censorship

Who Will Control the Internet?

The news, detailed in excellent fashion yesterday by Jason Pye in this space, that around 5 pm Friday — after many on the Hill had left their offices — the Obama administration formally relinquished involvement/control over the internet to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, was met with what has become a trademark in analysis of this current executive office: confusion.

Why would this administration quietly make a move like this now when — despite the loud and dire warnings of net neutrality enthusiasts — the internet is working pretty well by most standards of measurement (i.e. is free and open, relatively cheap, easily accessible, and rarely plagued by massive outages)?

Admittedly, ICANN has been a huge player in managing Internet architecture since it was created in 1998 as something like a quasi-governmental non-profit that would take control of the technical maintenance of root servers as well as managing all the unique identifiers associated with surfing the web — IP addresses, domain names, registries and the like. So it’s not like government is handing control over as much as they’re just stepping back and letting ICANN assume all responsibility when the contract expires with the group in 2015. Isn’t less government involvement in the business of the internet desirable?

Georgia representative seeks to dismantle the First Amendment

It’s bound to get lost amidst President Obama’s State of the Union address, and all the silliness he spewed forth earlier this week, however in my home state of Georgia, there’s something brewing that could be just as bad as any Washington power play.

You see, Georgia Representative Earnest Smith seems offended that a blogger took his face and photoshopped it onto the body of a male porn star.  So offended, in fact, that he wants to outlaw the practice.

From FoxNews:

Rep. Earnest Smith pointed, as proof of the problem, to a picture of his head that was recently edited onto a pornstar’s body. That image was created by a blogger who used the image to mock Smith.

The Augusta-based legislator said he was not worried the bill would step on First Amendment rights.

“Everyone has a right to privacy,” he told FoxNews.com. “No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It’s not a First Amendment right.”

Now, Smith made this proposal a year ago regarding a cyber-bullying case, but his grasp on the constitution - and apparently, reality - have slipped even more.  You see, Smith is talking about limiting a timeless form of speech.  No, photoshop isn’t timeless, but satire is.

Satirical art has a time honored place in political discourse.  In face, the Supreme Court has upheld satire as protected speech, regardless of what Smith may choose to argue.  Frankly, sticking his mug on a porn star’s body couldn’t be anything other than satire…or a calculated insult to the porn star.

Thoughts on Free Speech and Censorship

First Amendment

Google has taken some heat lately over censorship issues. No doubt we’ve all heard by now of the famous “The Innocence of Muslims” video on YouTube that, whether it did or did not cause attacks on our embassies, has been a center of controversy.

It stirs up debate on censorship, so I wanted to offer some thoughts on censorship.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That’s the whole First Amendment, but if you break it down to an even simpler form…

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.

That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about censorship. But this isn’t about Congress. This whole issue is about Google and whether or not Google should censor the opinions of its users.

I love censorship. I censor things all the time. If you decide to get obnoxious in comments on this blog, I’ll censor you. I try not to, because I want to encourage debate, but if your comments take away from the debate, yeah, I’ll censor you.

I censor things in my home as well. I censor what TV shows my kids see. I use parental control software to censor what Internet content is available.

Censoring content, whether on my web site or in my home, is my right and my responsibility. The same applies to Google. If something posted to a Google property is inappropriate, Google has a right and a responsibility to censor the content.

Government: All Your Internets Are Belong To Us

Legislators in Washington are at it again, working tirelessly to ruin a perfectly good Internet.

Maybe it would be different if they consulted with leaders in technological advancements to find out the implications of an idea. Or maybe they could ask what technology might break because of a bill. But that’s not how it works.

I imagine the Congressional discussions of Internet manipulation to be like a group of senior citizens sipping coffee at McDonald’s at 5:00 a.m. and fussing about those “dagburned Internet machines” taking over life as they once knew it.

Surely it can’t be that way, but when you read the legislation, you have to wonder.

SOPA and PIPA threatened to do all sorts of bad things to the Internet. There was a whole list of problems with that legislation, and though massive Internet protests managed to derail the bills, it’s worth noting that if not for those protests, SOPA and PIPA would have been passed with much bipartisan support.

Then CISPA came along, and while it wasn’t a brutal pillaging of core Internet technologies like SOPA and PIPA, it would have opened the door for some serious privacy issues. With full cooperation from the Heritage Foundation (which was an outright betrayal of the American public), House Republicans managed to pass CISPA and send it to the Senate, where it fortunately hasn’t gone anywhere – yet.

SOPA author not done with the internet

After the unprecedented protests throughout the internet, one might think that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) would figure out that perhaps folks take the internet pretty seriously.  One might think that…but they would apparently be wrong.

Another day, another threat to internet freedom. According to International Business Times, beloved Texas Representative Lamar Smith is the author of a new bill that includes extreme surveillance provisions, and a name that will make opponents sound like criminals: H.R. 1981 (bump that last digit up three times for a more fitting title), or the ‘Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011.’

The new name has outraged many opponents of SOPA and other bills that could bring more government control to the internet, like PIPA and ACTA. It’s hard to imagine the whole world turning out against a bill with the words ‘protect’ and ‘children’ in the title, regardless of the actual contents of the bill.

In the words of Business Insider’s David Seaman, it’s “just a B.S. name so that politicians in the House and Senate are strong-armed into voting for it, even though it contains utterly insane 1984-style Big Brother surveillance provisions.” Ouch.

