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Testing ISP Censorship

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the it's-just-far-too-easy dept.

Censorship 431

ryants writes "As part of a research project, Christian Ahlert ran an interesting experiment. He posted John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, which is clearly in the public domain, on different ISPs. He then sent the ISPs phony copyright violation notices. The results are troubling, with ISPs "acting as judge, jury and private investigator at the same time.""

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431 comments

Censored (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390689)

FP censored by my ISP

Re:Censored (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390969)

You're lucky. Slashdot has censored not only all my FPs, but any other posts I try to make as well. I haven't been able to make one from home in over a month. Those bastard editors don't even want to tell me when (if) I will get reinstated!!

setzman

Sample Size? Two. (5, Insightful)

Jorj X. McKie (323674) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390690)

While the fact that a UK ISP folded immediately, without further investigation, is somewhat troubling (mostly for customers of that provider), the size of the sample does not justify any sort of conclusion. I'd be really interested to know which ISPs have NTD policies, and which do not. The US ISP responded in precisely the manner that I would want my hosting service to employ. Exactly how widespread is the problem?

Of course, if we want this kind of behavior on the part to ISPs to stop, then they have to have some kind of legal shield from copyright damages while they investigate claims of copyright infringement. Normally, I would say that a reasonable approach would serve everyone well, but the legal system seems anything but reasonable these days, particularly in regard to intellectual property. So it would seem (if there is not such a shield already available) that there ought to be some kind of law or ruling that explicitly specifies the duty and liability of ISPs in the event that a copyright violation is alleged. Meaning, of course, that I draw pretty much the same conclusion as Ahlert does. I would prefer that he had documented the problem a little more thoroughly, however.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (2, Insightful)

nberardi (199555) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390812)

I totally agree, with your first point, and these scare tactics are done because of over zealous lawyers, that will milk you for everything you have. It is much easier to take the information down and deal with one person than a team of lawyers.

I also on a side note the writter of this story doesn't really under stand the meaning of censorship. Only a government can censor a person, a private company does not have this ability. Even though they allow their servers to be used with public access doesn't mean the servers are public domain. The servers belong to the company, and the company can do what ever they want with them, including deleting files at will. Granted companies don't do this because it is bad PR, but it is totally with in their rights.

So when he wrote, "For symbolic reasons, the material uploaded was chapter two of On Liberty, in which Mill discussed the freedom of the press and the dangers of censorship." I just about lost it because it shows how little this guy actually knows about the issues he is addressing. Also as a side note you cannot censor published content, you can restrict it, but the litteral word of censor is not possible to do on published content. So the government can never censor published content.

I summary, this writer is a moron, and just lobbing un founded accusations out there and hope one hits the wall and sticks. I think both the US and UK ISP did the right thing and it was probably with in their corporate policies.

I really wish /. had a better bogus story/content filter (notice I didn't say censor, because /. is not part of the government, so they are unable to censor anything :) ).

Re:Sample Size? Two. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390907)

I'd be careful about calling people idiots if I were you. This is the age where corporate contracts (where you violate a EULA or somesuch) are gaining parity with laws. Might as well call a violation of a EULA a corporate crime or a corporate offense. And who really runs the government? Do you really believe members of Congress or the President get elected just by the goodwill of the people? No, its the funding from companies. In the future censoring by companies will be as bad as censoring by the government.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (4, Insightful)

bongoras (632709) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390991)

mod parent -1 hairsplitting...

So if you had, say, your masters' thesis, on that UK ISP and I wanted to cause you some trouble, I could sent them a bogus C&D letter and they'd yank your thesis offline without contacting you, or attempting to verify the legitimacy of my C&D letter, and you'd think that's a good thing for them to do?

Please THINK.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (2, Interesting)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390998)

I also on a side note the writter of this story doesn't really under stand the meaning of censorship. Only a government can censor a person, a private company does not have this ability.

Very true. A better analogy, though still flawed, would be a store removing alegedly stolen property from it's shelves. Censorship has nothing to do with copyright violation.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (4, Insightful)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391009)

In a way, I have to disagree with what the ISP's did in removing/blocking the content. I realize that the ISP's own the network as you've pointed out, but what would stop someone from makng claims about numerous sites over copyrighted material and having those sites shut down. The author doesn't do a very good job explaining the exact setup of the site or the details of the actions by the ISP, so I can't say with certainty that they acted improperly. If the ISP's just pulled the connection based on a bogus claim, imagine the havoc someone could play on web sites.

Picture the ISP for a local politicians website getting a notice that www.somepolitician.org was displaying copyrighted work. Picture that claim coming from www.running-against.org. Without some level of validation, claims could affect legitimate sites.

One would hope that ISP's would require some level of proof indicating the copyright infringement followed by a contacting the website operator to inquire if they can show rights to the use the content. I don't know if this would put too much burden on the ISP though. Maybe not the ideal solution, but seems better than just pulling the connection.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (5, Insightful)

WarriorPoet42 (762455) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390816)

As the aleged copyright infringement was textual, the US ISP investigated. But put a piece of music or some open source software on a website and try your experiment again, this time citing the DMCA. I'll wager 10 out of 10 fold before you have time to check your email again.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (1)

Jorj X. McKie (323674) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390879)

Good point. The hysteria over music on the net has made the climate very chilling. (Of course, the DMCA is part of that hysteria)

Re:Sample Size? Two. (4, Interesting)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391011)

It's not just music. Ulink.net shut down part of my site when I was still hosted by them after receiving a complaint from the Beverly Hills police department for "displaying children with pornography". It was a background picture of the Trix rabbit saying "tits are for kids". Didn't bother telling me about either. It was shut down for days before I noticed and sent them an email asking what was going on.

7th Heaven sarcasm [nokilli.com]

Ulink quote:
We have been contacted by authorities regarding your displaying of a child star on a page with pornography. For your own protection we had to take down that page or you could be in serious trouble. In the future, please do not display pornography and children together. It is against the law and Ulink policies.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (4, Insightful)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390870)

Exactly how widespread is the problem?

I doubt its very widespread, nor is it a "problem". ISPs are a dime a dozen. You can find them to pump your spam, serve your porn, email, whatever. If you don't agree to the terms of use for any reason, simply go to another one.

