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Censorship The Internet

Utah Considers Forcing ISPs to Filter Content 508

Posted by Zonk
from the regulating-reality dept.
tipsymonkey writes "Cnet is running an article on how the Utah governor is considering signing a law that forces ISPs to filter content deemed harmful to minors. This would apply to large scale ISPs like AOL as well. They have until March 22 to decide whether or not to sign this into law."
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Utah Considers Forcing ISPs to Filter Content

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  • by orkysoft (93727) <orkysoft@nosPAM.myrealbox.com> on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:21PM (#11853060) Journal
    Imagine this bill getting passed: you'd get incredibly slow-loading pages, because ISP employees would have to preview every single webpage for offensive material.

    Oh, and SCO would just get blocked ;-)
    • by Taladar (717494) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:22PM (#11853073)
      More likely: ISPs would leave that State alone and move to other, more sane ones.
    • by Deekin_Scalesinger (755062) * on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:23PM (#11853076)
      If this does come into law, the easiest thing might be for ISPs to bundle a version of NetNanny or the like into its offering. It does allow parents to block sites or groups of sites, and people who don't wish this could disable this. Better than upstream filtering IMO - actaully, the best thing is for this to not happen at all, but the world keeps spinning on in this direction it seems...
      • by rsborg (111459) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:27PM (#11853130) Homepage
        If this does come into law, the easiest thing might be for ISPs to bundle a version of NetNanny or the like into its offering.

        Sure, for ISPs, but what about (as the article talks about) wifi cafes? Should they give out free copies of netnanny to anyone who's browsing? Or should they have a netnanny installation (with a wholly seperate login server)?

        • What I'd like to know is why governments in the US persist in passing laws they must surely know will not survive a Constitutional challenge? Why do they waste taxpayer money on this? Maybe Utah should be more worried about the Mormon-splinter groups that swap children around between dirty old men who already have five or six wives.
          • What I'd like to know is why governments in the US persist in passing laws they must surely know will not survive a Constitutional challenge?

            Because the track record of upholding the constitution has not been solid over the last 30 years.

            Why do they waste taxpayer money on this?

            Because the taxpayers don't have any control over government spending any more.

    • by sgant (178166) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:28PM (#11853139) Homepage Journal
      It's politicians pounding their chests and showing their people that "see, I'm trying to do something"...yet they KNOW this will never fly past the Supreme Court. I mean, come on.

      It's like when everyone was trying to pass a law making it illegal to burn the American flag. Of COURSE this would get shot down by the Courts, yet it looks great when re-election comes back around and they get to say "see, I was all for a ban on blah blah blah".

      Say what you will on how the Supreme Court will change and then it will start passing these laws, but so far, even the conservative judges can see how un-constitutional these idiot laws are.

      Cause it comes down to this...who decides what's "harmful"?

      It's BS and yes, it will get shot down. No one will stand for this....and please, don't give me "oh yeah, just wait" crap. That's all speculation.
      • by KiloByte (825081) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:48PM (#11853322)
        I do consider this very law "harmful to minors" as it introduces blatant anti-free speech propaganda.
      • The Utah legislature is in love with "message bills": bills that don't make a real difference, and pretty much beg to be shot down after an expensive and protracted legal battle. They inevitably draw time and money away from less sexy but more pressing needs.

        Yet year after year, our legislators march themselves up the hill, pass a dozen of these bills to show their constituents that they're "tough on gays", "tough on crime", tough on pornography", and then march themselves back down, patting each
      • Stack the courts (Score:5, Interesting)

        by poptones (653660) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @01:05PM (#11853440) Journal
        Don't forget one of the justices is pretty much at death's door and the idiots of this country, in spite of knowing this all along, went ahead and elected someone simply because he was hailing the holy book. Once the laws are changed, whether they abide by constitutionalist principles or not, if the courts are stacked against you you lose.

