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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 sciop101 (583286) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @08:58AM (#23799915)
    Will Verizon make sure all eat right, bathe occasionally, wipe their ass in the proper direction?
  • alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr. Cody (554864) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:00AM (#23799927)
    What a coincidence that they make an enormous overreaction which frees up countless gigabits of bandwidth!
    • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the_humeister (922869) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:05AM (#23799965)
      Now they just need to block p2p protocols by raising the specter of child porn. More bandwidth freed!
    • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:11AM (#23800015)
      ISPs see usenet as a niche market they can dump, so they will.
      Who isn't surprised it's lasted this long?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Maybe with Verizon it did, but Road Runner is dropping Usenet entirelly by the end of the month.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wowsers (1151731)
        Will the ISP's drop the subscription rates now they dump Usenet?

        My last ISP dumped Usenet (which like many still use over 'blogs'). I asked if they were going to drop the subscription cost. They said no, I said bye! That decision cost thousands of subscribers.

        It's just an attempt to get rid of all discussion, which is what the governments want, especially "democracies" under pretext of terror or in this case a certain type of "porn".
        • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Fez (468752) * on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:20AM (#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.
          • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:4, Informative)

            by NothingMore (943591) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @12:12PM (#23801277)
            Independent usenet providers are often vastly superior to ISP provided usenet anyway(unless they outsource).
      • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:19AM (#23800455) Homepage Journal
        Ok...who broke the rules???

        I thought the first rule about USENET was that you didn't talk about USENET....

      • by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:46AM (#23800631) Journal
        The real surprise is that this happened on the first day in three weeks that a non-pornographic image was posted to the alt.binaries hierarchy . . .

        hawk
      • Re:alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:48AM (#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 Alwin Henseler (640539) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:16AM (#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.
      • Re: alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr.Ned (79679) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:04AM (#23800343)
        "Personally, I would vote with my feet ASAP if my ISP stopped passing on data for anything other than technical or legal reasons."

        Problem is, even after crippling usenet, Verizon is still the best in my area - I can either go with them, Comcast, or RCN (cable) unless I want to shell out for a dedicated line. I'm surely not going to vote with my feet over to Comcast, and RCN doesn't have a stellar reputation, either.
      • Re: alt.binaries.* (Score:5, Insightful)

        by thegameiam (671961) <thegameiam@yahoEULERo.com minus math_god> on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:39AM (#23800589) Homepage
        Voting with your feet is tough in a lot of places - there are a very small number of actual service providers to choose from.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by TeamSPAM (166583)

      But does it really save them bandwidth costs by getting rid of those groups? All the traffic to the usenet server should be internal to Verizon's network. Internal bandwidth should be very low cost for Verizon while external bandwidth would have a much higher cost. Cut this usenet access and how many people will switch over to using BitTorrent to download stuff. Which will most likely have to go outsides Verizon's network for all or a portion of the torrent. Will this increase in external traffic cost Veriz

    • by something_wicked_thi (918168) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:23AM (#23800483)
      Exactly. Maybe September will finally end, too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MAXOMENOS (9802)
      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.
  • ...they will kill all adults.
  • Because there is obviously no other purpose for alt.* on usenet other than kiddie porn.

    Political stunt for the win!!!

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by dr_dank (472072)
      Because there is obviously no other purpose for alt.* on usenet other than kiddie porn.

      I agree that it's overkill to do away with hosting the whole alt hierarchy, but there isn't much political speech going on in a newsgroup specifically dedicated to underage porn or warez binaries. I'm surprised they've gotten hosted for this long.

      My prediction is that the media companies and/or government agencies will start harassing usenet users next. Now that many major ISPs are discontinuing this kind of binary newsgr
    • by mememe (194838) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:45AM (#23800221)
      Because there is obviously no other purpose for alt.*

      alt.verizon-sucks
      alt.verizon-sucks.dick
      alr.verizon-sucks.ass
  • by getuid() (1305889) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:05AM (#23799963) Homepage
    What happened, pissed off because alt.sex.fetish.piss-on-your-customers is already claimed by T-Com?...
  • That's all? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Devin Jeanpierre (1243322) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:05AM (#23799975)
    I'd block all access to the internet-- much more effective.
  • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:06AM (#23799977) Homepage
    Child pornography has also been found on 3,000 of the 100,000,000 sites that form the Worldwide Web. Verizon will be shutting down access to this service immediately.

