download the current news postings for some period of time.

You then read thought them like you would your email inbox. I suppose you could call that browsing, but since it would be more like email and doesn't involve using a browser, browsing isn't quite right either.

Then came the forerunner to Google Groups, Deja News. Then you finally had some reasonably long archival and browsing capabilities. Many were saddened when Deja went under, assuming Google would never manage to maintain the growing archive and free access to it, and while many old usenet participants have been a bit irked over time that Google hasn't quite stuck to the traditions, that they maintain it and keep open access, even opening up access to more people that would never have known about it, is a lot better than nothing and in some ways an improvement.


RE: Nice try, but...
By wordsworm on 6/11/08, Rating: -1
RE: Nice try, but...
By Digimonkey on 6/11/2008 8:13:35 AM , Rating: 2
I hope you're joking about the paintings. I'm pretty sure if that is enforced, book burning comes next.


RE: Nice try, but...
By BladeVenom on 6/11/2008 12:35:14 PM , Rating: 2
Book burning is already here. Naughty stories can get you arrested and have your website shutdown. If you're suspected of being a pedophile Miranda and constitutional rights no longer apply.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08029/853096-100.st...


RE: Nice try, but...
By amanojaku on 6/11/2008 8:43:40 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
My question is simple: when will international governments come forward and ban the use of cherubs in Raphael's paintings and other early Christian paintings.


You're blurring the line between art and pornography. No normal person gets a woody from pictures of cherubs. Perverts get woodies just thinking of naked children. Pornography is sexually suggestive, which those old paintings and sculptures are not. Remember that the old European style of art had nudity everywhere, from men to women to children. Americans are just prudish, which might be part of the reason we have so many perverts. Women in foreign countries can walk down the street topless and few people would notice because nudity is simply accepted as a fact. No normal person bathes in his or her clothes, after all. Remember that at one time American television and movies showed couples sleeping in separate beds because it hinted at sex.

That being said, I think we need to take more extreme measures than banning child pornography. Removal of gonads comes to mind...


RE: Nice try, but...
By wordsworm on 6/11/08, Rating: -1
RE: Nice try, but...
By Kenenniah on 6/11/2008 10:09:52 AM , Rating: 1
Tough call for me. I'd have to think more on the subject of old art like cherubs etc. There is one major difference however. In child pornography, an actual living child is being exploited. A child is being made to pose nude or sexually suggestive.

In the case of art, is the same thing ocurring? Is an actual child being exploited? Possibly, they could have made a child pose while painting or sculpting, but there is that possible difference.

Of course there is always the matter of someone being turned on by child pornography then later acting on those feelings. In that sense I see the possibility of art being able to "feed the monster" if you will as well.

Hmm, guess I don't really need to think about it more. I'm with wordsworm on this one.


RE: Nice try, but...
By Digimonkey on 6/11/2008 10:55:53 AM , Rating: 5
Again it's the question of where to stop. Obviously we need to do everything in our power to stop the creation and distribution of pictures/videos of children being portrayed in a sexual manner.

However this talk of censoring of art that has already been produced and has been around for hundreds of years is asinine and a step in the wrong direction. If this were to happen you'd also have to censor books that depict sexual acts involving characters under 18.

If that goes through then what would be next? There has to be a line drawn and that line should be where actual exploitation of real, thinking, feeling children are involved. Not to try to fully eliminate some creep getting a woody. More than likely that same cretin could find arousal at a park where children play...do we ban children from playing in public to protect them?


RE: Nice try, but...
By mindless1 on 6/12/2008 5:56:46 AM , Rating: 2
In my mind the question of where to stop is easy. Photorealistic images of nude children should not be presented, except possibly some exemption when they are not the primary object of the photo, such as when National Geographic goes to some impoverised country or a native tribe and there might be blurry background, distanced children without proper clothes on.

As for art, if a child was improperly handled during it's production, and inquiries should be made about that if the art seems a little too realistic or subject specific (not sure of the right words to write what I mean, if it seems to be identifying of an individual child) then the art should be seized, destroyed, and the artist charged with a crime. If it is simply some person's imagination, no nude child posing, that made a sculpture or similar even today, I might begin to wonder if that artist needed some psychological help, but wouldn't consider that - without any children being exposed to this undertaking - a crime in itself.

I agree the line has to be exploitation of real children, but also those who profit from it. We can't just put away the (perhaps one?) person who films a child porn flick then not equally go after those who peddle it, and ultimately those who continue to distribute it for free even if these people never directly caused any profit gain for the porn producer or themselves. These latter groups may not be even indirectly responsible for the exploitation of the children involved, but they need a stop put to their activites so they can have a controlled environment where they can get the psychological help they need.


RE: Nice try, but...
By wordsworm on 6/12/2008 9:28:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
when National Geographic goes to some impoverised country or a native tribe and there might be blurry background


The technology exists to blur a child's genitalia in both video and photos. As you say, since it's not the primary object of the photo, then there should be no issue with forcing National Geographic to follow a simple protocol.

quote:
no nude child posing
Ok, so fantasy depictions of children being molested is ok for you? I would have a problem with it.

quote:
These latter groups may not be even indirectly responsible for the exploitation of the children involved,
If people who are interested in nude children get access to this material in any form whatsoever, they will then fantasize that it is them that are committing the act. They might get ideas as to how to do it without getting caught, or simply forget the consequences in their desire to fulfill their fantasy. In any case, I'd love to see all child porn cease. I know killing it in newsgroups isn't going to fix the issue. Simply encrypting the files and sharing keys can keep the trade up. However, it would keep out the folks who don't understand this stuff, which in itself might reduce, in at least some way, both demand and the actualization of these sick fantasies.

