Ars Technica has posted the most comprehensive article I have seen thus far about the four US presidential candidates’ positions on Internet law and policy. I was surprised that Donald Trump confuses Net Neutrality with the completely unrelated 20th century radio and television “Fairness Doctrine,” and I am disappointed that he feels that ISP’s can effectively self regulate on price and service in the absence of meaningful competition. Hillary Clinton says that she champions Net Neutrality and consumer protection, but the fact that she accepts money from anti-competition ISP lobbyists calls into question the sincerity of her commitment.
Libertarian Gary Johnson strongly opposes governmental surveillance but otherwise believes that ISP’s should be completely unregulated, regardless of the potential harm to consumers. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, although a medical doctor, promotes pseudoscience claims including the dubious assertion that WiFi radiation is a health hazard. She also holds peculiar views on gender and censorship.
First Amendment lawyer J. D. Obenberger recently wrote at Xbiz:
Censorship starts here with porn. It always does. And, as always, this repression of speech starts with the proclaimed aim of “protecting the children.” Given the haphazard record of actual prosecution for distribution of porn and its selectivity against the lowest hanging fruit, least capable of defending itself, the thought that porn is a pretextual target for more sinister and wider purposes — and to justify the acquisition of tools for general censorship — has special appeal.
He might well have been referring to the USA or the UK, where officials have recently argued for laws prohibiting strong encryption on the pretense of preventing crime, but in this case he was writing about his experience visiting Russia, which can serve as a cautionary tale for Western democracies.
The article itself is fascinating and well worth a read: http://www.xbiz.com/articles/legal/210029
I have not been able to post as much as I would like because of recurring medical issues, but two stories relevant to our community are in the news.
First, the BBC recently published a report repeating the old canard that frequent porn use supposedly causes erectile disorder in young men by desensitizing them to real-life sexual stimuli. Maxim, although generally considered more of a “lad’s mag” than a serious news publication, responded to the BBC claims with a well-sourced article citing two scientific studies showing that porn use is not inherently harmful.
Second, the dominant US Internet provider, Comcast, has indicated its desire to charge ISP customers additional fees for privacy, similar to what AT&T has been doing to certain fiber Internet subscribers. Caroline Craig has an excellent article at Infoworld explaining the current privacy situation in the US and the FCC’s new role in protecting consumers from intrusive practices by ISP’s, which, due to lack of meaningful competition, can impose onerous conditions on customers at will.
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>>
With Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) having now endorsed his rival, Hillary Clinton, Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Benton Foundation describes the two remaining US major-party presidential candidates’ positions on Net Neutrality:
The presumptive nominees have already staked out positions supporting (Hillary Clinton) and opposing (Donald Trump) network neutrality. A Trump-appointed FCC would presumably stop utilizing Title II powers and refrain from enforcing the network neutrality rules, but a formal recision of the FCC’s decision would take some time and would require some legal gymnastics. There is plenty of time to address that scenario if and when it happens.
Nonetheless, according to DSL Reports, even Mrs. Clinton continues to accept money from anti-Neutrality Internet providers such as AT&T:
AT&T’s Top Lobbyist Backs Hillary Clinton
Net Neutrality Now
A clever turn of phrase from The Next Web 😀
Too many people
According to Wired UK, Sky Broadband is the latest UK Internet provider to block adult websites by default for new customers as well as for existing customers who haven’t yet elected to opt out. As the article notes, the plan includes some potential pitfalls:
[T]he first time a user goes to a restricted website, they will be invited to amend the filter settings, or turn it off altogether. However, only the account holder will have the ability to do this – not necessarily a hurdle for families, but potentially a problem in shared houses of adult occupants. Sky’s announcement does not specify what filters will be used to determine whether a site is “inappropriate” or not.
I thought it would be interesting to see how this blog is filtered in the UK, as determined by https://www.blocked.org.uk/ (image below)
Open Rights Group report on this blog
Today’s news offers two more examples of why the local ISP monopolies and duopolies in the US need to be regulated by the FCC as common carriers.
First, this is one of many recent legal cases where incumbent ISP’s have pressured state and local authorities to physically block access to potential competitors:
Frontier teams with AT&T to block Google Fiber access to utility poles
As we reported in February, AT&T sued the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber and similar companies access to utility poles.
Next, Kate Murphy reports at Today Online about why American ISP’s are notorious for providing hideous customer support:
Why tech support is (purposely) unbearable
The most egregious offenders are companies like cable and mobile service providers, which typically have little competition and whose customers are bound by contracts or would be considerably inconvenienced if they cancelled their service. Not surprisingly, cable and mobile service providers are consistently ranked by consumers as providing the worst customer support.
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>>