    Child pornography has also been found being shared by approximately 0.5% of users on peer-to-peer networks. Verizon will be shutting down access to this service immediately.

    Ahh, nothing like feeling protected. Pretty soon you'll find you can receive the same level of service and "protection" AS Verizon provides by cancelling your internet service entirely and save yourself $40/month in the process.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ilgaz (86384)
      I hope people didn't forget the Usenet that much as Verizon hopes.

      If you are concerned about pornography or even piracy of any kind, you don't carry alt.bin tree , problem is solved.

      alt.* tree besides bin is really about freedom of speech in its pure form.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695)

      Child pornography has also been found on 3,000 of the 100,000,000 sites that form the Worldwide Web. Verizon will be shutting down access to this service immediately.
      Except for the "Version approved" websites of course.
    • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:32AM (#23800157)
      Don't forget that child pornography is often sent by email. I trust Verizon will be halting all email service across its network immediately.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Phroggy (441)
        Well, if they halt all e-mail service coming out of their network, it would cut down on the spam received by the rest of us...
  • Wow, what a huge over-generalization on the part of Verizon. I guess that means you would no longer have access to alt.startrek.creative. Gotta keep those dangerous fanfiction writers away from t3h childrens.
    • by Ilgaz (86384)
      It is so stupid that one wonders if Verizon has to go nice with Government of USA these days. I don't know the American system but generally, if a company does stupid things that will only make Govt. happy, they are going for a deal or something.

      Well, Google groups and the Germany/.edu based http://www.individual.net/ [individual.net] to the rescue. Both doesn't carry bin groups. That is what they should do if they were concerned.
  • quick... (Score:5, Funny)

    by msauve (701917) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:09AM (#23800001)
    Someone upload some child porn to the Verizon billing site.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:11AM (#23800011)
    "Cuomo claimed that his office found child porn on 88 newsgroups--out of roughly 100,000 newsgroups that exist.'"

    Can we apply the same logic and standard to New York's population. If the state has any areas/counties/towns with a .088 or greater percentage of sexual predators will they restrict the rest of the state from traveling to that area?

    What about other crimes? After all we are talking about everyone's well being. If NY's overall crime rate is greater than .088 then other states should restrict all travel and communications with NY.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:11AM (#23800017)
    the same way Republicans are obsessed with Homosexuals.

    If you thought GOP was bad in these past 8 years wait until Democrats assume the wheel with supermajority to push whatever nanny-state bullshit they can think of in the name of the "children"

    Video games and the internet seem to be the useful idiots for Democrats. Just blame it on violence and child porn to shut things down and generate talking points for the next election cycle. Oh yeah, do that in between paying lip service to net neutrality proponents.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:19AM (#23800067)
    is that it now opens up someone else to be sued.

    follow me, on this. right now, the network is *mostly* unfiltered and for many users, they do get a clean unfiltered net feed (home, work, whatever). and so if laws are broken (say you illegally download something), the own-ness is on you. the carrier or the authority policing the carrier isn't at fault since its not them who are guaranteeing a '100% legal internet feed'. they clearly can't say that all things you could pull down are legal and they are just a common carrier. I know that CC status is magical and not all real CC's have it but that's just because our laws in this area are not well fine-tuned yet. any reasonable person knows that an ISP is a service provider just like the water department, electric department or the phone company.

    but say that they now have the job of regulating the legality of all things you could net-access. then, if you -do- find some song or other 'illegal content' and you do manage to download it, you SHOULD be free and clear. right? afterall, there is now a policing layer (a 'great firewall' if you will) between you, the user, and the ISP or upstream service provider. if they take on the job of filtering and 'ensuring a clean and legal net experience' then ANY bad deeds you do by downloading files is not your problem anymore.

    I don't think they want either side, to be honest. they don't want to be in the regulation business because once you do that in an above-board manner, you should be liable for any faults in your so-called filtering algorithms. if you tell some grandma that 'the net is now safe' and she finds something she does not like, she SHOULD be able to sue your damned ass.

    its sad to think that the ISPs are not thinking far enough in the future to see where this leads. they must insist on common-carrier status and all that that implies. the net is like a water pipe (cue the infamous senator quote about 'tubes!' here) and it should not be filtered or mangled by some well-meaning (cough!) government moran.

    responsibility belongs AFTER the demarc point, so to speak. NEVER EVER before it!