In any case, the lines get blurry when young men/women look like young girls. I wish that there was a rule that could be made up that would kill the whole industry. I know there's no easy cure. However, I still think that attacking it in newsgroups is a good thing.


RE: Nice try, but...
By mindless1 on 6/13/2008 4:26:07 AM , Rating: 2
But I do not approve of blurring genitalia. There is a middle ground between censorship and pron. I would not even be looking at a child's genitalia, but when there's large blurs on the screen it is distracting, it stands out. Similarly so when anything is blurred on a screen. Maybe if the child were very close up blurring would be a good idea, but I don't think there is a need at all for a very close up picture of a nude child even for national geographic -like purposes.

Fantasy depictions of children being molested is very disturbing, but it is not abusing any child. Define fantasy depiction. If it is some crude sketch I'm not saying it should be publically acceptible but I don't think some perv is going to be captivated by it, jerk off to it, or whatever these pedos have in mind when they seek such (other) material. I would hold such works as more similar to a fantasy depiction of killing people or most other horrible acts, that it is just an indication a person has poor mental health.

As for killing a whole industry, certainly that would be great, but the problem is (I suspect) that a lot of it isn't an industry, just some sick old man who gets a kick out of filming and possibly molesting someone, then shares his exploit. It shouldn't be on usenet, that is certainly a good start and driving these people underground may not be the best solution but it is better than the way things stand at present.


RE: Nice try, but...
By jlips6 on 6/11/08, Rating: 0
RE: Nice try, but...
By Drexial on 6/11/08, Rating: 0
RE: Nice try, but...
By wordsworm on 6/11/2008 7:23:52 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It was about celebrating how amazing the human body was, not sexually, but scientifically.


So what's to stop any pedophile from making the same claim about some nude pics of kids? I mean, as long as they're not engaged in getting raped, then it must be art. So, for as long as children are photographed nude in classic poses, soft core porn using children will live long and strong. Unfortunately, people continually defend soft core 'art' child porn. So be it. By the negative points on my comments, I can see that I'm obviously in the minority here.


RE: Nice try, but...
By Mortando on 6/12/2008 1:18:28 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Cherubs don't turn me on, but Venus/Aphrodite is an altogether different story.

But... presumably you think that Venus/Aphrodite (along with Michelangelo's David, etc.) should *also* be banned, since they could turn certain people on and incite them to commit rape. Or is rape okay?


RE: Nice try, but...
By wordsworm on 6/12/2008 9:32:07 AM , Rating: 2
Man, that is the heck of a leap of logic I can't quite follow. Venus/Aphrodite are depictions of fully, sexually mature women. As far as I know, David isn't getting raped.


RE: Nice try, but...
By Mortando on 6/12/2008 12:52:24 PM , Rating: 2
"David isn't getting raped"? Uh, yeah, no doubt you can't quite follow the 'leap' of logic.


RE: Nice try, but...
By tmouse on 6/11/2008 3:30:26 PM , Rating: 2
Well while I’m for making it as difficult as possible for pedophiles here is some food for thought. It may seem is easy to define child pornography it is not. Clearly pre adolescents are easy to pick out; but in the US pictures of anyone under 16 with any nudity is considered child pornography. The original child protection act (that was struck down by the courts) had phrases like real or simulated and there was serious doubt whether CGI or other art mediums violated this law some sites banned cherub CGI pictures and the like out of fear of prosecution. There is also Usnet binary groups that are not explicitly labeled so while it is easy to ban some groups how do you stop them from using these groups unless you moderate everything and I think that will be hard to do. I guess this is better than nothing but more flash than substance.


RE: Nice try, but...
By Yawgm0th on 6/11/2008 4:49:03 PM , Rating: 2
In the U.S., pictures of genitalia of anyone under 18 are considered child pornography.


RE: Nice try, but...
By mindless1 on 6/12/2008 5:40:36 AM , Rating: 2
You wrote "but they aren't going after the producers", but do you know this to be the case? I have to believe they are going after them, but what happens if they managed to wipe them out but there is still so much child porn circulating? It feeds the sickness of those who seek it, and given enough people wanting it, the general state of supply and demand is imbalanced such that it entices others to get into the business just to make money off of it.

I don't watch child pron, but what I would imagine happens is what I've heard happens in adult porn, that developers of it will put their URL or other contact information in the files in an attempt to distribute the free pron as a way to bring in customers for their higher quality stuff. Since they can't very well advertise in the local newspaper or TV, cutting off the few resources they have to attract customers will make it harder and harder for them to profit from it. I'd imagine some (producers) are not just sick, but have the same sickness as those who watch it and might still make it and distribute just to share, but if something can be done about the former group then let's do it and find other ways to deal with the latter. You dig a hole one shovel full at a time and fill it back up the same way.


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