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Three ISPs Agree To Block Child Porn 572

Posted by kdawson
from the camel's-head-and-neck dept.
Goobergunch and other readers sent in word that Sprint, Time Warner, and Verizon have agreed to block websites and newsgroups containing child pornography. The deal, brokered by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, occurred after Cuomo's office threatened the ISPs with fraud charges. It's of some concern that the blacklist of sites and newsgroups is to be maintained by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an NGO with no legal requirement for transparency. Here are two further cautions, the first from Lauren Weinstein: "Of broader interest perhaps is how much time will pass before 'other entities' demand that ISPs (attempt to) block access to other materials that one group or another feels subscribers should not be permitted to see or hear." And from Techdirt: "[T]he state of Pennsylvania tried to do pretty much the same thing, back in 2002, but focused on actually passing a law ... And, of course, a federal court tossed out the law as unconstitutional. The goal is certainly noble. Getting rid of child porn would be great — but having ISPs block access to an assigned list isn't going to do a damn thing towards that goal."
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Three ISPs Agree To Block Child Porn

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  • by Odder (1288958) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:12PM (#23732415)

    Let's see:

    If all of these things come about, the internet will be like cable TV and there will be no free press.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:14PM (#23732455)
    ISPs are not common carriers. Thank you for your time.
  • This is stupid. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:18PM (#23732571)
    So does this mean I won't be able to read 4chan anymore?
  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#23732603)
    People are confusing the Web with Usenet. To prevent people from reading child porn on Usenet is easy - you simply don't allow external news servers (which the big boys probably are already blocking), and then you make the choice to NOT subscribe your internal news servers to the porn channels.

    People confuse where responsibility lies.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:20PM (#23732637)
    If some innocent website is blacklisted in this system, can they claim libel or slander by the black-lister?

    Also, if ISPs become censors, don't they lose their Common Carrier status under the DMCA, and put themselves on the hook for any bad stuff that comes over their wires?
  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:21PM (#23732645)
    Hashes, according to the article I read which may or may not be the same as the linked one.

    The AG got the companies because they had in their TOS a clause that specificly prohibited child pornography. Therefore when the sting operation's user complained about it and the ISP's did their standard "nothing" it became fraud.

    The ISP's will use a hash database provided by the Center of pictures they've collected, blocking anything tha matches the hash.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:31PM (#23732987)
    Say it with me now - ISPs are not currently common carriers, have never been common carriers, and do not want to be common carriers.

    Insightful my ass.
  • Re:Are you sure? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jor-Al (1298017) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:41PM (#23733231)
    Fine, then you can look at the concrete example where in Sweden some group was trying to get The Pirate Bay on some child porn filter list through false means. Are you really going to try to claim that groups would never try such similar tactics for other sites that they don't like?
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:44PM (#23733337) Homepage Journal

    I use newsgroups quite a bit. Once alt.underage.porn (or whatever) is shut down, that material is just going to be posted somewhere else - and probably end up being seen by more people.
    I used to regularly go look up pics on alt.sci-fi, one week there was a whole lotta child porn.

    I think they coordinate their drop-off points and move them around, instead of having one group where they could go and get their fix.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:45PM (#23733367) Journal
    ISP's don;t have common-carrier. They do have things like DMCA safe-harbor, and other pseudo-protections, but not actual common-carrier. If they had common-carrier, they'd be required to actually check themselves as to how they behave with their own customers to avoid revocation of that status.



    IOW, if your innocent website gets on such a blacklist, you certainly can sue them AND the blacklist-keeping organization for libel, provided the ISP(s) doesn't take steps (or takes way too long) to remove you from it.


