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January 22, 2008 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Joel Johnson of Boing Boing shows up to The Hugh Thompson Show to discuss gadgets but chooses a different topic
Yesterday, I was invited to talk about gadgets onThe Hugh Thompson Show, a television-style talk show sponsored exclusively by AT&T for distribution on the online AT&T Tech Channel. I eventually did talk about gadgets, but in light of AT&T's shocking and baffling announcement of their plans to filter the internet, I thought that a much more interesting and important topic.
posted by device55 (33 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some nice background information linkables that I failed to put in the actual post:

http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/01/3-things-ts-proposed-net-filtering-plan
http://w2.eff.org/legal/cases/att/faq.php
http://www.slate.com/id/2182152/fr/rss/
posted by device55 at 6:44 PM on January 22, 2008


Thanks, I hadn't heard about this. One of the goddamn dumbest, and at the same time the most hubristic and repulsive, ideas I've heard in a long time.
posted by facetious at 6:51 PM on January 22, 2008


This is really cool. Good post.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 6:59 PM on January 22, 2008


What a great way to lose their safe harbor status and open themselves to massive lawsuits. If they're going to roll this out, now would be a smart time to short their stock.
posted by mullingitover at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2008


I don't know who Hugh Thompson is, but it is an interesting clip. The interview was scrubbed, which is too bad, as it was actually interesting and Hugh Thompson seemed to know what he was talking about. It probably has less to do with AT&T being a bad guy and more with the fact that, as I assume, Hugh Thompson's audience differs greatly from that of, say, Charlie Rose. I imagined some producer having a heart attack that gadgets weren't being discussed and people were flipping through the channels.

On the same token, I feel as if such tech evangelizing, while I agree with it intellectually, is the equivalent of going on television and talking about how weed should be legal. Unfortunately the dialog needs to come from Paul Krugman (for example) or someone with at least a tangential reputation in the media. People can easily dismiss, and corporations can slander, those without reputations.

And one other, rather quick observation, to get people to care you can't talk about privacy or other esoteric and abstract issues people do not encounter in their daily lives. You need to frame it as AT&T wants to, say, monitor what you buy online, or the variety of other ways this issue can be framed. People simply do not care about privacy or traffic shaping, they care about not getting what they paid for.
posted by geoff. at 7:05 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


geoff, I think (according to the comments) they did a take-2 which was a more formal interview in which they talk about this topic, along with the requisite gadget talk...so they may actually get it out on the air in a "proper" way.
posted by device55 at 7:12 PM on January 22, 2008


As I write this comment, I am very sad as my privacy on the internet has been overthrown and filtered BY THE BENEVOLENT AT&T! ALL HAIL AT&T AND ITS GLORIOUS REGIME!

Sincerely...
Internet User #26083

posted by Effigy2000 at 7:13 PM on January 22, 2008 [6 favorites]



On the same token, I feel as if such tech evangelizing, while I agree with it intellectually, is the equivalent of going on television and talking about how weed should be legal. Unfortunately the dialog needs to come from Paul Krugman (for example) or someone with at least a tangential reputation in the media. People can easily dismiss, and corporations can slander, those without reputations.


Or, perhaps he didn't want to do their little monkey dance as expected, and wanted to have a more substantive discussion about something people actually care about.
posted by odinsdream at 7:19 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Let's not kid ourselves. We pretend we want privacy, yet daily we use programs that we know steal our privacy away from us. Search engines record our IP addresses and searches, social networking websites mine data constantly, shopping websites catalog our every move, and web e-mail services scan our e-mails for words to pop up advertisements and suggested links related to our private conversations.

We voluntarily submit our souls to the Internet for those that want to see them. This is life on the web. We can't very well pretend this AT&T plan is somehow different because they plan to search for intellectual property infringement. Why are we differentiating sniffing packets for copyright violations from scans of our G-mail accounts for suggested product placement? I suspect one large reason is that it scares infringers that an avenue for their violations just might evaporate. Otherwise, if you're going to scream about AT&T, you'd better raise a much louder voice against the privacy compromises we're faced with on countless websites. Funny some of those more global, common, and presently quite active privacy invasions weren't put to the audience. If they had been, the audience would have screamed "NO!" - then promptly still gone home to log into Facebook and Google porn.
posted by Muddler at 7:22 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


> We can't very well pretend this AT&T plan is somehow different because they plan to search for intellectual property infringement.

Muddler, some of AT&T's customers are academics using their broadband connections to prepare teaching materials. These academics are protected by an exception in copyright law that allows them to make use of copyrighted materials. But no filtering technology can understand the context in which a copyrighted work is used. So no filtering technology can know when this legal exception applies.