        step 1: paint the internet as evil mean and nasty. Get the brainwashed masses on your side (from both the left and the right) by demonizing the internet as a haven for pornographers and child molestors.

        step 2: stack the courts

        step 3: get a judgement against one of those non-pornographic child model sites you've been demonizing that equates their content with porn.

        step 4: now you can define porn any way you like, the SCOTUS won't stop you because they're stacked 5-4 for the bible beaters and you have a precedent saying porn isn't about content it's about intent of the viewer. Now EVERYTHING "we don't like" can be called porn. Say bye-bye to freedom of expression on the internet, hello to the new corporate padlocks "to protect the children."

        step 5: profit! (at least if you're a giant media corp)
        • by arminw (717974)
          ...the idiots of this country...

          I don't know why you did not get moderated "troll". The MAJORITY of the voters are NOT idiots, but carefully looked at the opposing candidate and decided that they did not want a weather vane in the White house. ...the brainwashed masses....
          Yes, the liberal elites think that they have to protect all those stupid ignorant people and do their thinking for them and impose their even stupider ideas on the clueless majority. I've got NEWS for you, but democracy works for the MAJO
      • It's like when everyone was trying to pass a law making it illegal to burn the American flag. Of COURSE this would get shot down by the Courts, yet it looks great when re-election comes back around and they get to say "see, I was all for a ban on blah blah blah".

        Say what you will on how the Supreme Court will change and then it will start passing these laws, but so far, even the conservative judges can see how un-constitutional these idiot laws are.


        Don't be complacent. This country has already gone furt
  • FCC ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:22PM (#11853064) Journal
    Ummm... isn't this the FCC's job?
    I didn't know states were allowed to censor media...
    • Re:FCC ? (Score:4, Informative)

      by slAckEr Of dOOm (818662) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:24PM (#11853093) Journal
      The states are allowed to impose stricter regulations than the federal ones. They can censor even more than the government does, but not less.
    • This is precisely where state's rights are a good thing. Its easier to move out of Utah to get away from anti-sin filters than it is to leave the country (and likewise if you prefer anti-sin filters because you lack self-control, you can weigh that in a decision to move to Utah).
  • by ergo98 (9391) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:22PM (#11853068) Homepage Journal
    For the sake of maintaining the Utah readership, hopefully this isn't signed into law.
  • ...'harmful'.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raydobbs (99133) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:22PM (#11853070) Homepage Journal
    There's that nice and vague word - harmful. Who gets to decide what's harmful? Their parents? The head of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? The local Nazi political party? The Parent Teacher Association? The local DFL?

    No thanks - I want to be able to have unfettered access - and just teach my OWN kids where they don't want to go. It's called PARENTING!
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:24PM (#11853094) Journal
      anything anti-mormon will get thrown in... bet you $100 bucks.
    • well....they'll know it when they see it.
    • Well, it's Utah, so it's basically the Mormons that decide.

      So, sites promoting polygamy are OK but sites promoting the drinking of caffeine or alcohol (like those belonging to Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, etc) are bad. Oh, and anything else that the Mormon church doesn't like either will be considered "harmful" too.
    • There's that nice and vague word - harmful. Who gets to decide what's harmful? Their parents? The head of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? The local Nazi political party? The Parent Teacher Association? The local DFL?

      The theory of evolution is clearly harmful, must be filtered away. ;-)

    • Who decides (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @01:00PM (#11853407) Homepage Journal
      You're obviously not old enough to remember when this kind of censorship was the norm. When I was in college, I knew a guy (bookstore clerk) who got arrested for selling a Richard Crumb [crumbmuseum.com] comic book. Charges dropped when the store agreed to stop selling the comic.

      To answer your question: Back then, judges decided what didn't meet "community standards" for "decency", based on testimony from "community leaders". The above concepts no longer carry much weight. So I'd expect some state regulatory agency to trot out psychologists and other "experts" who would claim that small kids who see porn will grow up to be rapists and serial killers.