The slashdot crowd is so wierd about copyright infringements. If I owned an ISP and someone reported that there was a problem with copyrighted material on my equipment, I would take the stuff down too. How much time should I spend seeing if the stuff is a problem. I guestimate 0. If the material is that important and really is OK to redistribute, then a counter from the original person suplying the material will prove to me that its OK to put back up, and I would do it. However, aside from this sample size of 2 "research" experiment, I would guestimate that close to 0.0% of all complaints to and ISP about copyright violations are not copyright violations. I would imagine that most every ISP has a zero tolerance policy (aside from the sleezy ones that will host anything for a price) regarding copyrights, and don't care to spend any time figuring it out.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (5, Informative)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390975)

Dear slashdot admins,

I own the copyright to all messages posted by your user "hackstraw". Please delete his account and everything in it immediately.

Spot-check clearinghouse needed (1)

Atario (673917) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390874)

While the result is superficially satisfying from the point of view of an American ("America is a land where the right to free speech is well-understood and -respected by the public at large, and dem furriners don't know nuthin' 'bout it"), you're dead-on accurate about the sample size issue. Perhaps there should be an ongoing system of this kind of check, done at random across the world's ISPs, and the results publicly displayed at a centralized web site where people could check on how on-the-ball any particular ISP is (or was, at last checkup).

It would all come crashing down, of course, when someone accused the site of hosting copyrighted material and its hosting company pulled the plug without checking.

Re:Sample Size? Two. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390992)

the size of the sample does not justify any sort of conclusion

Yes, but imagine how impressive and news-worthy it would be if phrased as "50% of ISPs censored my content!"

First post! (0, Offtopic)

Silverlancer (786390) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390694)

Interesting though. But from what I've heard, this is spot on with everyone else's experiences... :(

Checks and Balances (3, Interesting)

bonghorn (787130) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390695)

There really needs to be some sort of check to counter ISPs being able to do this. Perhaps some sort of law that defines a procedure for preventing things like this, maybe?

AUP (3, Informative)

millahtime (710421) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390772)

I believe their policy is on these matters is their Acceptable Use Policy on this.

If they are in violation of that let them know or you can take it to the Better Business Bearu (at least in the US). I worked for an ISP and went through this before.

they EXIST! Re:Checks and Balances (5, Informative)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390901)

"Perhaps some sort of law that defines a procedure for preventing things like this, maybe?"

There is a clearly defined procedure in the DMCA for ISPs ... on receipt of the complaint, they MUST notify the site owner and MUST take down the material within a certain time.

On their part, the site owner MUST file a reply to the takedown within a certain time. When the ISP gets the reply, which is a legal document swearing to the ownership of the material, they MUST restore the material or allow its reposting (the ISP's part is over).

The complaining party (the claimant to the copyright) MUST at this point either file a formal copyright infringement suit in the federal court closest to the web site owner's place of business or shut up. Repeat complaints are NOT allowed.

The results themselves (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390703)

The actual results are presented in detailed form in a PDF file:

How 'Liberty' Disappeared from the Internet [ox.ac.uk]

Or see the Google text version [64.233.167.104].

Read the ACTUAL RESULTS, skip the article (1)

JohnnyComeLately (725958) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390808)

read the actual results. Anyone reading /. will already have their opinion and a basic understanding. Save your time reading a redundant, almost circular article, by going straight to the actual results. Don't worry, the actual results will ALSO include the information in the article.

NEVERMIND, dont bother with the results either (4, Informative)

JohnnyComeLately (725958) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390931)

Good gracious. Maybe I'm in "DICK" mode today, but this completely disappoints me at every level. Sample size of two? I hope I've made a mistake, but a 39 page paper based upon an experiment with a sample size of TWO!!??

It'd be better off being summarized and turned into a Op/Ed piece. The paper itself seems very sound in structure, setting up methods and procedures for experimenting, developing a hypothesis and all the remaining factors for a good research paper. However, to have spent so much time in preparation for a sample of 2 is like spending a whole year prepping for a 10 second race.

Just my critical view of it, after several Associates, a Bachelors, Masters and starting on a second Masters degree.

Re:The results themselves (1)

Jorj X. McKie (323674) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390845)

Thanks for those links. They should have been in the original story. There is a link to the PDF at the bottom of the linked article, and it makes for rather interesting reading.

Ironically, the PDF reveals the 'US ISP' as... (4, Informative)

blorg (726186) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390999)

Lycos - on page 21, where he has shoddily neglected to blank it out. Ironic, as Lycos is actually owned by Terra [terralycos.com], a Spanish (EU) ISP.

I agree that this study is a very good idea; I just wish he could have done it a bit better and more thoroughly. Two ISPs, one from the US, one from the EU, is simply not enough to draw any sort of conclusion.

How they put the Caramel in the Caramilk bars (-1, Offtopic)

DarkHazard (713597) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390736)

Its so simple theres only one step: 1) !@#@$#%$#%^$^$^$ Isn't that great?

Non-ISP-Internet (3, Interesting)

ozamosi (615254) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390743)

Shouldn't that be possible somehow? To be your own ISP. I totaly understand if the ISP don't want to be sued because information violating copyright are traveling trough their servers. But why can't I be my own ISP, and thus take responsibility for what I do with my connection?

Re:Non-ISP-Internet (2, Informative)

darth_MALL (657218) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390797)

not sure if you are kidding or not, but you can find some good info on becoming your own ISP Here. [arin.net]

Re:Non-ISP-Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390954)

replying to my own post. I've never really looked in to this before, but after posting that link and doing a bit more digging; it looks like it can become quite complex setting this stuff up. Besides usual buisiness licenses etc. there are many hoops to jump to get all the other IP licenses etc. Dig around for some good info, and good luck.

As a self-appointed representative ... (4, Funny)

burgburgburg (574866) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390744)

of the estate of John Stuart Mill, I will be expecting a check in my hand (made to cash) by the end of business today.

This flagrant abuse of the "public domain" system has to stop. If people start reading and sharing intellectual property simply because it is no longer covered by any form of valid legal restrictions, how are people like myself supposed to continue to earn a living? Who's thinking about that?

