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Verizon Cutting Access To Entire Alt.* Usenet Hierarchy 579

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

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  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:09AM (#23800003) Homepage Journal
    Has been kissed good bye.

    If they are now making active, non court demanded, decisions on filtering, then they should be held to a different standard then a common carrier and lose all the benefits of being one.

    Besides, this is just wrong. So what if a handful of usenet groups are 'bad'? This is like stopping every car on the street and searching because one guy had dope in his car in another town.

    Not that there is much left of usenet these days worth saving, but still, its the beginning of a really slippery slope.
  • Re: alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:16AM (#23800047) Homepage

    What a coincidence that they make an enormous overreaction which frees up countless gigabits of bandwidth!
    Perhaps not. Isn't the whole point of carrying newsgroups for a provider to have a local copy (local to the ISP, that is)? Bandwidth from that local copy to users is cheap for an ISP.

    Ditch that local copy and what happens? Some users will stop downloading these things. But many users would just find another way. For example: other provider's usenet servers, sites elsewhere on the web, P2P programs, etc. I reckon most of these forms would mean traffic from users to random places on the internet, read: much more expensive/troublesome for the ISP than if traffic came from their own servers.

    Personally, I would vote with my feet ASAP if my ISP stopped passing on data for anything other than technical or legal reasons.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:32AM (#23800151)
    The solution, as always, is to stop these things at the source: The people providing the offending material in the first place. Even if you close the route via Usenet there will still be children being abused, there'll just be less people able to see it and (potentially) trace it back to the source.

    You don't close down highways because of highway robbery.
  • Re:so what (Score:4, Interesting)

    by me at werk (836328) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:44AM (#23800215) Homepage Journal
    It's high up on the agenda of Virgin [torrentfreak.com], actually.
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:02AM (#23800321)
    That old adage comes to mind: "freedom of the press only exists for those with a press".
    If we want to have access to all the internet then we have to control our access to the internet. We have to create our own internet service providers. We have to have the demonstrable power to convince politicians (not the loud ones but the ones who actually control things by blocking bills in the early stages) not to interfere with our activities.

        Developing the ability to control and/or prevent child pornography distribution through the web would go a long way to convincing loud politicians that we recognize this problem and can control it better than the giant corporations who approach everything with a 'just shut it all down for everyone' approach. This is assuming that the politicians are actually doing this to prevent distribution of child porn. They could be using child porn as a red herring to shut down ALT access to non-teckies because they can't control it.

        My point is that if we want to control the access to the web (so that we don't get shut out of parts that are important to us) then we have to be able to do a better job of catching the criminals who use the web than the police or giant corporations can.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:08AM (#23800367)

    they are just not going to carry anything that isn't from the big 8 ON THEIR OWN SERVERS.

    Step 2: Lobbying politicians to shut down all other USENET providers. "After all, the big media and telco conglomerates were smart enough to shut down rather than risk being raided, why weren't you?"

    This is about content providers shutting down a distribution channel for music and video, not pr0n.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:30AM (#23800535)

    When my ISP decided to drop postings larger than a few megabytes in order to fight piracy, I was slightly inconvenienced, and had to switch to an alternate pay service, but I didn't complain. In fact I didn't understand why they didn't do it sooner. They were, after all, *hosting* the content on their own servers.

    What's the problem?

    The DMCA was created to screw over end users, but part of the bargain is that it protects web hosts and USENET providers.

    If MAFIAA doesn't like an MP3 or DivX that someone's uploaded, they send a DMCA takedown notice to the USENET service that happens to host it. The USENET service issues a local cancel for the relevant Message-IDs and the articles go *poof*. As long as the provider complies with the takedown notice in a timely manner, it qualifies for the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, and cannot be sued for having hosted it. It's up to the provider to determine when the cost of dealing with Joe User's takedown notices exceeds the expected subscription revenue from Joe User -- but when it does (and it probably only takes one or two DMCA notices), the provider can (and will, and should), nuke Joe User's account.

    It's one of the few cases where the DMCA actually works as intended. For small-time infringers such as Joe User, infringing content is nuked at minimal cost to MAFIAA, the service provider is protected, and it's up to the service provider to deal with the small-time infringer.

    This conserves MAFIAA's legal resources, for the expensive process of getting subpoenas to discover the identity of the most egregious commercial infringers (like those flooding fucktards at united-forums.co.uk, a spamming operation that regularly carpet-bomb the MP3 groups with 1000 albums of password-protected RARs at 250,000 posts per run, and who then charge for the password to decrypt it, essentially using USENET backbone as a distribution channel for commercial copyright infringement. I wouldn't be surprised to find later that they're actually working for RIAA as part of a Denial of Service attack on the infrastructure of USENET itself, but that's another story.)

  • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomaiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:47AM (#23800637) Homepage
    Maybe not -- most of those groups are also mirrored on Google [google.com]. Verizon can of course try to limit what their users do with Google, but I'm not sure that any of the people who made this stupid decision are smart enough to realize that this "loophole" exists.
  • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:48AM (#23800643) Homepage Journal

    Who isn't surprised it's lasted this long?
    Be clear on this: The telecommunications industry sees the entire Internet as we know it as a "niche market" because there is stuff going on from which they are not making money.

    Little by little, in steps of increasing size, the Internet is becoming television. We all agreed that the spam video that came out a few weeks ago of the woman talking about how the "internet will disappear by 2012" was an overreaction and it really wasn't all that bad.