      Anyway, I agree with you: this is a job for parents. Who would be better served by tracking and controlling [tucows.com] their kids internet usage, instead of leaving it up to some unreliable ISP filter. It's ironic that conservative groups whine about "big government", but never hesitate to call for more intrusive government action when it suits their agenda.

  • Does the - (Score:5, Funny)

    by thewldisntenuff (778302) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:23PM (#11853079) Homepage
    First Amendment still apply in this country anymore?
    • Re:Does the - (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jerf (17166) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:29PM (#11853149) Journal
      The legislature can pass what laws it likes. The courts can then strike them down when they are challenged.

      Given the rulings of the Supreme Court, this would be a trivial case for even the lowest courts to strike down, barring an "activist judge".

      The system is working as it is intended to. Panic when the Supremem Court (or even the relevant Circuit Court) upholds it, which won't happen. You can't keep stupidity out of the system, you can only build a system robust enough to handle it when it happens.
    • Because the proposed legislation is that the ISPs must "offer their customers a way to disable access to sites on the list". In other words, it becomes the customer's choice whether the sites are available or not.

      It's hard to see how that would violate the first amendment.

    • by Mad_Rain (674268)
      Does the First Amendment still apply in this country anymore?

      Dude, when your comment is moderated as "Funny" I think it sends a pretty clear answer to your question.
      • Mad Rain said: Dude, when your comment is moderated as "Funny" I think it sends a pretty clear answer to your question.

        ditto that.

        Seriously, doesn't anyone even care anymore that freedom of speech is supposed to be an inalienable human right?

  • by pnewhook (788591) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:23PM (#11853087)

    This is the start of a short and slippery slope into censorship. The government should have no night to dictate what I can and cannot see or read.

  • by broken (1648) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:23PM (#11853088)
    If Utah was taken off the Internet, would it make a sound?
  • by timgoh0 (781057) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:24PM (#11853091)

    The proposal , "S.B.260, says: "Upon request by a consumer, a service provider may not transmit material from a content provider site listed on the adult content registry.""

    Content filtering in this case is not forced, but a choice by the consumer

    This is similar to the content filter that my local ISPs in .sg offer.

    • Of course, the easiest way to implement this is to deny service to the "consumer". When are people in this country going to grow the hell up and take some freaking responsibility for themselves? What's next? Are we going to pass a law requiring Charmin (at the consumer's request) to come wipe our asses for us because we are too lazy to do it ourselves?
    • I have a lot of friends that used to work for dotSafe, and it sounds like this is a law requiring ISPs to provide such as service.

      All they had was an ISP that had an XStop server... so if this gets signed, buy up that's company's stock (dunno what that company is, or even if they're public)

      Ironically, DotSafe's customer base was from a Mormon town... Mesa, AZ.
    • So if I request Utah Online, Inc. not transmit "offensive" content, does that apply to _me_, or does it apply to _all_ of UOI's customers, because one person made the request?

      p
    • Theres nothing wrong with an ISP filtering things on the request of a customer.

      Why does the government need to force all ISPs to offer this service? If the customers wanted it, and it was profitable for the ISP to implement it, they would do it.

      It seems to be just a case of people trying to force the cost of parenting onto others, in this case the ISP.
  • by austad (22163)
    Let's hear it for first amendment rights!
  • Oh bs. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iibbmm (723967) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:25PM (#11853106)
    Most ISP mail filters can't block out 'enhance your p3n15' emails, yet they are supposed to start filtering out naughty images and content? First ammendment applications aside, this is an exercise in futility.
  • Utah.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by artoffacts (850560) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:26PM (#11853116)
    Where the internet is offensive to polygamists.
    • Re:Utah.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by swiftstream (782211) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @01:50PM (#11853789)
      Mormons have not practiced polygamy since at least 1896. You are a hundred years behind the times.

      There are a few breakoff groups that do, but they have no affiliation with the LDS church, which practicing polygamy is sufficient to get one excommunicated from.
  • by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:28PM (#11853133) Homepage
    Shouldn't content be signed to indicate that it *is* suitable for minors?