Remember, EOB today! (Tick, tick, tick)

Oh the possibilities for abuse are amusing (1, Redundant)

Claire-plus-plus (786407) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390748)

I might be evil but when I read this it made me think "wouln't this be a great way to remove websites you don't like". If it is that easy to remove websites it would be pretty easy to abuse as well.

If you RTFA (4, Insightful)

Mz6 (741941) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390773)

...It actually mentions a lot about doing just that and how easy it would be. Oh wait.. this is /. ... sorry.

Re:Oh the possibilities for abuse are amusing (3, Insightful)

Jameth (664111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390830)

That might also be a good way to demonstrate how fraglantly wrong the law is. I wonder how many sites I could get taken off, for no reason whatsoever, inside of a week.

Of course, I couldn't withstand the legal implications of that sort of abuse, so it won't happen, but it might display how serious the problem is.

Also, I hate to give ideas to Satan, but SCO should try sending these to tons of Linux websites. It'd be a step up from the logic of most their other plans.

Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge the ISPs.. (2, Interesting)

foidulus (743482) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390759)

ISPs tend to have a limited staff and I would imagine, get a lot of flack from RIAA/MPAA etc... Instead of using (sometimes limited) resources to ferret out real offenders, they just rubber stamp any request that comes in. Survival mechanism perhaps, prob. gets the RIAA off their backs.
Remember, an ISP can do (almost) whatever it wants with it's own network, it's a private company, not the government. So technically it isn't censorship. If you don't like the way they handle speech, start your own ISP, make free speech a cornerstone of your service. If ISPs lose enough business because of how they patrol their networks, maybe then the attitudes will change.

Re:Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge the ISP (1)

Jameth (664111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390868)

"So technically it isn't censorship"

Technically, it's not government censorship. Technically, it is censorship.

Censor: to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.

Re:Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge the ISP (1)

foidulus (743482) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390921)

Ok, so technically it is censorship, but not government endorsed censorship. Only government endorsed censorship violates the constitution. As long as there isn't any giagantic monopoly in the media world, company's censoring things that are in their domain is legal(I say in their domain because for example a car comapny should not be able to censor a report by the NY Times about how crushed clown skulls are hidden inside the passenger side seat)

Re:Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge the ISP (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391018)

If they're getting too much requests from RIAA/MPAA to be able to handle them then they're NOT getting them off their backs, they're just telling 'em that "keep 'em coming".

it doesn't matter WHO does the censorshipping.. it's still censorshipping.

I am waiting ... (4, Insightful)

xplosiv (129880) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390760)

I am waiting for the day when people start sending(read: abusing) these kind of take down notices in order to shut down a site they don't like, or even worse, competition. Granted, he tested only 2 Internet Providers, but this could become a new form of DoS if providers just started shutting down sites without doing some research. The provider should follow up as the US provider did, give the site owner a chance to defend his/her work.

Re:I am waiting ... (2, Informative)

millahtime (710421) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390932)

ranted, he tested only 2 Internet Providers, but this could become a new form of DoS if providers just started shutting down sites without doing some research.

In the US it is simple. If they take it down they have to let you know. If not then sue. Unless it is residential in the AUP and they say they don't need to contact you for taking something like that down. Then you can't argue cause they informed you of the AUP. But, I'm sure you could still sue. If it was for business then they have to or sue. America fun by the lawyers. I knew I picked the wrong field. Even if someone is broke they can still be sued

Re:I am waiting ... (4, Informative)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390953)

"I am waiting for the day when people start sending(read: abusing) these kind of take down notices in order to shut down a site they don't like, or even worse, competition."

When you send a take-down complaint, you MUST swear (as in a legal swearing subject to perjury charges) that you are indeed the holder of the copyright on the material you are complaining about. Make a nuiisance of yourself and you can have some interesting chats with the Feds and your victim's lawyers.

What do you expect? (0, Redundant)

MudflapSoftware (773087) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390761)

With the advent of the DMCA and the lottery-like nature of the american legal system, an ISP who chooses to ignore copyright violation claims could be held accountable. From an ISP's perspective, it costs less to shut the content (and/or account) down than to defend themselves in court. Like it or not, it is simple business.

article text incase of slashdotting (1, Redundant)

L0stm4n (322418) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390767)

The time, it is to be hoped, is gone by, when any defence would be necessary of the "liberty of the press"', wrote John Stuart Mill nearly 150 years ago. But his hopes have not been fulfilled. In the vast digital land of cyberspace, private companies regulate, eliminate and censor what we want to say, publish or communicate.

As part of a recent research project, I posted a section of Mill's On Liberty on the internet (which is clearly in the public domain), then issued unfounded copyright complaints against it (1). One internet service provider (ISP) removed the chapter almost immediately. This illustrates the problem with self-censorship procedures, which rely on hidden judgements being made by unaccountable bodies.

There is a murky context behind this peculiar form of private censorship. On the internet, millions of websites have been created by individuals who post all kinds of content - and some argue that this justifies the current system of regulation. But there is a mistake in this chain of logic: just because the internet is big, diverse, decentralised and digital it isn't true that public bodies can't police it.

Of course, policing would be difficult, but this should not be a reason to be in favour of private governance and regulation. Governments, companies and individuals have taken the easy route to regulation, by relying on ISPs. Everyone who wants to publish, post and propagate content on the internet needs the services of ISPs, which host most of the content available on the World Wide Web and are often also hosting providers. This is why ISPs have been identified as the agents in the internet's communication chain who should be responsible for removing illegal and harmful materials, ranging from copyright infringement to cases of defamation, racist websites and pornographic content.

ISPs have been made responsible for removing illegal and harmful content under so-called notice and take down (NTD) procedures, once they have been put on notice by a complainant. Because it comes under the rubric of internet self-regulation, this kind of censorship is seen as less intrusive. But why private governance should be less intrusive than government regulation is something I have never quite understood. State censorship, while clearly problematic, is at least open to questioning and accountability. Notice and takedown is censorship without debate.

The quantity of complaints and websites removed under NTD is unknown, and the process by which ISPs determine whether or not a website contains illegal or harmful content remains obscure. Once an ISP disables access to a website the content disappears from the internet, undoubtedly an effective form of censorship.

