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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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By vexingv on 6/11/2008 8:27:59 AM , Rating: 2
While I think child pornography is detestable, the questions as to how they select which sites and newsgroups are blocked becomes a relevant issue. It essentially becomes censorship. While browsing non-porn and legitimate newsgroups, I've seen the random article header with offerings of such porn. Will this group get banned? Likewise, I'm sure some innocuous websites might get banned as well. How will sites/groups be banned? Who controls and regulates which groups are banned?




By RedPillPress on 6/11/2008 10:45:49 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
While I think child pornography is detestable, the questions as to how they select which sites and newsgroups are blocked becomes a relevant issue.

I agree, this approach looks like a useless exercise in futility, much like shutting down individual torrent websites which results in 10 new ones popping up. There is NO limit on the internet of how many different methods there are to share and distribute files. Short of shutting down the internet, they're wasting their time. Plus it sets the precedent to start censoring things based on "questionable" legitimacy at the ISP's own discretion, or if pushed to do so by a government. Concurrently with this, if you guys read the article on the Inquirer about the French government making their ISP's censor much more than just child porn (like sites THEY conclude are linked to terrorism), it's not hard to see where this is going. It may not be long before the "terrorist" (when does line between terrorism and dissent become fuzzy?) websites are also censored here in US and other "democracies". No we're not going to turn into China overnight, but it's not hard to see that if this is not very strictly controlled it can easily become, over time, something similar and sold to us as "for our own protection" as we trust the governments and ISP's to not "abuse" such censorship privilages.

Also, for those who spoke of paintings of children as possibly bad, besides the fact that the old paintings are not really "sexual" in nature, you're forgetting what is wrong with actual child porn - the real children. If people want to get off on drawings and animated videos, no matter how perverse and sick that may be, it's their right to do so because it's not hurting anyone. The *REAL* problem with child porn is the fact that actual children are abused and their lives are ruined by being exploited and violated by sick and conscience-free psychopaths who then proceed to ruin their lives even further by spreading these pictures on the internet - a medium where nothing ever truly disappears once there. So later in life someone can still blackmail you or horribly embarrass you. What chance do those children stand to hold any public office or become any kind of publically known figure? Yeah they were children and its not their fault what happened to them, and yet, it's hard to imagine that such things would not have a permanent and irreperable effect on their lives - not to mention the psychological damage on many levels incurred.

Instead of governments getting "aggressive" with ISP's to somehow prevent people from viewing this, they should start getting "aggressive" with other nations and their governments to start a crackdown on all those who create and spread it. Unfortunately, this won't happen because our "governments" are just as psychopathic in their own way as those who abuse children. Anything they do is for their own political image, and yes, they do conspire and they do work to find ways to use plausible rationalizations to restrict our freedoms and access to information, and expand their own freedoms to do what they want whenever they want. So the solution is not going to ever come from the psychopaths in power, the solution must come from the people.


By Suntan on 6/11/2008 11:00:59 AM , Rating: 2
If you were really concerned, I bet you could email the NY AG office and ask them.

I’m not trying to be a smartass about it, just saying, normally those kinds of offices love to talk about the activities that they are involved in (they are elected officials). Yeah, there will probably be some spin on it, but at least you will get their opinions of the subject straight from the horse’s mouth.

I’m sure the rest of the people here would be interested to hear what response you get back.

-Suntan


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