    That way browsers could run checks on it and only display stuff that is suitable.

    • Apple did this a while back. It was called 'KidSafe.' People could submit sites for approval and, as far as I know, it had a huge whitelist. I think that all you did was change your DNS servers to some that Apple had and it would check the domain against its list.

      It was a huge flop.
  • Oh puhleeze (Score:5, Informative)

    by tensai (121631) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:28PM (#11853138)
    If you read the article you'll see that the proposed law only requires ISPs to provide a way for customers to opt-in to a filtering scheme. It does not require them to filter every packet. I don't think the bill is worth the time, but let's at least evaluate it for its real faults and merits, not some sensationalized bunch of baloney.

    In the end, I doubt this law would do much. ISPs are being asked by their customers to provide content filtering. $$$ is a much more effective motivator than laws. And those who don't want to spend the money to implement it, don't have to but also will lose customers to those who do. Sounds fair to me.

  • Crazy Utah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fsterman (519061) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:28PM (#11853141) Homepage
    This is totally impossible. Utah has a track record of passing laws and fogetting about the constitution. They "traded" a public section around the temple to the LDS church. The church put in all kinds of money to revamp the area and in exchange no one could swear or talk shit about the church in the area. It was deemed a violation of the constitution and everyone was pissed that they had put in all this money and have a silly little thing called "rights" come in and skrew everything up.

    The US (or some state) already tried to pass a law that required a warning that anything not suitible for children on the internet required a warning. The ACLU stopped it quick.

    This is just some conservative trying to get more votes by proposing an impossibly unconstitutional law. Like when they tried to pass the law that it was okay to display the 10 commandments in schools. They know it is totally illegal, but gets them a lot of press and cred with their voters.
    • Re:Crazy Utah (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bri3D (584578)
      That was the US and the Children's Internet Protection Act, which still exists in a watered-down form. The act originally required offensive and or porn sites to post a warning and require you to agree you were over 18 before you could enter. I think it was actually made law before the Supreme Court struck down the idiodic part. BTW this passed during the Clinton administration so it's not always the conservatives(this time it is though, there are about 6 liberals in Utah).
  • by nxtr (813179)
    What will they think of next? Here's a list [wildutah.net].
  • This is censorship and just right out violates the concept of liberty. Hopefully it doesn't pass, and it's awful that I have to even hope it doesn't pass in the first place. Politicians shouldn't even be proposing this kind of stuff. It's the parents responsibility to protect their children from anything that may be harmful to them. Nonetheless, smart kids will find work-a-rounds.
  • From the article: The measure, S.B.260, says: "Upon request by a consumer, a service provider may not transmit material from a content provider site listed on the adult content registry." A service provider is defined as any person or company who "provides an Internet access service to a consumer." Seems like you can still get your porn if you want it. The real question is the rating system discussed later on. Who will have to rate their content? Utah companies or everyone?
  • C'mon, folks. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sheetrock (152993)
    From the article: Internet providers in Utah must offer their customers a way to disable access to sites on the list or face felony charges.

    This is a far cry from censorship. It's more like the V-Chip we all have to pay for in new televisions. It gives parents the ability to better control the content their children consume and we would all be better off to have such a thing implemented in our ISPs.

    Better yet to separate .porn as a domain so that those who want it can find it yet those who don't can b

    • Re:C'mon, folks. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:33PM (#11853189)
      "This is a far cry from censorship."

      It's _one step_ from censorship: first you force ISPs to build the infrastructure to censor content, then you force them to turn it on permanently a few years down the line.

      "It's more like the V-Chip we all have to pay for in new televisions"

      Which was just as stupid, and another example of backdoor censorship. Made a few bucks for electronics companies, though.