My research project attempted to unpick the workings of NTD, using a method termed the 'mystery shopper'. This consisted of a complaint to an ISP about alleged copyright infringement on a website that actually contained perfectly legal material. One website was set up with one of the most established US ISPs, and another with a major UK-based ISP. The identity of the person who uploaded the site was fictitious.

For symbolic reasons, the material uploaded was chapter two of On Liberty, in which Mill discussed the freedom of the press and the dangers of censorship. This content is clearly in the public domain, because it was published in 1869, and subsequently its posting does not constitute any form of copyright infringement.

The UK ISP took Mill down almost immediately
The US ISP followed up on the dubious complaint, made on behalf of the chairman of the non-existent John Stuart Mill Heritage Foundation, with detailed questions. But the UK ISP took the site down almost immediately, effectively censoring legal content without investigation.

ISPs are acting as judge, jury and private investigator at the same time. They not only have to make a judgement whether a website is illegal or not - they also have to act as a private detective agency, investigating the accusations and deciding on the merits of the evidence they gather. Nevertheless, when an ISP removes content it invokes the cyber equivalent to the death sentence. When an ISP acts it can effectively destroy a business or censor a political campaign, by making access to that website impossible.

Measured against the potential impact of the actions of an ISP on accessibility of information and on freedom of expression and speech, the legal situation under which ISPs operate notice and takedown should raise concerns. Neither the European Cypercrime Convention nor national laws in the European Union (EU) specify in detail the process of notice and takedown, leaving ISPs in an uncertain legal environment.

As a consequence, this has the potential for injustices that would be intolerable in other media. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which documents notice and takedown in the USA notes on its chillingeffects.org website (2), even though the law in the USA seems to be much clearer: 'Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users...and to "chill" legitimate activity.'

However, the point is not that internet self-regulation is a bad form of regulation in itself. Instead, it is that the power an ISP has over content on the internet necessitates a clarification of the legal and governance framework. There ought to be rules about process. In other areas of governance it matters who governs and under what terms - this is also the case in borderless cyberspace.

Just because it is difficult to regulate the internet, this is no reason to resort to badly crafted forms of regulation, which move the entire burden on to unaccountable actors. Drink driving is also difficult to police, but we wouldn't shift responsibility for this on to private companies, would we?

Christian Ahlert is internet projects officer at the Oxford Internet Institute. For his publications see www.ahlert.org.

I'm Kinda Proud, but Only Kinda (1, Insightful)

Jameth (664111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390771)

"The US ISP followed up on the dubious complaint, made on behalf of the chairman of the non-existent John Stuart Mill Heritage Foundation, with detailed questions. But the UK ISP took the site down almost immediately, effectively censoring legal content without investigation."

Re:I'm Kinda Proud, but Only Kinda (2, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390791)

"The US ISP followed up on the dubious complaint, made on behalf of the chairman of the non-existent John Stuart Mill Heritage Foundation, with detailed questions. But the UK ISP took the site down almost immediately, effectively censoring legal content without investigation."

The US ISP was probubally scared that if they did something wrong they would get sued sued sued

Is this really censorship? (3, Insightful)

TheBrownShow (454945) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390777)

Considering you're using the ISP's resources, is it really censorship? Nobody's stopping you from copying that text and handing it out to people using your own money and resources; but when you're technically using THEIR bandwidth, don't they have the right to say what you can and can't do with it?

Re:Is this really censorship? (4, Insightful)

Mz6 (741941) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390810)

Yeah but you are also paying for that bandwidth. OTOH, if I were getting it for free then they can tell me what I can and cannot put up because in that case I am using their bandwidth that they are paying for.

Re:Is this really censorship? (3, Insightful)

TheBrownShow (454945) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390888)

Yeah but you are also paying for that bandwidth. OTOH, if I were getting it for free then they can tell me what I can and cannot put up because in that case I am using their bandwidth that they are paying for.

Just because you pay for bandwidth, it doesn't give you the right to do whatever you want with it. Nobody's stopping you from using your right to free speech on your own time - but on somebody else's time/property it's a different story.

I have every right to stand on my lawn with my hair on fire screaming about whatever it is I believe, but if I do that in the middle of a department store, they have every right to kick me out.

Re:Is this really censorship? (3, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390974)

The bandwidth only "belongs" to the ISP because they have, themselves, purchased it, and in turn sold it to you. If it isn't "yours," it isn't "theirs" either.

KFG

Re:Is this really censorship? (1)

Kredal (566494) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390855)

That really depends on their terms of use. Sure, it probably says that you can't put up copyrighted works on your page, but this chapter of "On Liberty" wasn't copyrighted.

If I went to foo.com and sent them a letter saying that they have copyrighted material on their site, I would hope that they would verify that it really was copyrighted, and not just take it down on the word of some anonymous person.

And don't forget that you're paying for the bandwidth that you use from your ISP, so it is your money and resources going towards publishing. If the site got slashdotted, and more bandwidth was used than you paid for, then the ISP/host would be right to take it down, and send you a request for more money before they hosted it again.

Re:Is this really censorship? (2)

mrwonton (456172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390891)

Is it really their bandwidth? If your plan includes webspace, you're effectively paying for the bandwidth and space you're using. So to relate to your metaphore, its like paying a company to print and distribute your content, then having them take the money but refuse to distribute the content because someone complained.

As for having a right to do what they want with the bandwidth, they probably cover that in their AUP.

Re:Is this really censorship? (1, Interesting)

Jameth (664111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390899)

censor: to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable

Did they supress or delete something, anything at all? Yes, it is censorship.

Re:Is this really censorship? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390906)

Considering you're living in your landlord's building, is it really oppression if he tells you who you can be friends with, and searches through the books you own? Since you're technically living in HIS rooms, doesn't he have the right to control your personal life?

Re:Is this really censorship? (2, Interesting)

770291 (770291) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390917)

I think where it crosses the line is that the ISP has a legal responsiblity/liability for the content. So are they acting on behalf of the government when they take down a site? Is it really "voluntary" action when an ISP can be legally liable if they don't act immediately? How much different is this than direct government action?