    'course, can't guarantee that you'd win, but you certainly could sue them and stand at least a snowball's chance in hell.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:55PM (#23733631)
    I don't really think you know what you're talking about. An image file is nothing but a number. The hash values for 2 numbers that differ even by only a single bit can be - and usually are - wildly different. There is no 'fuzzines' to look for. Try it for yourself and see. Take some image and gen a md5 checksum for it. Then load the image up in your favorite editor and change a single pixel. Now, gen a new checksum and compare to the old. Those 2 checksums are almost certain to be radically different. Checksum matching is entirely hit or miss. With the exception of hash collisions there are no false positives and certainly no 'fuzzy' matches.
  • Re:slippery slope (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wavebreak (1256876) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:56PM (#23733681)
    Also in Finland. Caused somewhat of a stir when a site listing banned addresses got banned itself, for linking to kiddie porn. Exactly how can a list like that be held to any standard of accountability rather than sliding into full-blown censorship if you can't even keep a list of *what* gets banned?
  • Re:Block for all? (Score:3, Informative)

    by davester666 (731373) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:57PM (#23733701) Journal
    "How can we actively stop our sick bastard pedophile users from doing this?"

    This would be precisely the wrong reason for implementing a block on these newsgroups. From my extensive watching of television, my understanding is that people who enjoy child pornography will go to great lengths to view it [and/or participate in creating it]. Just disabling access to a couple of newsgroups moves the posts to other newsgroups, mixing it in with the adult porn that I like.

    To put it in Slashdot terms, it would be like trying to make people to not drive on freeways [if it were illegal] by digging up the 2 lane on-ramps, while leaving all the 1 lane on-ramps unmonitored.

    I would think that from a law-enforcement perspective, knowing the psychology of this problem, instead of blocking one particular way of getting this information which just causes offenders to find another way of getting the same information, they would want the ISP's to turn over records of which clients are downloading which files from these newsgroups. It would at least catch the low-hanging fruit [namely the stupid child-pornographers].

    Of course, they may or may not be able to get a warrant for the records, and just getting the ISP's to turn over the records may make the records inadmissible in court...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:44PM (#23735111)
    Ordinary hashes are how this sort of thing is being done at present:

    http://foia.fbi.gov/cvip.htm [fbi.gov]

    1. Hash values are of files in the CVIP are compared to any evidence obtained by the field offices. Hash values are non-pictorial, alphanumeric values that are unique to each computer file that can serve as a "fingerprint" of a file for matching purposes and also provide security, because the original image cannot be recreated from the hash value itself.
    http://pcworld.about.com/news/Jan252005id119434.htm [about.com]

    Using hash sets to hasten image comparisons is nothing new. Both the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation already maintain databases of images and hash sets. But the DOD is using newer, highly secure mathematical algorithms, such as the MD5 Message-Digest Algorithm and Secure Hash Algorithm, or "SHA-1," to create hash values that are more accurate and that will provide more reliable evidence in court cases, Zatyko said.
    You may be able to imagine different ways to catalog and identify these images but that's not what's being done. They're using normal file hashes and there aren't any 'fuzzy' matches to be found with the techniques being used. I don't think that the feds will change the way they're doing things any time soon, either.
  • by PRMan (959735) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:17PM (#23735943)

    Actually, it's far worse than anyone thought. They aren't filtering a few minor websites, they are actually blocking major portions of USENET:

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9964895-38.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-5

    Time Warner will now block all of USENET

    Sprint will now block all alt.* newsgroups

    Verizon will now block large, unnamed sections of USENET.

    So, whoever said "USENET will be shut down in the name of 'protect the children'" on the poll last week, you win!

  • Re:slippery slope (Score:4, Informative)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:24PM (#23736063) Journal
    Agreed. In the UK, we have Cleanfeed [wikipedia.org]. One problem is that blocked sites silently return "page not found" [bbc.co.uk].

    On that note, things may become worse now that the UK Government has decided to start criminalising adult porn [slashdot.org](!). The scope of material that could be banned is far greater, especially due to the vagueness of the law (since the IWF will likely err on the side of caution, whether or not the material has been declared to be "extreme" in a court of law). There is also the point that unlike child porn, there is no divide between "extreme" adult porn and non-extreme porn (there is no legal or ethical consensus - it's only the UK Government that imagines this), so plenty of more mainstream sites risk getting banned because of a single naughty image that is too "extreme". The Register speculates on this issue [theregister.co.uk].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:37PM (#23736331)
    I can confirm this. I have Time Warner and Road Runner. The other day I happened to run across this:

    As of June 23, 2008, Road Runner will no longer offer Newsgroups, however users can subscribe on their own to third party News providers.

