Unfortunately, that term still comes to mind when some people think about the Internet. That group of people includes country bumpkins, old people, and most unfortunately, lawmakers. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo proved this week that he’s the genius of the week. My featured article this week describes his crusade to crush child pornography (and quite literally anything else in his path).
It seems he’s starting out by bullying Internet Service Providers (ISPs). He recently forwarded AOL a piece of junk mail from the Australian company Bright Digital, featuring their new device, the Pornolator 2000 (just kidding, the real name is CopyRouter, but it may as well be). This device scans EVERY SINGLE IMAGE – No! EVERY SINGLE FILE, that passes through an ISP’s network, checking for pornography.
Think about that for five seconds.
Shame on Cuomo’s office for not laughing at and shredding this paper upon receipt. Bright Digital is not only known to be a crooked organization, but they’re a foreign company selling our freedom short for a few bucks. Imagine all the false alarms!
I hate to bring it up, but this reminds me of a certain book… That’s right, “1984,” in which the government oversees every aspect of life. The original evil was eliminated and forgotten long ago, for an unnecessarily high price.
Luckily, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said there are no plans for anyone to use the CensorTron 4000, er, CopyRouter, in the near future. Unfortunately, though, Mr. Cuomo’s office still wants to use a bazooka as a sniper rifle. Let me explain…
There is a subset of the Internet that hosts news and discussion groups, known as Usenet. Some pirated media and pornography do change hands on Usenet (as it does everywhere on the Internet). Because of this, Mr. Cuomo’s office has Usenet in its sights. Time Warner Cable has already dropped its Usenet service, and others are being encouraged to follow suit.
Fair enough. So, we eliminate Usenet.
Oh wait. The World Wide Web is home to countless malice! Gone.
Ah yes, and what if someone sent something offensive over e-mail? Seeya.
Now think about that for five seconds.
While the prevention of child pornography is a very compelling cause, and every reasonable effort should be made to can it, it can be combatted much more efficiently through many other methods. The problem is, Mr. Cuomo is both impatient and simple-minded when it comes to the issue.
Note that intercepting and scanning every single image transmitted across the Internet is illegal (can we say wiretapping?) in many places, and downright reckless. The many should never be penalized because the lawmakers can’t catch the few. CopyRouter is the equivalent of a roadblock in every single intersection of every single road in the world, with all the cost and mistrust implications therein.
Okay, enough with the criticism. So, what are we going to do?
1: Never EVER put the computer illiterate in charge of computer-related policy. The CopyRouter, a device whose purpose I explained above in just one sentence, is still a computer-related technology. When these otherwise intelligent and well-meaning people hear the word “computer” or “Internet,” they immediately freak out. Their minds no longer function, and rash, coin-toss decisions start spewing (see Net Neutrality article, coming soon).
2: The service providers need to stick up for themselves a bit, before other Attorney Generals get any big ideas on how worst to enforce something else (see above paragraph). This is not a black & white issue, and if it is considered one, too many toes will get stepped on.
3: There are plenty of other ways to eradicate child pornography. One way would be to go after the purveyors, and go after them hard. The NCMEC representative mentioned a blacklist system already in place. People are still people; computers haven’t changed that. Making good examples of offenders (public floggings anyone?) will still be very effective.
4: Two words: Chuck. Norris.
Thanks to Garrett for the article.