Re:Is this really censorship? (1)

greycortex (600578) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391023)

The phone company has the rights to your voice and anything you say using that logic. That's simply not the case. They don't own the media, only the transport mechanism.

woah (1)

chachob (746500) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390781)

one can only imagine the amount of (valuable) material that we never see due to procedures like this...one could argue that this hinders progress both for individuals and for larger groups. ISPs should really be denied the ability to do this...congressmen?

their bandwidth, their servers (1, Insightful)

adamgeek (771380) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390875)

if their TOS says they have the right to remove content or cancel accounts solely at their discretion.. we shouldnt make laws to stop that. they pay the money for the bandwidth, and then offer their services.. if you dont like their policy, look for another provider (or become one yourself).. don't legistlate them into compliance with your beliefs. (*THIS IS ALL JUST MY STUPID OPINION.. MAY BE RIGHT, MAY BE WRONG)

Takin' one for the loyal opposition! (1, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390782)

With stories like these, I don't see how slashdot can possibly justify its pyrric anti-troll pogrom.

alarmist (5, Insightful)

funny-jack (741994) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390798)

Let's see... So, he posted it to two, yes that's right--only two, ISPs. One of them took it down without looking into it, and the other actually researched it. So what's his answer to this "problem"? Government regulation, of course! Hmm... Does anyone else see a problem with both his experiment and his conclusion?

Re:alarmist (3, Funny)

mabu (178417) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390882)

two whole ISPs... by today's journalistic standards, the guy definitely did his research!

"The path of least resistance" (2, Interesting)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390804)

They're clearly just trying to avoid trouble. This is what happens when policy descisions are made among the lower strata of an organization.

Individual employees just want to save their skin and not have to take the responsibility of taking a wrong decision and being held responsible.

They will continue to do this until the "other path" becomes the path of least resistance, and THAT will only happen when citizens (or consumers in today's parlance) start asserting their rights and bringing companies to boot for unfair suppression of rights.

Re:"The path of least resistance" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9391025)

Posted anon for obvious reasons.

I work at a major financial info company. We are popular and famous within our field.

We run a newswire that informs clients of major updates within our data. Occasionally, we have to "Retract" or "follow-up" the news posts.

But we dont.

See, the STANDARD PROCEDURE is to go back and edit the old news posts so they are correct, without posting a retraction. When I was first instructed to do this, I took voice and complained to the boss. He said "too bad." I said "Okay, but I absolve myself of all reponsibility regarding it."

As far as I know, weve never been caught.

Lawsuit (1)

Supp0rtLinux (594509) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390813)

Clearly, he has a cencorship lawsuit. If nothing else, at least for any downtime his site incurred for having his content barred. Good thing he didn't post the Constitution...

The sky is falling ! (1)

shihonage (731699) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390814)

This article's message would've had far more value if it was supported by a similar experiment on a much larger scale. So far, it's just an overblown "The sky is falling !" speculation with a couple of quips about 1 (ONE) ISP which happened to have idiots working for it. Few ISP's don't, you know.

whose responsibility is it? (1, Informative)

hmackerel (743349) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390817)

why not just have the ISP forward the complaint to the "offending" party? why should the ISP be responsible for copyright violations?

Re:whose responsibility is it? (1)

nberardi (199555) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390905)

Why is napster and kazaa responsible for the content trading? Why is Microsoft responsible for a admin that doesn't upgrade their server? Why does the RIAA goto the ISP's to get information?

The simple answer is because ownership is 7/10 of the law and who ever owns the actual hardware is responsible under current laws.

Re:whose responsibility is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9391001)

That is precisely what we do here.

This writer of the article is a journalistic kooke (1, Redundant)

nberardi (199555) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390839)

The writter of this story doesn't really under stand the meaning of censorship. Only a government can censor a person, a private company does not have this ability. Even though they allow their servers to be used with public access doesn't mean the servers are public domain. The servers belong to the company, and the company can do what ever they want with them, including deleting files at will. Granted companies don't do this because it is bad PR, but it is totally with in their rights.

So when he wrote, "For symbolic reasons, the material uploaded was chapter two of On Liberty, in which Mill discussed the freedom of the press and the dangers of censorship." I just about lost it because it shows how little this guy actually knows about the issues he is addressing. Also as a side note you cannot censor published content, you can restrict it, but the litteral word of censor is not possible to do on published content. So the government can never censor published content.

I summary, this writer is a moron, and just lobbing un founded accusations out there and hope one hits the wall and sticks. I think both the US and UK ISP did the right thing and it was probably with in their corporate policies.

I really wish /. had a better bogus story/content filter (notice I didn't say censor, because /. is not part of the government, so they are unable to censor anything :) ).

Re:This writer of the article is a journalistic ko (1)

foidulus (743482) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390876)

/. is not part of the government
Give it a few years...

Re:This writer of the article is a journalistic ko (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390940)

censor

transitive verb

To examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable


source: miriam webster

Where does government come into this?

Re:This writer of the article is a journalistic ko (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390980)

You should probably read the correct definition of censorship before you post any more rants. Of course a private company can censor content. Thats why the people responsible for making sure you don't say "shit" on live tv are called censors. In summary: you don't know what the hell you're talking about, and it's not relevent to this discussion anyway, which you would have known had you read the article.

Article text. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390841)

Here's the text of the article. Not because of slashdotting, but because I'm having trouble reading their 2pt font, and I'm only 23!

--- BOA

As part of a recent research project, I posted a section of Mill's On Liberty on the internet (which is clearly in the public domain), then issued unfounded copyright complaints against it (1). One internet service provider (ISP) removed the chapter almost immediately. This illustrates the problem with self-censorship procedures, which rely on hidden judgements being made by unaccountable bodies.

There is a murky context behind this peculiar form of private censorship. On the internet, millions of websites have been created by individuals who post all kinds of content - and some argue that this justifies the current system of regulation. But there is a mistake in this chain of logic: just because the internet is big, diverse, decentralised and digital it isn't true that public bodies can't police it.

