Wired magazine is running a three-part series of lengthy articles about the current Net Neutrality debate in the US. In the second part, Tim Wu, who is credited with first articulating the Net Neutrality concept in a 2002 paper, mentions the lack of competition for broadband service and advocates updating regulations to reflect the reality that Internet service is a utility:
What we still need, Wu says, is a better way of regulating internet service providers. One way of doing this is through common carrier law—as defined in the Title II section of the 1934 Telecommunications Act. Basically, this would treat ISPs as utilities. This would allow the government to prevent them from blocking or degrading traffic, but it would also force the ISPs to offer their internet lines to other companies. That creates competition, which is really the best way of ensuring that ISPs behave. As it stands, there’s very little competition.
Two stories from Xbiz this week illustrate creeping corporate and state censorship in the USA. (Click each photo for link to story.)
First, here is more on the Big G’s slow march toward banning adult content from its services completely. (Based on the past few years, though, I disagree with the author’s contention that Google has supported “free speech” any time recently):
Porn Under Attack: Google Tightens Content Restrictions
According to Morality In Media’s latest victory announcement, adult marketers may be facing further restrictions on advertising via search giant Google’s AdWords and Image Search programs.
Next, Hawaii joins the parade of states trying to do an end run around Reno vs. ACLU by outlawing vaguely defined “revenge porn”:
Hawaii Makes Revenge Porn a Felony
Hawaii has become the 10th state in the nation to pass a law against revenge porn.
I will be watching these developments closely.
Although I find the story difficult to believe, UPI reports that Chilean porn star Marlen Doll engaged in a 12-hour sex marathon to celebrate Chile won its first World Cup match:
In another weird item I saw, a Redditor reports that when he looked up “90 degrees Celsius” on Google, this is the result he got:
Kashmir Hill of Forbes reports that Facebook, in a reversal of its earlier position, has announced that it will begin tracking users’ web browsing habits outside of its own service to target personalized advertisements. Facebook will offer several weak opt-outs, including setting a persistent cookie with the Digital Advertising Alliance for each browser, or allowing users to opt out of seeing specific ads, but the company will not provide any effective way to block this new tracking. Further, Facebook hints that it may start using Facebook “like” buttons to track users ubiquitously around the web.
For those who must continue using Facebook, the Ghostery and Disconnect browser add-ons can be set to block tracking through Facebook like buttons. Adblock Plus users can subscribe to one of the social blocking lists provided by Fanboy. Internet Explorer users can add the Easy Privacy Tracking Protection List to the internal anti-tracking list created by the browser itself.
What would the modern Internet look like without Net Neutrality? Here’s a preview:
See the entire dystopian exhibit at http://jointhefastlane.com/
Today, two stories show contrasting developments in Internet freedom in Canada and the USA.
First, the CBC reports that the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously that computer users have a right to privacy and anonymity, and that authorities cannot obtain subscriber information without a valid warrant. This ruling provides far more protection than the outdated US “Electronic Communications Privacy Act,” which is in desperate need of an upgrade to reflect current technological developments.
South of the border, however, the New York State Senate joined a number of US states in passing an extremely broad “revenge porn” bill. At the above link, attorney Scott Greenfield explains that the NY bill in its current form could, among other things, outlaw legitimate news reporting because it fails to provide a “public interest” exception. For example, the bill as it now stands would have made it illegal to release the indecent “selfies” posted by former congressman Anthony Weiner, despite the fact that the public has a legitimate interest in knowing about potential misconduct by an elected official.
As many of my regular readers know, data-mining company Google has long been an enemy of the adult content industry. Previously, Google has banned legal adult material from its Blogger service and from AdSense, and has tweaked its ubiquitous search index to make it harder to find legal adult content.
Therefore, I’m not at all surprised that Google has decided to tighten the screws even further. At the behest of the American purity league “Morality in Media,” Google has announced that it will now block wide swaths of legal adult materials from its AdWords program. As industry magazine Xbiz notes:
For its part, anti-porn crusader coalition Morality In Media (MIM) is taking credit for strong-arming the search giant into changing its porn policies. MIM now offers an online “thank you” card form where the public can thank Google for its anti-porn shift.
You can read the in-depth analysis of how this will likely affect adult content providers at Xbiz:
Google Gores Adult: An Industry Perspective
A recent e-mail from the Google AdWords Team to advertisers warns of upcoming changes to the company’s advertising policies that will limit its use by adult content marketers. Read More>>
First, Americans do seem to care about Net Neutrality. According to DSL Reports, the FCC’s own website crashed this weekend under the massive server load of people visiting the site to register their opinions during the public comment period. Most comments were in favor of regulating broadband Internet as a utility under “Title II.”
Secondly, following up on the proposed Comcast/TWC merger which I have previously discussed here, Public Interest has a detailed piece on why Comcast’s weak “Internet Essentials” program to connect low-income children to the Web has thus far been an abysmal failure at increasing Internet access and preventing monopolistic pricing. Some salient quotes:
A total of 4.6 million households in the [Time Warner Cable} company’s service area [would qualify based on income]. But that number also includes childless couples, individuals living alone and seniors, who would not qualify for Internet Essentials, according to research by the Center for Public Integrity.
If the demographics in Time Warner’s service area are similar to those in Comcast’s current footprint, then about 1.7 million would-be customers would qualify for Internet Essentials after the merger, leaving 2.9 million low-income individuals and childless couples without a chance to sign up for the discounted service.
The article also notes that most US public funding for broadband — now set to exceed $2 billion annually — has consisted of connecting schools and libraries, rather than expanding home Internet access, leaving many people out in the cold. As the article states:
[P]oorer Americans need Internet connections in their homes to fully take advantage of what’s online. Schools and libraries close, forcing students to hang out at a McDonalds to connect to WiFi so they can complete their homework. And if you’re not a student, a high-speed Internet connection in a school doesn’t help.
I highly recommend reading the entire article.