    Why is Road Runner discontinuing their own Newsgroups service?
    Due to low subscriber usage Road Runner has decided to discontinue Newsgroups service as of June 23, 2008.
  • by toriver (11308) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:06PM (#23736931)

    The problem is the production of child porn which of course involves abuse of children.

    A common misconception: Child porn laws have generally been expanded - at least here in Scandinavia - to also include paintings, drawings and text, and non-nude photos "interpreted" as raunchy. But the public believes that child porn == abuse pictures.
  • Re:Car analogy (Score:2, Informative)

    by Eyezen (548114) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:26PM (#23737301)
    I just want ISP's to pass packets, that is all.

    If I want to filter I can choose to on my own (work on my own car), and if I can't or don't want to I can pay the ISP extra cash and have them do it (hire a mechanic). If I "stumble" across kiddie porn that is my fault and I will pay the repercussions.

    Better yet, this is like driving on the freeway, there is a known speed limit and people are free to choose to obey or break the law. Law abiding citizens will choose to obey the limit. Speeders take the chance of getting caught. Now the ISPs (by direction of quasi govt agency) are putting governors on our vehicles.

    This seems to be where our society is headed...we are no longer allowing ourselves the freedom to obey or break the laws we have set for ourselves. Free will be damned.
  • Are all you guys crying "Child porn is so awful!" really saying that if a hot young, busty and curvaceous 15 year old was standing naked in front of you, you wouldn't be aroused?
    No. Ten seconds after any 15 year old begins to speak, most adults develop an acute urge to gouge out their own ears and let out a long, tormented wail.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:45PM (#23738415) Homepage Journal
    Until now, those services hosted their own USENET servers and carried at least some of alt.*.

    Now, T-W will just stop carrying USENET, and leave it to end-users to get their USENET fix from third parties such as their school, a subscription service, or a web/usenet gateway.

    This is the moral equivalent of turning off your hosted IRC server or your mail server.

    Now, if they block third-party USENET services that aren't specifically catering to child porn, that would be bad. If they only block port 199 to news.getyourchildpornhereport199iswideopen-alt-kiddies-cuties.com then that's no worse than blocking http://www.getyourchildpornhereport199iswideopen-alt-kiddies-cuties.com/ [getyourchi...cuties.com].
  • by witherstaff (713820) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @08:18PM (#23738979) Homepage
    Genarlow Wilson [wikipedia.org] was convicted of a felony charge of aggravated child molestation for being 17 and having oral sex done on him by a consenting 15 year old. He served 2 years of a 10 year term before finally being released.
  • Re:scratches head (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @08:58PM (#23739691)
    That's a wise assessment.

    Every single Perverted Justice case that has ACTUALLY gone to trial has been thrown out.

    The problem is that the other 900-some took plea bargains because they couldn't afford a good lawyer, felt guilty, or were afraid of the consequences of losing at trial.
  • by STrinity (723872) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @09:28PM (#23740151) Homepage
    I recommend all newsgroup denizens with TW, Sprint, and Verizon sign up for news.individual.net [individual.net]. It's 10 euros per year (about $15) and there are no binary groups, but they do a better job of spam and sporge filtering than any ISP I've seen.

    Who would've thought the day would come when you'd have to use a German news server to ensure freedom of speech.
  • by loraksus (171574) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:59AM (#23742643) Homepage
    I was hoping to see more about this - It's not clear from the article if they are blocking access to usenet, or if the ISP is turning off their usenet servers.
    If the latter, it's honestly no great loss. ISP hosted usenet has been effectively dead for at least a year, as retention and article completion has gone to shit in recent penny pinching.
    I'm sure the ISPs are thrilled to have a excuse to finally kill it.
    That said, welcome to the magical world of internet censorship in America. I wonder what's next on the kill lists.

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