What a year 2016 has been! On the one hand, the American FCC finally began to act to protect Internet users against monopolistic abuses by ISP’s, such as by imposing limits on the secretive collection and sale of consumers’ private information. On the other hand, consumers have suffered from continuing data breaches, such as the notorious hacks of Yahoo! and Adult Friend Finder, while governments worldwide have increased censorship efforts against both porn and political dissent. Adding to the concerns, the incoming US administration has declared its commitment to roll back hard-won consumer protections such as net neutrality and announced its willingness to resurrect the failed adult-content censorship policies of the past.
Despite the political turmoil, this past year was mostly good for me, although my health has continued to deteriorate. I had wanted to comment regularly about the political and legal challenges facing consumers and the adult content industry, but because of painful arthritis of the shoulders, I can no longer write beyond a paragraph or two at a time.
As the year draws to a close, I feel that this would also be a good time for me to retire from blogging, at least for now. I thank all of my readers for their support over the past 3 1/2 years. My wish is that all of us will have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year and many more great years ahead.
Happy New Year 2017
Impact on the adult industry:
Studio Heads Weigh In on Trump as President
Donald Trump triumphed last night, and now the adult entertainment biz is trying to figure out what it all means. Read more>>
“… Trump went on record saying that pornography should be illegal,” (Penthouse owner Kelly) Holland said. “Face it, Trump is the puppet. The strings will be pulled by his ultra-conservative vice president, [Mike] Pence, his presumptive attorney general, [Rudy] Giuliani and the rest of the alt-right that will pull the strings.
Impact on the Internet:
From DSL Reports:
Trump Could Spell Big Trouble for Broadband, Net Neutrality
While Hillary Clinton was seen as overly-cozy with telecom in her own right, new President elect Donald Trump is already laying the ground work for an administration that could spell major trouble for broadband consumers, broadband competition, and the nation’s new net neutrality rules. Trump has made it clear he vehemently opposes net neutrality, despite repeatedly making it clear he’s not entirely certain what net neutrality even is.
More from DSL Reports
On a positive note for companies like AT&T, Trump has given every indication that he opposes net neutrality — despite seemingly not understanding what it is. And while his telecom policy proposals have been murky at best, a Republican-controlled FCC is likely to kill numerous policy efforts including cable box reform and efforts to bring additional competition to bear on industry incumbents.
More from Gizmodo:
Donald Trump does not support net neutrality. Actually, he thinks it will lead to the censorship of conservative media. “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media,” he tweeted in 2014.
According to XBIZ and other news outlets, GOP presidential candidate (and former Playboy cover model) Donald Trump has signed an anti-porn pledge promulgated by a notorious pro-censorship organization called “Enough is Enough.” Most of the pledge is standard “save the children” fare with scant reference to adult erotica, but concerningly, it also affirms the false claim made this year by the Utah legislature — and now enshrined in the GOP platform — that online adult content is a hazard to public health.
The pledge also calls on private companies to partner with the government in “voluntary” efforts to reduce the supposed threat of minors seeing adult content, which sounds to me like an attempt to reinvigorate the age-verification and de-anonymization schemes which the US Government promoted in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s before they were mostly struck down by the courts. Such partnerships could also include more surveillance and data sharing by private companies, ostensibly to protect minors from being chatted at by perverts, but effectively invading everyone’s online privacy along the lines of the proposed “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).”
Trump Signs Pledge to Crack Down on Porn If Elected
In a development that could sway stakeholders in the industry, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump signed a pledge two weeks ago stating he would aggressively enforce existing laws that prevent the sexual exploitation of children, including federal obscenity laws, child pornography laws, sexual predation laws and the sex trafficking laws. Read more>>
Most discussion of Britain’s referendum to leave the European Union has centered on economic issues and immigration, but Jerry Barnett of the respected Sex and Censorship blog notes that the “Brexit” could also affect free speech and Internet laws in the UK. For example, absent a specific treaty to the contrary, British ISP’s would no longer be subject to EU net neutrality rules.
Although I don’t personally believe that the Brexit is a sign of a growing English fascism, I do agree with Barnett’s conclusion:
Amidst the chaos, it seems churlish to ask what this means for the adult industry. But as has been so often pointed out, sex is the canary in the coalmine of liberty. Sexual and political freedoms have always gone hand-in hand; an attack on one is an attack on the other. And so surely we all — on both sides of the Atlantic — are in for a huge battle in the coming months.
More at XBIZ:
Op-Ed: Britons Light Fuse With Brexit
In my new book, Porn Panic!, I recount the rise of a new British fascism. Read more>>
Recently I had posted a humorous chart of the American political landscape as it might be seen through a libertarian perspective. I have moved it here because I think it should have its own post.
I also wanted to link to this article from the Adam Smith Institute, which explains a “classical liberal” viewpoint, as opposed to a “hardcore libertarian” view, on redistribution. I find that it generally reflects my position as a self-described liberal libertarian, and I hope that my readers will find it of interest as well.
US parties on the issues
Last week, Apple’s iOS introduced the ability to block ads on mobile, sparking considerable outrage among certain web publishers. Arguments for ad blocking have focused on usability issues, such as page loading time, CPU use, and monthly data caps being consumed by ads.
This blog does not take a position on ad blocking per se, leaving that to the conscience of individual users and their circumstances. However, it should be noted that web advertising has been used to deliver malware (“malvertising”) as well as violate user privacy through tracking. Using add-ons like Disconnect and Ghostery may allow users to block invasive tracking while still allowing ads to be viewed. Further, Adblock Plus includes, by default, a whitelist of ads that their user community has deemed “acceptable.”
