Sunday, June 15, 2008

And so now it begins......

Verizon Cutting Access To Entire Alt.* Usenet Hierarchy

"Verizon has declared it will no longer offer access to the entire alt.* hierarchy of Usenet newsgroups to its customers. This stems from last week's agreement for major ISPs to cut off access to 'newsgroups and Web sites' that make child pornography available. The story notes, 'No law requires Verizon to do this. Instead, the company (and, to varying extents, Time Warner Cable and Sprint) agreed to restrictions on Usenet in response to political strong-arming by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. Cuomo claimed that his office found child porn on 88 newsgroups — out of roughly 100,000 newsgroups that exist.' In response, Verizon will cut its customers off from a large portion of Usenet, as it will only carry newsgroups in the Big 8."

This is plain and simple bullshit - you are either offering internet access (yes the whole internet or you aren't)

It's the commercial companies right to offer a 'cut down version' of the internet but if they do they should lose all exclusive rights allocated to them by the federal government so that Verzion no longer have any federally awarded benefits of sole exclusive provider or any other common carrier status mandated subsidies etc. Your tax dollars are paying for their interpretive editorial decisions.

To be able to make what amounts to an 'editorial' non court mandated decision to cut off parts of the internet makes Verizon no better than China. In fact it makes them worse than China because at least China is upfront about their censorship, Verizon are hiding behind the guise of 'protecting the children from kiddy porn',

Yeh ok but what about the other 99.5% of the alt. groups you just killed? Yep alt.startrek.creative. very dangerous stuff.

What this means in practice is that, thanks to the New York state attorney general, Verizon customers will lose out on innocent discussions.

Verizon is retaining only eight newsgroup hierarchies, even though over 1,000 hierarchies exist. That means not carrying perfectly innocuous--and, in fact, very useful--newsgroups like symantec.customerservice.general, us.military, microsoft.public.excel, and fr.soc.economie.

Please forward this post on to every political figure with a brain (apart from Andrew Cuomo) who makes decisions concerning Verizon's rights to common carrier status - they cant have it both ways.

P.S. If you dont think Net Neutrality is the biggest issue affecting information publication and distribution in your life I challenge you to watch this short video and tell me you dont care


  1. This is exactly the same as banning the entire web, because SOMEWHERE, a few websites have kiddie porn on them. Remember, Usenet isn't just one big site, it's an entire decentralized network! It is equivalent to (though obviously a lot smaller than) then entire WWW! It's also no accident that they targeted Usenet first. The majority of net users don't even know that network exists (it's HUGE, but it doesn't have a lot of new users.) So they can go deal a massive blow to free speech, and set the legal precedent in the background on a network that not enough people will notice the disappearance of to get a major protest going. Of course, then they can apply that precedent to the main 'net. The result is basically the end of open sites. When this sweeping of an attack is applied, you simply CANNOT allow users to do ANYTHING without permission. Imagine this scenario: You're the owner of a successful forum. You have a few hundred regulars, several thousand users who log in from time to time, and probably a few hundred thousand user accounts, most of which were logged into once and never used again. This is nothing special - hundreds of forums have that level of activity. Somewhere, on one of those hundreds of thousands of accounts that never posted, some guy set his avatar to kiddie porn. He never posted, no one's ever looked at his profile, and that's been sitting on the server for 3 years. For all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist, because no one is every going to see - including of course, your staff of perhaps 10 administrators that operate the board with hundreds of thousands... or perhaps millions... of posts on it. The FBI runs a bot script, finds that user account, and promptly shuts your site down, deletes it, jails you for 20 years, and makes you a registered sex offender for the rest of your life, never again able to work a normal job. Even worse... maybe someone keeps spamming up your forum, and you ban them, so they decide to retaliate. They make a user account that no one notices or cares about, and go straight to the forum that you dump all of the spam threads in. They find one that they know no one could possibly care about, and post a picture of kiddie porn in it. Then they promptly call the FBI. Your life is over before the end of that day if you didn't catch the post in time... and let's face it, you're not going to. So what can you do? Well, you'd have to disable private messaging, turn off sigs, avatars, profiles, and every other way of personalizing your account, and set all posts to be invisible until a moderator approves them. Of course, you won't want to approve anything that could even possibly be considered "obscene", "terroristic", or any of the other horrifically vague terms that apply to pretty much anything they decide they apply to. You also have to ban all posts that contain images (someone might hack the image server and replace the image) and disallow all links (the site could be bought out and you'd be responsible for linking to the new site. This means for instance, that a political forum wouldn't be able to approve anything anti-Bush or risk shutdown at the least, imprisonment at the worst. An attack this massive on Usenet is about 3 steps away from the scenario I just described. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the entire internet is danger because of a few idiots trying to stop a few criminals and understanding absolutely nothing about the technology they're attacking!