    • by faedle (114018) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:52AM (#23800261) Homepage Journal
      That is why they are probably legally safe from just not carrying the entire alt.* hierarchy.

      Common carrier does not necessarily demand you service anybody. A common-carrier truck line can only service two major cities (say, Portland OR and Seattle WA), or only be able to provide services with a 14-foot van.

      Similarly, Verizon can choose to not carry a wide swath of net.news, provided their reasoning for not carrying it fills a technical requirement. All they have to say in front of a judge is that it is increasingly difficult to operate and maintain a news server to carry those groups, and any potential lawsuit is over.

      If it even sees the inside of a courtroom. Last I checked, Verizon subscribers are tied to binding arbitration.. so good luck with this ever being seen by a judge.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thegameiam (671961)
      I keep a small public wireless network running in my spare time, and we all agreed that fully open access was the best way to limit our liability.
    • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:36AM (#23801017) Homepage
      MY question is why are we treating the child porn imagery itself as something horrid and evil that anyone who possesses must be arrested for?

      Why not go after the people who MAKE child porn? You know the ones ACTUALLY HURTING kids? Oh wait, that's because this requires actual police work, which is DIFFICULT. The prosecutors and lawmakers need someone to blame, so they blame the people who possess and distribute simply because they are easier to find.

      It's laziness combined with a need to point a finger at someone. And it really stinks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's like banning possession of ivory. The theory is that by reducing the size of the market you reduce the producers's incentive to harm children.
  • It's pretty common for people to complain about what's being done, but pretty rare that anyone makes a valid suggestion as an alternative. And I find it even more frustrating that in the geek community people are quick to claim that any measures taken to restrict or alter computer activities can and will be circumvented.
    • by Maestro4k (707634) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:46AM (#23801067) Journal

      How about just blocking the 88 groups that have been identified as carrying child porn? That's quite doable and they could even include a provision to drop other groups if they had more than X reports of child porn in them as well. That way they only drop groups that are known to have child porn in them but keep the rest for their customers.

      I think Cuomo's mostly concerned that they took no action on the groups they reported in the sting. If they did something like the above it would probably satisfy him because they're acting on reports (which they should have been doing anyway).

  • by WDot (1286728) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:27AM (#23800117)
    Suit: So Cocks called.
    John: Cocks?
    Suit: Yeah, Cocks. The network for the ballsiest.
    Anyway, they want to be hooked up to our digital cable service. What's the capacity on our system right now?
    John: Well we still have 50% of our bandwidth av--
    Suit: Sweet Virgin Mary! Only 50%? Who's eating up all our bandwidth?
    John: Well it's mostly HD football channels, and then peer to peer, and then Usenet.
    Suit: Well, we sure as hell can't get rid of the football, and you were supposed to block peer to peer anyway! What in God's name is Usenet?
    John: It's a bulletin board system where people can share files.
    Suit: Well drop it! I'm not going to limit quality programming for some godless file sharing faggots.
    John: But how do we explain that we're arbitrarily dropping a significant portion of our service?
    Suit: What are you, stupid? Just say what we always say: we found child porn. Why do I pay you if I do all the thinking?
  • by just_forget_it (947275) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:32AM (#23800155)
    In other news, automobiles were banned from expressways today in an effort to curb alcoholism once and for all. Items also banned today were kitchen knives amid concerns of forced penis removal, horseback riding in an effort to promote the chastity of young ladies, and bedsheets due to fears of beds not being made.
  • by Archon-X (264195) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:35AM (#23800175)
    Does / did anyone actually use their usenet service anyhow?

    ISP usenet services are 9 times out of 10 either outsourced, or have terrible retention, spotty coverage, and no propogation.