    Unfortunately it is exactly that bad. Do you think Slashdot will be part of the Internet if they have their way? I'm betting that if each of us were to list our 10 favorite websites, that 8 out of 10 of them would cease to exist unless strict net neutrality laws are put into effect immediately. What will it take for you to see that the "free market" effects are going to make the Internet just a memory for those of us who lived through the 80's and 90's and saw the birth of such a remarkable phenomenon.
  • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fez (468752) * on Sunday June 15, 2008 @12:20PM (#23800887)
    We dropped usenet several years ago when the cost kept going up from our provider.

    When we dropped it, we had exactly two calls to complain. Neither of them canceled because of it. This is out of a couple thousand subscribers.

    I was probably the only one who actually cared, and it wasn't that big of a deal for me; Because I work there, I still had access to our upstream provider's news servers which weren't open to our subscribers.

    I doubt Verizon will hurt much because of this. If they lose anyone, it may only number in the hundreds, if that. The cost of the bandwidth saved by dumping Usenet will more than make up for the subscribers lost.

    There are always independent Usenet providers, too, for a few bucks per month.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @12:22PM (#23800893) Journal

    Before the Internet, how did they track it down? Huh? How did pervs get their porn? Most likely, they got it through the mail or stores, via porn distributors that put up a legal front, but did some percentage of their biz in illegal material. To bust guys like that, back then, must have taken some effort. You can't just open mail willy-nilly or search store inventory looking for the needle in a haystack.

    Now, I'm as much against warrantless search as the next guy, but with kiddie porn on the 'net, you can quietly ask Verizon to monitor a suspect's traffic. They don't have to comply, but if they don't you just get a warrant and then they have to comply. Then, getting all the guy's traffic is as easy as adding him to a list in a file. You don't have to tamper with his mail, which might give him telltale clues he is being watched.

    Remove kiddie porn from the Internet, and you remove an electronic audit-trail that might even bring us all the way back to the original source, all in the comfort of the agent's office. Remove it from the 'net and you drive it into a new underground. Most likely it would be retro to whatever was used before. Agents would have to go back "pounding the pavement" more, and with the cost of ga$ going through the roof that's not likely to happen.

    In other words, it will just go further and further underground. Pervs are as lazy as anybody else. If it's easy to find on the 'net, they'll find it.

    Taking it off the 'net only makes sense if you believe that having it there is likely to "convert" normal users into pedophiles. That's probably as bogus an argument as the idea that having gays in your neighborhood is going to convert people. I don't have a study to back it up though. Do they?

  • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Is0m0rph (819726) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @12:28PM (#23800953)
    It is the first rule and I blame Slashdot for bringing it up so much. Should give the Usenet providers a boost in users though until the **AA's get rid of all of them.
  • alt.sci.physics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @12:37PM (#23801027)
    alt.sci.physics was one of my favorite newgroups -- a few real scientists, but mostly armchair physicists trading crackpot ideas. Always made for an interesting read.
  • Re:Nanny Verizon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by michrech (468134) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @01:00PM (#23801195)
    What Verizon is doing is all well and good, however, there are too many free and for pay newsgroup servers available for those Verizon is trying to censor.

    Net effect -- nothing, or very nearly nothing.

    I wish all porn was on .xxx domain then I can block it myself easily. Until we get our act together and force it to .xxx then I welcome NANNY ISPs.

    If you dont want this kind of ISP then move porn to .xxx.

    Simple really, you refused to move it to .xxx so now you have to have it blocked.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2008 @01:01PM (#23801203)
    It was really nice of Verizon to make this announcement.

    They've been sending me FIOS advertisements about one-a-day. I was almost ready to jump from Time Warner to get the faster speeds, but with P2P blocking "bandwidth shaping" and censorship, who needs faster speeds to access nothing?

    We're Verizon! We'll give you 20Mb/s of the fastest nothing you ever saw.
  • by Drenaran (1073150) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @03:10PM (#23802315)
    1.5TB a day as a huge commitment? You really think that? This is a major corporation, 1.5TB/day*14days = 21TB. That is nothing to a company of their size. Assuming triple redundancy, you could still fit all the rackmount hardware into something smaller than the average linen closet.

    They probably spent more on the press release for this than it costs to maintain that hardware for a year.
  • by LM741N (258038) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @03:21PM (#23802411)
    We found suspiciously planted child porn in unusual newsgroups like alt.gardening or such.
  • Re:Nanny Verizon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday June 15, 2008 @05:19PM (#23803435) Journal
    What do you expect? Those Marlon Brando look-alikes have always been bitchy. ;-)


    But seriously, I am willing to bet that between all the "traffic shaping","protection from the evil pr0n", and "stopping those profit stealing pirates" that the net as we know it will end up being replaced by some cheap PPV ripoff. And as for the poster for .xxx? How long before you think the ISPs claimed "there was a CP site there!" and just blocked the whole damned domain?


    This is about power and control as much as it is about money. If they can control the gateways and the pages you can see they will turn it into a giant DRM playground where everything will be PPV,like a damned giant jukebox. Personally I will be surprised if we still have a free( as in freedom) Internet in 5 years. The scary part is when I first read that "right to read" article on the GNU website I thought it was a classic 1984 style fantasy, now sadly it wouldn't surprise me if that isn't exactly what we end up with in the next decade. The greed and lust for power and control have corrupted too many in the halls of power. But that is my 02c,YMMV

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin

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