  2. I was asked this question and I thought my reply about "only 8 out of every 1000 websites in your favorites folder" was a good way of getting the message across.


    From: Pip
    Sent: Sunday, 15 June 2008 1:34 PM
    To: Dean Collins
    Subject: Fw: And so now it begins......

    I am not sure I get your particular beef on this one

    Child pornography is pretty well agreed upon by all to be illegal and much much worse

    Mind you I am well well well well known as very angry at the telco companies and their lobbying power but I don't see a beef here... If anything I see govt legislators jumping in to do something regulators never ever would have

    Am I missing something in THIS case?

    Otherwise I don't see this as some new "worsening"

    All views welcomed


    Hi Pip,

    Yep, the beef is that Verizon have drop 99.7% of the “alt.” newsgroups that have nothing to do with child porn.

    So newsgroups like us.military , microsoft.public.excel, fr.soc.economie are also being dropped.

    Verizon have made an editorial decision to carry only "8 of 1000+ news group hierarchies". To put it a different more personal way, imagine opening up your browser on Monday morning and finding only 8 out of every thousand websites you had in your favourites folder available to you.

    The rest had been excised from your access not by ‘law’, but purely by editorial judgment.

    Do you think Andrew Cuomo an elected official has the right to do that to you?


  3. Sent: Sunday, 15 June 2008 4:49 PM
    To: Dean Collins;
    Subject: Re: And so now it begins......

    What motivation would they have to do that? Just dumb or nefarious in this instance?

    Andrew Cuomo – gets press, and to be seen to be doing something, (probably being advised by people who have ‘ulterior motives’ and he’s too stupid to know the difference).

    Verizon – heaps of reasons; far too many - but here’s my interpretation.

    Usenet is an ancient ‘spooky’ space on the internet that no one but geeks and porn swapping perverts visit, by blocking 99.7% of UseNet’s under the guise of getting rid of kiddy porn Verizon are able to establish a precedent that ‘managing’ internet access for the betterment of society is a good thing.

    The thin edge of the wedge has been struck.

    After that it’s easy to start blocking off entire country domains, I mean no one has any good reason for reading blogs in Iran correct?

    Ok now lets move to something that some people will care about but with 2 sets of prior acts Verizon will be covered. Lets block all P2P traffic, I mean P2P is only used by people swapping pirated music and video’s – yes some 5% of the population may complain but most of them will be kids and not voters so we should be able to cover any publicity backlash.

    ….now lets move onto the juicy bits. – That pesky Vonage traffic is travelling over our users networks and Verizon don’t make any money form this, lets start blocking that traffic.

    ….You like watching video’s from Netflix using their Roku internet set-top box, cool we’ll just have to charge you for this.

    …..Listening to a radio station that isn’t in the Time Warner ‘family’, sorry this is tier 2 internet class traffic so the audio might be a little jittery from time to time, sorry about that…..

    If you want to hear from people who are far better at explaining this check out

    Like I said it all started with some dumb politician who had probably never used Newsgroups before and had some carrier stooge whisper something into his ear about ‘think of the children’……the rest is history.

    As a society we should be strong enough to accept that any technology solution to a society problem will never work and any politicians who suggest otherwise are either too dumb to be making that decision (e.g. swallowed a story from a lobbyist) or is acting in coercion.

    But what do I know, I’m just a disgruntled geek.


  4. Copied from ISP Planet's story a few days ago, “In The Name of Blocking Child Porn, Another Barrier To Entry

    "I tried to speak to this National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The conversation went something like this:

    "Me: 'Do you know about the great things that local ISPs are doing to assist police with Amber alerts?'

    "They: 'ISPs are in violation of the law and will go to jail if they don't get the message.'

    "Me: 'Aren't you interested in learning what real businesses are doing already?'

    "They: 'ISPs are in violation of the law and will go to jail if they don't get the message.'"

    So, the ISPs' motivation here is real simple:

    AG Andrew Cuomo and others don't like Usenet because it's difficult to regulate. AG Cuomo and and others have the political power to charge the ISPs.

    The ISPs can do cost-benefit calculations.