Of course, policing would be difficult, but this should not be a reason to be in favour of private governance and regulation. Governments, companies and individuals have taken the easy route to regulation, by relying on ISPs. Everyone who wants to publish, post and propagate content on the internet needs the services of ISPs, which host most of the content available on the World Wide Web and are often also hosting providers. This is why ISPs have been identified as the agents in the internet's communication chain who should be responsible for removing illegal and harmful materials, ranging from copyright infringement to cases of defamation, racist websites and pornographic content.

ISPs have been made responsible for removing illegal and harmful content under so-called notice and take down (NTD) procedures, once they have been put on notice by a complainant. Because it comes under the rubric of internet self-regulation, this kind of censorship is seen as less intrusive. But why private governance should be less intrusive than government regulation is something I have never quite understood. State censorship, while clearly problematic, is at least open to questioning and accountability. Notice and takedown is censorship without debate.

The quantity of complaints and websites removed under NTD is unknown, and the process by which ISPs determine whether or not a website contains illegal or harmful content remains obscure. Once an ISP disables access to a website the content disappears from the internet, undoubtedly an effective form of censorship.

My research project attempted to unpick the workings of NTD, using a method termed the 'mystery shopper'. This consisted of a complaint to an ISP about alleged copyright infringement on a website that actually contained perfectly legal material. One website was set up with one of the most established US ISPs, and another with a major UK-based ISP. The identity of the person who uploaded the site was fictitious.

For symbolic reasons, the material uploaded was chapter two of On Liberty, in which Mill discussed the freedom of the press and the dangers of censorship. This content is clearly in the public domain, because it was published in 1869, and subsequently its posting does not constitute any form of copyright infringement.

The US ISP followed up on the dubious complaint, made on behalf of the chairman of the non-existent John Stuart Mill Heritage Foundation, with detailed questions. But the UK ISP took the site down almost immediately, effectively censoring legal content without investigation.

ISPs are acting as judge, jury and private investigator at the same time. They not only have to make a judgement whether a website is illegal or not - they also have to act as a private detective agency, investigating the accusations and deciding on the merits of the evidence they gather. Nevertheless, when an ISP removes content it invokes the cyber equivalent to the death sentence. When an ISP acts it can effectively destroy a business or censor a political campaign, by making access to that website impossible.

Measured against the potential impact of the actions of an ISP on accessibility of information and on freedom of expression and speech, the legal situation under which ISPs operate notice and takedown should raise concerns. Neither the European Cypercrime Convention nor national laws in the European Union (EU) specify in detail the process of notice and takedown, leaving ISPs in an uncertain legal environment.

As a consequence, this has the potential for injustices that would be intolerable in other media. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which documents notice and takedown in the USA notes on its chillingeffects.org website (2), even though the law in the USA seems to be much clearer: 'Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users...and to "chill" legitimate activity.'

However, the point is not that internet self-regulation is a bad form of regulation in itself. Instead, it is that the power an ISP has over content on the internet necessitates a clarification of the legal and governance framework. There ought to be rules about process. In other areas of governance it matters who governs and under what terms - this is also the case in borderless cyberspace.

Just because it is difficult to regulate the internet, this is no reason to resort to badly crafted forms of regulation, which move the entire burden on to unaccountable actors. Drink driving is also difficult to police, but we wouldn't shift responsibility for this on to private companies, would we?

--- EOA

So where's his solution? (3, Insightful)

ryancerium (665165) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390849)

This whole article is effectively a Barbara Walters style rant and rave about how wrong something is but offers very little in the way of a solution or even a call to action for fair laws.

Can you really blame an ISP for quickly acting to minimize its legal exposure? How much would it cost to get sued (even falsely) for allowing a copyright infringement to continue? Last time I checked, lawyers were damn expensive. If the (allegedly) infringing website operator wants to fight it, let him. It's his web site, not the ISP's. Really, the ISP should be the last course of action for someone to remove copyrighted content. If the owner of the site is unresponsive, then the owner should show a court order or some other similarly authorized documentation claiming copyright infringement.

I'm sure there are a million holes in any idea posted here though, and they will be thoroughly discussed later. We're going to need rational laws eventually, it's just a question of whose side they're on.

ISPs don't want to be bothered (4, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390861)


The real problem is that ISPs don't want to be bothered. They don't want to get sued and have to pay a bunch of money to lawyers because of the actions of a couple of customers. So, when they receive a copyright infringement claim, there is very little chance they will actually investigate it, and even less chance they will fight the demand that the material be taken down. Instead, they will almost always automatically take down the "offending" material, no questions asked.

You've got to love the irony.... (-1, Troll)

linuxrunner (225041) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390866)

The US ISP takes the correct steps and actions, the UK ISP, just deletes the internet site with no questions asked... Censoring whatever content with no justified reason.

Yet you fools in the UK still find the time to bitch about the US... lol...

You should probably start in your own back yard first.

RFID tags on license plates... video cameras everywhere... It's near impossible to own a gun over there... High taxes, high fuel costs...

No thank you.

I think I'll stay right here....

Re:You've got to love the irony.... (1)

Herr Joebob (716476) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391007)

Please don't use this article as evidence for a 'US rocks!' argument. It is a useless article by an author with a tenuous grasp of censorhip and the internet, whose only conclusions are:

There is one large US ISP that has a standard form response to copyright infringement notices

There is one UK ISP that will take down a *free* website after one complaint

So, did he pay for the cost to the US ISP? (2, Insightful)

RhettLivingston (544140) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390869)

People seem to think that "experiments" like this are a cheap way to come to conclusions. But its only because they are stealing from the companies that they are experimenting on. I see no indication that the author paid for the time that he cost those companies. There was no indication that the letter he received from the US ISP was a generic one. A thought out letter, especially if a legal consult was made, can be very expensive. Even an hour of a senior employee's time would be significantly more than one would pay for a hosting service. This is not a no-harm no-foul situation.

Before encouraging the individual to actually perform a wider "study" and rip off more companies by criticizing the size of their "study", encourage them to be considerate and responsible and not only offer all involved ISPs payment for the unnecessary work he caused, but also state that the companies were at least offered reimbursement to encourage good citizenship of others that might attempt the same type of "low cost" study.