It’s time to bring down SOPA and PROTECT IP

Over the last couple of months, we’ve been keeping you up to date on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While its supporters say that the legislation is needed to safeguard intellectual property rights and protect jobs, SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act (it’s Senate counterpart) would fundamentally change the Internet by censoring websites that purportedly enable copyright infringement or piracy.

There are many who will deny that piracy is a growing problem, but the answer to the problem is not SOPA, PROTECT IP, or any other bill that would promote government censorship of the Internet and, as Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post have noted, remove due process protections for sites accused of copyright infringement. These bills would also tinker with DNS filtering, which would block “offending” websites from being accessed by Internet service providers.

As you can imagine, the consequences of these two bills has many websites owners on edge. The prospect of an entire site being essentially wiped off of the web due to a single instance of copyright infringement, even if it’s unintended, has many ready to fight back. That’s why today many big names are either blacking out their sites in protest of SOPA/PIPA — among them are Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and Wordpress.org. Others, such as Google, are hoping to educate vistors of the dangers of these two bills.

8 Technological Reasons to Stop SOPA & PIPA

There’s legislation in the House and Senate right now that is very troubling to me. In the House, it’s called the Stop Online Piracy Act (abbreviated SOPA); in the Senate, it’s called PROTECT IP (or PIPA). The goal of the legislation is to stop online piracy, which is definitely a problem. The Senate will be voting on it later this month, and for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in awe at the absurdity of this legislation while trying to find a proper way to respond to it.

I’m a freedom loving, Constitution defending, small government guy who writes my own personal opinion about politics (which, for the record, may or may not always be the view of my employer). My day job (the one that actually pays bills) is as a systems administrator for a very large company. I’ve spent the vast majority of the last 13 years since my college graduation dealing with the technology of the Internet, and I know it quite well.

My career in IT and my fondness for liberty make me one of a relatively small number of political bloggers qualified to address this issue from both the technological and political points of view. Today I am discussing the technological issues around this legislation; tomorrow I’ll post the political problems with it.

This weekend I spent a lot of time poring over this legislation, blog posts, and white papers about it. I made my own notes and then merged my concerns of this legislation with those I found elsewhere on the Internet. This post is a fairly exhaustive list of the technological problems with SOPA and PIPA.

When a domain is seized, the pirated content still exists on the server. Additionally, it can still be accessed by its IP address. There is nothing, outside of draconian national firewall rules, that can be done to stop Americans from accessing this content.

Drop the SOPA: Protect the Internet from censorship

I’m kind of a rare breed of libertarian.  I actually believe in the concept of intellectual property.  As such, some might be under the belief that folks like me would be in favor of something like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

Of course, they would be horribly, horribly wrong.

Regardless of ones feelings on IP, the reality is that SOPA is nothing less than a NDAA or PATRIOT Act for the internet.

You see, the internet is the last bastion of freedom anywhere in the world.  While it’s entirely possible to render something illegal in one country, it’s virtually impossible to stamp it out.  Laws and regulations become meaningless as physical borders mean nothing on a cyberscape free from such lines.

The kick in the butt with this bill, as with many similar bills, is that it really won’t do a whole heck of a lot to combat piracy.  Of course, there are some that will argue that what SOPA seeks to do is crush that freedom. That ideas breed in such freedom, and such ideas can not be allowed to incubate.

I don’t know if I would go that far, but what is clear is that SOPA is nothing more than a powergrab.  Those that are supposed to support and defend the Constitution have instead decided to just ignore the document completely.

SOPA seeks to require your ISP to spy on you.  It seeks to hurt companies like Mozilla that haven’t done what the powerful want it to do.  It seeks to rewrite the current laws regarding the internet and remake it into a place where innovation no longer happens.

Now, SOPA may not be all bad.  After all, plenty of companies will love to open up their nations to the off-shore dollars that are bound to flee the United States after a SOPA-like bill is passed.  While I’m not an opponent of out sourcing per se, I’d prefer it not to be encouraged through idiotic legislation.

SOPA must be shot down by Congress

On the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively shredded the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Habeas Corpus, Congress will likely take up the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) at some point early next year.

For those of you that haven’t followed SOPA, Tina Korbe at Hot Air offers a very good introduction to the legislation:

Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by representatives from both parties (the bill has a total of 31 co-sponsors!), the Stop Online Piracy Act purports to stop “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.”

According to Rep. Smith’s website, “IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such. The bill ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators.”

That sounds relatively harmless, but there has been a lot of concern among tech-advocates that SOPA would would lead to censorship and deter innovation on the Internet.

Korbe continues:

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Thigh Gap

Urban Outfitters

In an article seemingly straight from Stanley Kurbick’s Dr. Strangelove, Mic.com celebrated the state censorship of one of Urban Outfitters’ photographs. Never mind nuclear weapons, rogue states, or “The Interview” — we have a more-pressing worry: underwear advertisements.

As the Cold War ended, we ceased to fear the missile gap, the bomber gap, the doomsday gap, and even the mineshaft gap. Today we fear the “Thigh Gap” — the distance between a model’s thighs. Fortunately, the United Kingdom, a stalwart Cold Warrior, has defended even the most sensitive and fragile among us from the perils of an Urban Outfitters underwear ad.

Sparked by the complaint of an anonymous do-gooder, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority ordered Urban Outfitters to remove the photo above, concluding that it was irresponsible. Contesting the ruling, Urban Outiftters explained that the model was healthy and represented by one of the UK’s most successful agencies, and provided her agency profile and other photographs, all to no avail. The ASA considered, “the model was very thin, and noted, in particular, that there was a significant gap between the model’s thighs, and that her thighs and knees were a similar width.” The Thigh Gap cometh.


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