Regardless of one’s position on ad blocking, there are myriad reasons to block third-party tracking, as illustrated by the articles linked below:
Apple to Target Ads Based on Consumer’s Credit Report
Facebook patents technology to help lenders discriminate against borrowers based on social connections
Facebook’s ad targeting algorithms are about to get a new firehose of valuable and controversial personal data.
One solution proposed by James Avery, CEO of Adzerk, is for companies to respect the once-promising “Do Not Track” browser preference:
Honor the EFF’s ‘Do Not Track’ policy: If a user does not want to be tracked, they shouldn’t be tracked. The Electronic Frontier Foundation built a reasonable policy that takes the privacy issue off the table. For non-DNT users, we should all agree to use a secure sockets layer for all communications and adopt reasonable security and privacy defaults. Consumers shouldn’t have to click DNT to to ensure their data is safe.
The renowned novelist Anne Rice became embroiled in a controversy over fake book reviews being posted at Amazon.com by so-called “social justice warriors,” many of whom also promote a feminist anti-porn agenda. Rice objected to slanderous content and smear campaigns against authors who had written about controversial themes like sex and gender.
Boing Boing ran a profile of a recent Facebook post by Rice about the phenomenon of de facto censorship by Internet lynch mob, in which Rice noted that careers and personal lives are being destroyed by perhaps well-intentioned but irresponsible online hate campaigns that are meant to intimidate writers of material that offends “progressive” ideals.
She says, in part:
We must stand up for fiction as a place where transgressive behavior and ideas can be explored. …. I think we have to be willing to stand up for the despised. …. [I]nternet campaigns to destroy authors accused of inappropriate subject matter or attitudes are dangerous to us all.
(Edited to add link about fake book reviews.)
As expected, on Thursday a sharply divided US FCC ruled 3-2 to classify high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, therefore subjecting it to “common carrier” regulations like those which apply to telephone service. This ruling restores DSL Internet to its status prior to 2005 but now adds cable to this classification. It also restores essentially the same “open Internet” rules that had been in effect from 2010 until a court overturned them on a technicality in 2014.
Contrary to some cable lobbyist-fueled media hype, this is not a “government takeover of the Internet” like the overturned 1990’s Communications Decency Act, nor an “Obamacare for the Internet” analogous to the Reagan-era Lifeline telephone subsidy. There is no plan for an “Internet tax” but, surprisingly, there is also no effort to promote competition for wireline Internet service, such as through an unbundling requirement. Indeed, the FCC ruling merely preserves the status quo of a lightly regulated, corporate-controlled Internet duopoly.
Yahoo! Finance summary of the new ruling: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/fcc-adopts-net-neutrality-rules-to-ban-internet-discrimination-163703235.html
Xbiz notes that the FCC ruling could protect adult websites from ISP censorship: http://www.xbiz.com/news/web/191648
Gigaom details an egregious example of misleading ISP marketing which might come under FCC regulation: https://gigaom.com/2015/02/19/dont-let-att-mislead-you-about-its-29-privacy-fee/
US FCC chairman and former cable TV lobbyist Tom Wheeler announced that he will propose that ISP’s be reclassified as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act. His plan supports Net Neutrailty, preventing ISP’s from blocking or throttling lawful content or charging consumers extra fees for receiving different kinds of content, but much like his earlier “hybrid” Net Neutrality proposal, it fails to protect consumers against monopolistic ISP pricing and other abuses. Specifically, even though most Americans are served by only two wireline Internet providers, Wheeler’s Title II plan would pretend that such a duopoly is competitive.
In sum, I believe that Wheeler has avoided the difficult work of promoting free-market competition in America’s broadband service, which is slow and overpriced compared with other industrial nations. Large corporations like Netflix and Amazon will be protected from abusive pricing practices, but consumers, once again, will be left to the whims of de facto unregulated monopolies.
FCC proposes no regulation of rates, no new tariffs, and no unbundling; telecoms are horrified by the burdensome regulation
[Harold Feld, an attorney and senior VP of the pro-Title II group Public Knowledge] agreed with the NCTA that local loop unbundling is highly unlikely even with Title II reclassification. The FCC could enforce unbundling on incumbent phone companies that offer DSL like it used to, but there’s a question of whether they should be considered “incumbent” in the case of broadband since cable has greater market share, Feld said. The FCC also decided to forbear from imposing unbundling rules on fiber in 2003 to encourage deployment, he said.
“On the whole, I agree with NCTA on this. Structural separation—modeled on the old DSL resale model or similar to what they do in France or England—is not a real risk for any ISP,” Feld said. “That’s unfortunate, in my view, but that’s the reality.”
This month, British opinion leaders have made two incredibly bad proposals to destroy any last vestige of online privacy for their subjects. In this post, I’ll discuss the first one.
Believing that the present heavy-handed universal adult-content censorship scheme in the UK doesn’t go far enough, Telegraph columnist Martin Daubney floated the idea of requiring that all porn be licensed by the government. Not only that, but porn usage would be monitored and recorded for posterity. Under his voyeristic scheme, “Brits would be watching porn, but at least we’d know what they were watching,” … “[P]orn sites would be able to offer support to anybody who felt their porn use was getting out of control.” People obtaining porn outside of official channels would face prison time!
All free people should cringe at the thought that government officials would be collecting data on every secret sexual fantasy and forbidden love interest that might be revealed through citizens’ use of online erotica in the privacy of their own homes. Not only could this data be hacked by criminals for blackmail purposes, but it could also later be used to persecute sexual minorities for future crimes that haven’t yet been written, as a recent controversy over suspending driving privileges for “sexual deviates” in Russia illustrates.
Although such a crazy scheme would be precluded in the US under American legal precedent (e.g., Stanley vs. Georgia), proposals such as this illustrate the depths to which some governments will sink in order to control every aspect of peoples’ private lives, even their thoughts. Indeed, Orwell’s telescreen, and the thought police, are becoming reality.