The bigger issue he mentions is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390872)

why is private oppression better than public oppresion.
This is where the small-government rhetoric of the republican party that the libertarians get such a thrill out of becomes an absurdity. Pretending that you have more liberty because a governmental body that has to obey stringent laws has been swept aside and replaced with an unregulated private alternative is a bizarre sort of illusion.
A good example is the arguments against local governments settting up ISPs. The free market fetishest start talking about eavesdropping and censorship, but clearly the opposite is the case as this story illustrates.
Hey, I'm all for reforming socialized bureaucracies when they're bloated and inefficient, but when it becomes a religion where everything has to be deregulated and the myth begins to evolve that a corporate market will take care of all the world's problems then it has gone too far. Privitization is a useful tool, but that's it. It's not a religion and in many cases its a bad idea.
And I have to post this anonymously because the people who support this mythology are, indeed, zealots.

The other way around (4, Interesting)

broothal (186066) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390873)

The problem is not that ISPs "acting as judge, jury and private investigator at the same time." . It's rather that they're not acting as jury nor a private investigator. They're not investigating wether the copyright is actually infringed or not.

6 years ago I was hired to track down websites that used my clients copyrighted pictures. It was never a problem to get the pictures removed. Of course, I could prove that my client had the copyright, but it would be a lenghty procedure. So, the ISP's took my word for it, thinking that if my claims where false, the person who uploaded the pictures would complain. I think it's the same reasoning we see today.

Censorship (1)

sjb2016 (514986) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390877)

Censorship is, in my opinion, something only the government can do. Or at the very least, censorship by your ISP is not illegal according to the Constitution of the U.S. Me and my ISP are two private entities, if he doesn't want my content on his servers, fine. I'll take my business elsewhere.

Now if the government saw my site with Mills' work posted and shut it down for any reason I would be scared.

This guy does not have a clue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390880)

I hope the UK ISP files a civil action against him for making false accusations and wasting their time.

What do you mean phony complaints? (1)

Andy Mitchell (780458) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390887)

Clearly this work by Mills uses certain structures of organisation that are part of Unix and hence violate the legal and intelectual property rights of SCO.

You know, like you read it lines going from left to right....

UK ISP revealed (4, Interesting)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390903)

Google [google.co.uk] reveals that the only web sites with sitebuilder/tandc.htm in their URLs are Freeserve/Wanadoo, and the pdf of the article describing the takedown. Therefore it must have been Freeserve or Wanadoo, who are the same company now. I'm glad I have started to move away from Freeserve, although most of my web site is still on their servers, I haven't migrated most of it yet.

Responsible for everything then (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390904)

If the ISPs are responsible for policing content, then they are also responsible for all the SPAM and kiddie pr0n and should be shut down. If they are a common carrier like the phone companies, then they should be barred from monitoring traffic or archiving emails without a court order. Obviously the ISPs and regulators want them to play in the middle somewhere - control without accountability.

Censorship (4, Insightful)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390909)

But why private governance should be less intrusive than government regulation is something I have never quite understood. State censorship, while clearly problematic, is at least open to questioning and accountability. Notice and takedown is censorship without debate.

There are three differences:

1) Choice. Although you can question and debate state censorship, you have no options beyond that questioning and debate. If your government doesn't want you reading Mill's "On Liberty", your only real options are to defect or revolt. But for a private ISP, newspaper, radio station, etc, you have a choice. You have more than one ISP. You have more than one newspaper.

2) Guns. State censorship is backed up by guns, police, armies and navies. If they don't want you to publish a political screed, you're going to be in a world of hurt of you do. Private ISPs can't do anything but cancel your account. The MOST they can do is tell the state that you publishing a political screed, in which case this is an instance of state censorship anyway.

3) Ownership. Who owns the speech that should be free? In the case of state censorship, the state restricts your property of free speech. It has to leave its domain and intrude upon yours. But the situation is the opposite with private ISPs. The website is hosted on the ISPs property. It's their harddrive. They aren't intruding upon your property, but looking after their own. They never have to leave their private domain in order to restrict how their property is being used.

Lindsay Lohan's Tits (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390915)

I want to Eat Lindsay Lohan's ass with a spoon and cum all over her beautiful fake tits.

anonymoust coward? (2, Interesting)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390919)

I wonder why he didn't name names? I don't see much threat of a lawsuit because he is just reporting what happened. Indeed, since he didn't do a very big test, it would be nice to know who failed the test.

Re:anonymoust coward? (2, Informative)

Herr Joebob (716476) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390964)

I wonder why he didn't name names?

Read the PDF at the bottom of the linked article- he missed several references to 'Lycos', apparently the US ISP.

Where This Article Went Wrong (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9390920)

I have two issues with this article.

First, the sample size is pathetic. Let's sample two ISPs, one in the UK and one in the US, and then draw overly broad conclusions based on those two results. Sounds good to me! (Or perhaps it sounds like a quick, insufficient study trying to support a premise rather than gathering evidence for one.)

Second, the article pays lip service to the issue as seen from the ISPs' point of view. (Granted I'm speaking entirely from the US side of things as I am unfamiliar with UK law in this regard.) ISPs have to deal with the DMCA. Okay, the author mentions this in passing. The author also, again in passing, mentions that ISPs carry liability for the information they host. Put the two together and what do you get? Take down first, look at it later.

However, the point is not that internet self-regulation is a bad form of regulation in itself. Instead, it is that the power an ISP has over content on the internet necessitates a clarification of the legal and governance framework. There ought to be rules about process. In other areas of governance it matters who governs and under what terms - this is also the case in borderless cyberspace.