      If people want a censored ISP, then they can go to an ISP which chooses to censor content. If they don't want a censored ISP they can go to an ISP that doesn't censor content. It's none of the government's god-damn business whether people choose to have someone else censor their use of the Internet or not.
    • Re:C'mon, folks. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by miskatonic alumnus (668722) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:40PM (#11853247)
      It gives parents the ability to better control the content their children consume and we would all be better off to have such a thing implemented in our ISPs.

      I disagree. I don't have displays of cigarettes, liquor, and porno magazines in my home. Nevertheless, I am quite certain that when my children reach their teen years, if they desire those things they will be able to get them through their friends or their friends' parents who may be more lax about such things.

      This legislation will not solve any problems. Truly concerned parents need to have an open relationship with their children, and TALK with them about these things.
    • That'd sure make it easy to remove from my history, too! ;)

      Also, your sig quotes Yoda, not Spock.

      p
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:32PM (#11853182) Homepage
    There are "filtered ISPs", like Christian Purity [christianpurity.com]. They're not very successful.

    There's "AOL Broadband for Kids", if you want that.

    So the free market has this covered. And nobody buys.

    • by xtal (49134)
      Specializing in high speed caching of the internet's raunchiest and most controversial sites.

      It would be interestng to compare the bandwidth statistics, even in Utah.

      pr0n is a multi-billion dollar industry that doesn't exist.
  • ISP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ucblockhead (63650) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:33PM (#11853190) Homepage Journal
    Considering the size of Utah's market, if I were a big ISP like AOL, I would simply terminate service for all Utah customers. You can bet that if a couple biggies did that, this'd get repealed damn fast.
  • The Utah governor might want to have a talk with the Chinese government on this...
  • Utah's Mormons vote and think the way the largest employer in their state (the Mormon Church) tells them to. Utah and the Mormon church were one of the single largest roadblocks to getting the Equal Rights Amendment blocked. So if the church wants it, ti will happen.
  • I sure am glad our Glorious Ministry of Information can protect us from material that can provoke us to think ungood things. I guess China isn't so evil afterall, right?

  • ...Developing and implementing an ISP-side content filter that only deals with content coming and going from Utah.

    Or ISPs giving up their subscriber base in Utah.

    It would be interesting to see companies, as a result of this sort of law, throwing their hands in the air and saying "Screw it, we're outta here" Would Utah then sue them and try and force them to come back?
  • How about we make a law that says that you can't legally use the internet without supervision until you turn 18? Seems to me this would preserve my right to view pr0n while putting the onus on parents of children to stop using the net as an unattended babysitter.
    Seriously, children should not be allowed to use the net unattended - it's not a babysitter and "dumbing" the internet down to a level that's safe for children pushes more adults off of the net than it allows children on.
  • by Maul (83993) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:46PM (#11853299) Journal
    It is not the ISP's responsibility to ensure that junior doesn't see pr0n.

    There are several consumer software products which are relatively inexpensive that do the job of filtering web content. Hell, many companies bundle this in with their consumer firewall software. If parents desire web content filtering, they should be able to go to the store and buy software that will do the job.

    No government, at any level, should be forcing the ISP to do the job of the parents.
  • I see a lot of posts on this thread complaining of censorship and so on. I also recognize that the ISPs are technologically incapable of accurate filtering of this kind.

    So, I propose an easier solution.

    I cannot guarantee that my blog, homepage, etc. will not contain content that might be considered by some nut to be harmful to children. Therefore, I'll simply block all addresses that are identifiably Utah-based from accessing my site. The ISPs win, the Utah citizens win. ...what? Some Utah citizens mi
  • Information that you can only have one wife, and that she cannot be a child?
  • RTFA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ca1v1n (135902) <<snook> <at> <guanotronic.com>> on Saturday March 05, 2005 @12:53PM (#11853355)
    Please note, the requirement is that the ISPs provide a mechanism by which their customers may, at their option, disable access to those sites from their account. This is on a per-customer basis, which is an improvement over Pennsylvania's statewide effort that was thrown out recently. The list of blocked sites would be an official state list, meaning it's prone to public scrutiny, which is a positive step away from the secret list content filters.

