Net Neutrality, Internet Taxes, and Fake Porn

  1. According to DSL Reports, the US FCC’s proposed Net Neutrality compromise would protect Internet providers but not customers.
  2. Hungary cancels planned Internet tax after protests.
  3. Xbiz and the NY Daily News report that “extreme pornography” charges against a British man were dropped after his video was revealed to be a prank showing a man in a tiger suit. His case has prompted calls for legal reform.
Tony the Tiger

Tony the Tiger

Censorship, Taxes, and Spy Cookies

This week in Internet developments:

  1. Xbiz reveals that British PM David Cameron’s government, not content with its unpopular ISP-level opt-out filtering that blocks adult websites by default, now wants to add mandatory, intrusive age verification for all UK-based adult websites, including some that don’t contain sexual content. It is currently unclear if the proposed law would affect free forums and blogs such as this one.
  2. Mashable reports that the government of Hungary has proposed a 60-cent per gigabyte Internet usage tax, prompting widespread protests. Activists say the new tax would amount to censorship by limiting Internet access.
  3. According to DSL Reports, US mobile provider Verizon has been tracking Internet users for the last two years using “stealth cookies” which alter the headers sent with web traffic. The tracking, which cannot readily be blocked, was only recently discovered by someone working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Spyware, Porn Stigma, and Hypocrisy

This week in the news:

  1. How To Geek accused the free avast! antivirus product of having used spyware to secretly track its users’ online habits for purposes of monetization. Although avast!  denies the claim, the company made changes to the offending browser plugin at the behest of Google Chrome. This incident serves as a reminder that customers should not take privacy for granted, even with software meant to protect them, and should carefully review the data collection and retention practices of antimalware and other utility programs before installing them.
  2. Rhett Pardon at Xbiz reported that Montreal’s Brébeuf College fired a teacher after discovering that she acted in adult films 40 years ago, sadly illustrating the stigma that still hangs over the adult biz.
  3. On a sort of related note, Lila Gray of Xbiz reported on a new study which found that religiously conservative people are more likely to search for pornography online than less religious people. This echoes similar findings from previous studies. The full article is linked below:

Study: Google Trends Reveals Porn Habits of Political, Religious Conservatives

A study conducted by researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada found that those who identify as more religious are more likely to use pornographic search terms on Google than their less religious peers. Read More>>

Yahoo, Comcast, and a Buttplug

From the sublime to the ridiculous:

  1. According to Xbiz, Yahoo is joining the censorship parade by barring paid listings for adult websites, despite CEO Marissa Mayer’s previous statements in favor of allowing adult content. This may evoke memories of Yahoo’s porn purge a decade ago, in which thousands of adult Yahoo groups were disappeared without warning.
  2. Gigaom reports on Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian’s colorful speech accusing Comcast of “extortion” and explaining the need for Title II (utility) regulation for US Internet providers.
  3. According to Lila Gray at Xbiz, controversial artist Paul McCarthy was attacked after installing a giant inflatable butt plug, designated as a “tree,” in Paris. The sculpture was subsequently vandalized and deflated. “Tree” appears below, courtesy of Xbiz:

UK Jumps on Revenge Porn Bandwagon

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to jump on the current “revenge porn” bandwagon, pro-censorship UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has announced new prosecutorial guidelines to charge perpetrators of non-consensual sharing of intimate images, including prison terms of up to 14 years if the victim was a minor.

As I have said previously, I sympathize with people who have been victimized by unauthorized invasions of their privacy, but I am concerned about the broad and vague wording of most proposed US revenge porn laws. To the credit of the British, their guidelines rely on existing laws rather than the proposal of new laws which could impair protected speech.


‘Revenge Porn’ Crimes Could Lead to 14-Year Sentences in the U.K.

The U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service said this week that it has updated its legal guidance for “revenge porn” prosecutions. Read More>>

Stopping Internet Monopolies, and Revisiting Revenge Porn

Some political developments recently in the news might be of interest to my readers.

First, according to DSL Reports, the US Federal Communications Commission has extended the time allowed for the public to comment about ISP and cable giant Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Many consumer advocates are concerned that the merger would grant Comcast even more monopolistic control than it already has over consumer access to the Internet.

Second, “revenge porn” activist Danielle Citron has proposed a new model criminal law, this time including a public interest exception that would protect journalistic uses as well as a clearer exception for commercial and public photography. However, First Amendment law expert Scott Greenfield points out a number of flaws within the model statute. As currently written, for example, it would outlaw nude drawings or paintings of non-consenting persons. Further, as lawyer Mark Bennett explains, in order to criminalize “revenge porn” the US Supreme Court would have to recognize a new category of unprotected speech, something which the current Court seems loath to do at this time.