There are rules and there is a process. It just happens that the author doesn't want to confront them dead-on. "ISPs have too much power, watch what happens when I threaten one!" just isn't a valid tactic in today's litigious society. That's akin to saying "Look at this! If I file a phoney report with the Police about my neighbor being a homicidal murderer, sometimes they come arrest him when they catch him holding a knife!" Flakey at best.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't (2, Insightful)

Moozer (633646) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390922)

It's pretty clear what the motivation for removing the content is. Take a look at the choices:
  • Take it down. If it really is copywritten material, then you won't hear from the user. If not, then the user will contact you and offer facts and their personal attribution that it's legal. (Think due dillgence.) Cost to ISP: $0.
  • Leave it up. If it's copywritten, you'll probably be spending thousands of dollars on lawyers in the near future. Cost to ISP: $Lots.
Considering that the cost of any legal action would probably scale with a company's size (bigger company == claim for more damages), even a "major ISP" is would have strong motivation to take the first option.

censorship (2, Interesting)

D'Sphitz (699604) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390923)

While I'm not an ISP nor work for one, I run or am involved with running several moderately high traffic discussion forums, and host several dozen websites. I've had few complaints on the website hosting side, however I receive a few copyright complaints a week regarding forum posts (typically hotlinked images, occasionally plagiarized or copied text). My course of action is almost always to modify the post in question, because I don't have the time, desire, or resources to investigate.

I imagine this holds true with ISP's also, I would assume larger ISP's get hundreds or thousands of complaints per day, and it's just not worth it to investigate each and every one.

A better approach may be to notify the website owner that the content is in question and will be removed without a timely explanation, however, copyright holders can be pretty impatient.

So? (2, Interesting)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390926)

This is a nonissue.
If the point was to demostrate that you could take something off the internet by forging a copyright notice, I'm not too concerned.
You break multiple laws by doing that. No need to invent new ones.
We are also talking about digital content on the internet, which is trivial to reproduce from backups or what have you. Most likely the ISP wouldn't really delete the content but relocate it to unreachable place incase a mistake happens.

I have to admit I would be a bit miffed if this happened to me. Then again, I run my own server so that rather unlikely. ;)

I smell a market... (1)

Beautyon (214567) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390938)

Is there a market for an ISP with a TOS that includes "we dont kneejerk takedown"?

This is all we are really talking about; who is going to run a hosting company that has a pair of grapefriuts instead of bbs.

Here's what I sent in reply to the author (5, Interesting)

Grimster (127581) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390943)

Don't blame the isp, as a web host I have to worry about DMCA crap, RIAA, MPAA, piracy, lawyers, lawsuits, and litigation. After a while I simply adopt the attitude of "you guys figure this out, send me a copy of the court ruling, if it's OK to have it we'll put the site back, if it's not OK to have it then the site stays down".

No one wants to get caught in the middle of this crap, it's ALL too easy to make these bogus claims and it's ALL too easy to make GOOD on even bogus claims when things such as the DMCA and Patriot Act are out there to give censorship such a big stick.

I don't like censorship, but I don't like flinging my wallet at some sheister lawyer either. In the end I have to weigh the lesser of two evils and while I hate censorship I hate being bankrupt thanks to lawyers or imprisoned thanks to REALLY BAD LAWS even more.

clean the net (-1, Troll)

alex_ware (783764) | more than 9 years ago | (#9390986)

maybe if ISP's responded to complaints about dangerous and obsene/illegal/racists websites in the way they responded to 'copied content' allegations we could save lives. How: because some people take certain ideas to head and use them in dangerous ways if we take the bad content off the net it would be a better place for the highly impressionable youthes that can use a computer and disable the filters on their pc

We need Government ISPs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9391004)

The main thrust of the issue here seems to be that ISPs aren't really accountable for their actions, and have their own goals (i.e. profit, avoiding RIAA lawsuits, etc) that take precidence over fairness to customers.


The Web's too valuable to be left in private hands. It should belong to all of us. Since we who live in democratic countries *are* (I know, I know, it doesn't quite work in practice) the government, putting it in government hands would be the obvious solution. I'm envisioning a national ISP run like Canada's CBC Radio [www.cbc.ca] which is comercial free and paid for entirely by tax $$, but at the same time kept at "arms length" so that the current ruling party can't control the content. Thus, CBC's *only* goal is to produce quality programs and accurate news, not to make profit. Likewise, a National ISP's only goals might include fairness to users...

This is a non-problem. (3, Informative)

mjh (57755) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391010)

Ignoring the other comments that talk about the sample size being small, and that this "censorship" is being conducted by private companies, not the government, I still think this is off base.

He seems to have the assumption that we should attempt to create some method of governance for this kind of thing. Why is that necessary? Individuals can already self-regulate ISPs that do this stuff - they can switch to another ISP. Governmental regulation or policing of this is problematic. This implies some sort of governmental body. If you don't like the people who are running that body, you can only vote them out once every election cycle. However, in the current system, if you don't like the governance of your ISP, you can vote them out as frequently as you like - there's no law that says you can only switch ISPs once every election cycle.

I disagree with the premise that the only solution to prevent this type of silliness is to create a regulating body. That makes things much worse because it eliminates choice. Instead of rewarding the ISPs with the sensible behavior, they'll all have to behave identically. No more voting with your dollars. Additionally, this will likely lead to price increases for ISP services. Those ISPs that didn't activelly enforce this stuff today (the good ones) now will have to. A cost that will certiainly be passed to the customers.

IMHO: this is a good problem to solve, but the wrong assumption on how to fix it.

Wow, Slashdot calling the kettle black here. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9391017)

Remember those Scientologists and how they told Slashdot to get down and suck it regarding their IP, AND SLASHDOT DID?!?!?

Slashdot has no right to ever be judgemental about censorship, since they themselves were unwilling to stand up against it themselves.

ISP's personal views (1, Flamebait)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391020)

I wonder how much censorship ( loosly using the word, as only a government can censor, by definition ) is taking place due to an ISP's personal views.

Such as a Jew owned ISP filtering out blatant Nazi sites.. but not mentioning it to their customers...

Sure it is their right, but its also the right of the consumers to go elswhere. They should be legally obligated to notify customers of the filtering.

Not a valid study (1)

CyberBry (196935) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391022)

ISP are private companies - their servers are their property, not yours. If you had a copy of "On Liberty" posted in your front lawn and the government asked you to remove it, that's censorship. If you leave a copy in the door of a local store, and they take it, that's simply their choice. It's their business, and their door, and they can do with it what they please.

RTF DMCA for cryinoutloud! (4, Informative)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 9 years ago | (#9391029)

See this link [arizona.edu]

And look at counternotices on: this page [utsystem.edu]

There is a formal procedure that ISPs follow, and considerable protection for both the copyright owner and the page owner.

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