    Unfortunately, implementing this requires one of two things:

    1) IP-level filtering, which will block non-adult sites on the same hosting services.

    2) Transparent proxying, which breaks lots of things, and is relatively easy to circumvent unless even more things are broken.

    As far as I can tell, the law creates a registry which the service providers must either block or provide customers software to block. It doesn't seem to require that they clairvoyantly block proxies, which is technically infeasible. Unfortunately, the full text is not available, as the Utah legistlature's web server is returning an error on the text as amended, which is 10 times as long as the text as introduced.

    While this is a stupid use of taxpayer money, I don't find the issue of a central, publicly-scrutinizable list of adult sites to be blocked voluntarily to be a bad thing. The real danger is that they will mandate that it be used in schools, libraries, etc., in which case it's truly a 1st Amendment issue. The amount of money they've allocated to build the registry ($100,000) is about enough money to run a dozen obscenity cases if you're REALLY lucky, so the list is going to be full of errors. This is bad policy regardless, but if it is used anywhere in any state-run institution, whether or not by mandate, it's censorship, and mistaken censorship at that.
  • I frequently wonder why Utah joined the United States. They had to give up polygamy, and the local culture has shown more than a little opposition to equal-treatment, full-faith-and-credit, anti-establishement, and free-speech requirements in the U.S. Constitution. Wouldn't they have been happier as the independent Republic of Utah?
  • I live in Utah, on occasion. I'm accustomed to noble, selfless efforts to save my immortal soul: http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/2001/10/1 5 /porn-czar.htm [usatoday.com] and http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/West/12/10/baptizi ng.the.dead.ap/ [cnn.com]. But it's all business; we have to expect the ultimate dominance of the dollar over moral fiber: http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/01/15/porn.czar.ap / [cnn.com]. I think the proxy baptisms have relatively negligible costs, and can be performed en masse, so they aren't so unpalatable, r
  • It's harmful to conservative and religious ideologies. Most minors are sexually aware and by nature go into sex full steam once they could. There's no credibility to the idea that sexual censorship leads to better individuals; the individuals that are the outcome of the permissive Swedish society are certainly no less healthy than the repressed Saudis. If anything, they're much healthier.
  • by v1 (525388) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @02:28PM (#11854026) Homepage Journal
    that makes it illegal to pass a law that cannot be enforced, or that cannot be reasonably followed by even 1% of the people it covers.
  • XXX domain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by minairia (608427) on Saturday March 05, 2005 @07:02PM (#11855687)
    Could someone elucidate why the internet community is nervous about implementing an XXX domain for all porn, adult sites, etc. to be assigned to? To me, this seems the best solution and the best way to avoid censorship. (We have four more years of Bush, 8 years of Jeb and then 8 of Condi Rice ahead of us ... they're going to get judges on the courts who will start letting these laws stand).

    I know that there was some worry about borderline sites (breast cancer, anatomy, etc.) being forced into XXX status. It seems to me that a review board could decide on those, or, even individual ISPs or users that block XXX urls could whitelist the borderline ones. All in all it seems too small an issue to derail the whole idea.

    I have heard it said that this won't stop foreign sites. This is true,but if all US porn was put under an XXX domain, that would be big step. And remember, the porn isn't being banned. People, companies and ISPs would be able to make their own choices about what sites to let in. As for who gets the new XXX domain names, I say that existing .com porn site holders should get the right of first refusal.

    I like porn as much as the next guy. At the same time, I don't think it ought to be accessible at schools, libraries, work, etc. To people who cry "censorship!" at this, what would happen if you took out a Penthouse in home-room in gradeschool, or sat there at work reading a Playboy? Access to porn should be something I am able to block, allow etc. based on my own choices either on my machine or by choosing an ISP with XXX blocking policies that fit my needs.

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