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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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Censorship?
By frobizzle on 6/11/2008 9:09:41 AM , Rating: 5
Let me state unequivocally that I am against child porn. I do not, however, feel this move by the New York AG is right. It is absolutely censorship and if allowed to stand, creates a very bad precedent that will permit expansion to other subjects. Today it is kiddie porn, tomorrow perhaps the MPAA will insist that movie newsgroups be censored.

The other issue here is their methodology will accomplish little or nothing at all. The ISP run NNTP news servers are, in most cases, pathetic! Short retention times, missing posts, slow transfer rates compel most folks, serious about using NNTP, to contract with 3rd party servers such as Giganews. This action by the ISPs is futile! They can block the groups on their own servers but not on 3rd party servers.

Ultimately, as others have stated here, the only real solution is to go after the sources - those that actually produce this material.




RE: Censorship?
By Suntan on 6/11/08, Rating: 0
RE: Censorship?
By frobizzle on 6/11/2008 10:15:41 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
So you’re against it, but you don’t want “the man” to take any steps to seriously try and curtail it?

This will not curtail it except by perhaps an infinitesimalsmall amount. It makes good press but the practicality of this action is null.

quote:
“Well, I don’t think my fellow Germans are doing the right thing with all that Jew cooking, but I’m not in favor of other people trying to invade either.”

How you can equate this to genocide baffles me!

quote:
When the government strong arms an ISP to block your downloading of that next summer blockbuster, then you can cry foul and demand freedom

By that time, it will be far too late. You are incredibly myopic! You do not see the big picture! Censorship of any sort is probblemaic. What standard is used to determine what should be censored and what should not? Should community standards in one part of the country be used as a basis for the rest of the country?

Yes, kiddie porn is bad but what about the couple that takes a picture of their nude infant in the bath? Should they be prosecuted for child pornography? (Don't laugh, it has happened!) In some countries it is legal to take (non-sexual) pictures of nude teens. In other countries it is not. Who is to decide what is allowable and what is not? You? Me? Therein lies the problem with censorship.

And as stated previouisly, the problem is that, unchecked, this censorship will start to spill over into other subject matters.


RE: Censorship?
By Suntan on 6/11/2008 10:52:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:

This will not curtail it except by perhaps an infinitesimalsmall amount. It makes good press but the practicality of this action is null.


You don’t know that. As much as you might want to postulate what can and can’t be done. If you were so extremely versed in the intricate workings of the internet from top to bottom, then you could propose a solution that completely blocks this kind of thing. You could show those dopy government guys what to do… …As you haven’t shown anything along the lines of what you *do* think an effective strategy would be, I’m going to have to assume you don’t know much.

quote:
How you can equate this to genocide baffles me!


Both are born from apathy.

quote:

Censorship of any sort is probblemaic. What standard is used to determine what should be censored and what should not? Should community standards in one part of the country be used as a basis for the rest of the country?


So kiddieporn of any sort shouldn’t be curtailed because censorship is bad, or just when it comes to your beloved internet? I’m not sure where you stand. Censorship is bad, is it worse than kiddieporn?

As for who sets the standards, the local group does according to the standards they want to live by. “Local group” can be as big or small as they want, here it is normally set up on a city/county/state/country basis with varying levels of authority. This is basic social studies material, you should have had it in your schooling. This particular event was conducted by the NY AG office, my guess is that it is in effect for the state of NY. If the NY citizens don’t like this turn of events, they can vote him out of office.

Also keep in mind, the AG is only pressuring the ISPs to *do what they said they were going to do*. The contract that they and the person buying their service mutually agreed to stated these terms so it would stand to argue that nobody directly effected is really *against* this specific action. You seem to be against it because of some misplaced paranoia of what it *could* mean.

quote:

Yes, kiddie porn is bad but what about the couple that takes a picture of their nude infant in the bath? Should they be prosecuted for child pornography? (Don't laugh, it has happened!) In some countries it is legal to take (non-sexual) pictures of nude teens. In other countries it is not. Who is to decide what is allowable and what is not? You? Me? Therein lies the problem with censorship.


You and me silly. Something is deemed offensive because the majority of the group says it is offensive. Again, standard social studies stuff. There will always be a grey line between what is right and what is wrong (kid’s in the bathtub, etc.) the best system we as a society have come up with to deal with that grey line is a “case by case basis” you get yourself a judge and/or a jury and you explain the situation to them. They decide if it is profane or not. Yes, there will always be decisions that you don’t agree with, if this happens a lot, you need to move somewhere else because your ideals are not compatible with the people around you and as hard as you fight, you will continue to be frustrated with the outcome. If you know of a better system, I’m sure people the world over would like to hear it (again, apathy is *not* a better system).

quote:

And as stated previouisly, the problem is that, unchecked, this censorship will start to spill over into other subject matters.


Only if you, and the rest of the disinterested majority, let it.

…And I’m still waiting to hear what your better plan to solve this issue is.

-Suntan


RE: Censorship?
By jlips6 on 6/11/2008 11:24:05 AM , Rating: 3
so... many... words...


RE: Censorship?
By Suntan on 6/11/2008 12:24:33 PM , Rating: 1
Sorry, I don't have any of the coloring book pictures you are used to available for linking.

-Suntan


RE: Censorship?
By jlips6 on 6/11/2008 11:18:37 PM , Rating: 2
:(
I pride myself on my extraordinary skill with printed out paint-by-# pages that are so commonly posted on the daily-tech blogs.


RE: Censorship?
By cubby1223 on 6/11/2008 4:58:11 PM , Rating: 2
Solitarity for the win!

;)


RE: Censorship?
By MamiyaOtaru on 6/11/2008 8:29:01 PM , Rating: 2
I prefer minesweeper


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