    BitNabber [bitnabber.com] has all my usenet needs taken care of.
  • This is all hype (Score:3, Informative)

    by LS (57954) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:38AM (#23800187) Homepage
    Verizon is not blocking access to newsgroups in general. They are just no longer providing servers to host newsgroups themselves. You can still connect to other newsgroup services which exist in multitudes. What's the big deal? I see no problem here...
  • by Darundal (891860) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @09:49AM (#23800253) Journal
    Verizon isn't blocking anything, they are just not going to carry anything that isn't from the big 8 ON THEIR OWN SERVERS. That is all they are doing. There is no attempted blocking, no attempted fuck big brotherism, nothing. Anyone who was using the Verizon server can simply use another one (pay or free) and suddenly they have access to all the stuff (legitimate and non) that used to be available from the Verizon server. All that really happened is Cuomo wanted to look good to voters, picked an issue you can't lose (politically) with, started talking to several ISPs, and then they decided that even though what the guy wanted wouldn't solve anything, giving him something to make him happy wouldn't actually hurt anyone, so they said sure. This little bit of theater makes Cuomo look good, it makes the ISPs look good to the (mostly non usenet-using) public, and in actuality doesn't hurt anyone.
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @10:02AM (#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 istartedi (132515) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:22AM (#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?

    • by Al Al Cool J (234559) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @02:03PM (#23802239)
      Another thought... Usenet allows the free exchange of commercially produced child porn. It's child porn piracy.

      Now if music piracy is supposed to hurt the music industry, and movie piracy is supposed to hurt the movie industry, then shouldn't child porn piracy hurt the child porn industry? By shutting down child porn piracy, aren't the feds and the ISPs helping the commercial producers of child porn by protecting their business model and intellectual property rights?

      (Hee hee, I figure a post that equates the RIAA/MPAA with pedophiles has to get a +5)
  • alt.sci.physics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @11:37AM (#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.
  • Stupid fucker (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Sunday June 15, 2008 @12:03PM (#23801219) Homepage
    Stupid fucker. The child pornographers will just pick on a non-alt newgroup to invade and post on, but the rest of us will lose alt. Moron politicians -- they know nothing about the Internet and should leave their dirty stinking hands off it.
    • by JSBiff (87824)
      . . . the child pornographers will just user other newgroup servers. Ok, so Verizon chops alt.* from *their* server. Is there anything that prevents a user from connecting to a third-party news server over the Internet? What does this accomplish other than pander to the NY AG?
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @12:43PM (#23801509) Homepage Journal
    Those posts of child pornography on Usenet are traceable evidence of crimes exploiting children. The state AGs should be tracing the evidence back to the criminal exploiters and busting them. Instead, they're driving it underground, where it's harder to stop. First use the evidence to find and bust the perps, then remove the evidence from the public where it does further harm. Or the perps will just disappear, then pop up again creating more harm to more kids.

    This foolish shortsightedness isn't just prosecutors and cops misunderstanding the newfangled Internet. This is cops and prosecutors failing to understand how free expression is always a benefit, when you understand it enough to use it right. That's a lesson at least 200 years in the making. It's about time Americans forced our "justice" system to get smart about it.
  • by X.25 (255792) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @02:05PM (#23802265)
    I've been using Internet since roughly 1991. Before that I used X.25 a lot. Obviously, I make my living by working in network/internet related areas, and spend half a bloody day using Internet in one way or another.

    I have never, ever, in my life, found a child porn, nor seen it.

    It is pretty simple, I think. I have never looked for it, so I never found it.

    If a dumb politician thinks that him looking for something and then finding it (and he was looking for nothing less than child porn) is a reason to be upset, well... I feel sorry for the people he represents.
  • by LM741N (258038) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @02:21PM (#23802411)
    We found suspiciously planted child porn in unusual newsgroups like alt.gardening or such.
  • by Ratbert42 (452340) on Sunday June 15, 2008 @08:02PM (#23804955)
    I participated in this same debate at two different universities.

    So what's different now? Everything.

    This isn't just one university. This will soon be most major ISPs. If most U.S. ISPs drop alt.*, the posters will just hammer big 8 groups. With NZB files, the actual group things are posted to doesn't matter very much. Issuing cancels will be a full time job for the few that care to fight the flood.

    What's sad is that this really threatens the argument that ISPs are common carriers and aren't responsible for filtering content. Sure, I understand the different between filtering and not providing groups on your NNTP server, but people that wear suits and robes for a living don't. If alt.* falls what's next? All of Usenet.

    Usenet is an unusual asynchronous, disconnected, communication model and in a way, is an almost priceless anonymizer. There is (almost) no link between the sender and receiver of a message. I've always wondered how we've let an almost untraceable communication system survive.

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