That means AT&T is unilaterally taking away a right granted academics under the statute -- and there are many other exceptions outlined in copyright law this plan would do away with.

So I sure as hell can say this AT&T plan is different.
posted by sdodd at 7:41 PM on January 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


This will get their highest ratings ever!

Which I'm sure is not that impressive.
posted by smackfu at 7:46 PM on January 22, 2008


So, uh, does their plan include a way to decrypt the inevitable encrypted packets? This seems like a really expensive way to get copyright infringers to use end-to-end encryption while they download the next Jay-Z album.
posted by mullingitover at 7:55 PM on January 22, 2008


Everyone looked at the staff member who booked me on the show with sad eyes, assuring me that he would certainly be fired.

Wow, talk about harsh.

Of AT&T. If they do something like that, then they are doubly damned.
posted by JHarris at 8:02 PM on January 22, 2008


What mullingitover said. I have no doubt p2p apps will include encryption within days of any actual implementation of filtering. Or maybe AT&T will just filter encrypted packets. Hey, if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide, right?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:26 PM on January 22, 2008


Muddler, you're missing a huge, huge obvious point:

All of your examples of things we do that lessen our personal privacy are our choice. With the exception of search engine tracking, all of your examples are activities that require users to agree to certain terms of service. The privacy ramifications are clear to anyone who reads through the documents before clicking "I Agree" to use the services.

AT&T scanning packets is significantly different. Firstly, because there is no agreement between AT&T and individual people. AT&T would be handling packets for many people who had no idea AT&T was even involved. Secondly, as has been proven repeatedly, AT&T and other large corporations cannot be trusted to obey the law, particularly with regard to rights against unreasonable searches, etc.
posted by odinsdream at 8:29 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I eventually did talk about gadgets, but in light of AT&T's shocking and baffling announcement of their plans to filter the internet, I thought that a much more interesting and important topic.

Always nice to hijack a show for a pet cause. Shades of Cinder Calhoun from Saturday Night Live. "Actually, Norm, I feel it'd be really remiss if we didn't use this platform to address an issue tonight. ..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:36 PM on January 22, 2008


Always nice to hijack a show for a pet cause. Shades of Cinder Calhoun from Saturday Night Live. "Actually, Norm, I feel it'd be really remiss if we didn't use this platform to address an issue tonight. ...

Ha! Funny you should mention that because as I watched the clip and heard that bumper band, I was reminded of how much talk shows suck in general. If any show should be hijacked, it should be this one.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:54 PM on January 22, 2008


Or maybe AT&T will just filter encrypted packets. Hey, if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide, right?

Of course not... not my financial information or medical records. If AT&T is going to filter encrypted packets, they're in for a rough time.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:49 PM on January 22, 2008


the point here is that AT+T is willing to give up thier "safe-harbor" status, and open thierselves up to multiple lawsuits in order to appease the media cartels.
mullitover seems to be the only one that seems to catch that. the moment that att starts to descrimate on the packets that they deliver, they lose any legal protection from lawsuits from media, advertisers, other isp's, any so called "family" group or any other group that thinks they should have priority on thier network.
posted by bbcjk at 11:32 PM on January 22, 2008


Uh, not to toot my own horn, but, previously?
posted by spiderwire at 11:37 PM on January 22, 2008


What mullingitover said. I have no doubt p2p apps will include encryption within days of any actual implementation of filtering. Or maybe AT&T will just filter encrypted packets. Hey, if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide, right?

1. Lots of BT implementations already include encryption.
2. It's pretty trivial to disguise an encrypted packets as a non-encrypted packet.

However,

3. There are many other ways to filter p2p apps -- limiting the number of active ports you can have open, for example. Comcast/Sandvine just does it by usage patterns and profiling; TW will be doing it by per-byte overage charges (essentially accomplishing the same thing.)

4. The filtering can also be done "in reverse" -- you allow packets that properly sign and identify themselves to get priority routing and essentially put everything else in the slow lane. Functionally the same thing as metering traffic you don't want. Furthermore, you could arguably even block packets on this basis and not risk your ISP safe harbor, because user-level flagging isn't the ISP "selecting" the material, so it doesn't risk AT&T's common-carrier status.

5. The ISP safe harbor provision is poorly written and pretty easy to get around -- for example, in the fashion I just discussed. The provision doesn't let you modify the content or "select" the material by the ISP, but even if "selection" includes automatic flagging (which is arguable, and which is done anyway at any rate), this doesn't prevent AT&T from simply sending your unsigned packets by morse code or passenger pigeon so long as they preserve the content.

...We'll know more about network management practices after the FCC finishes the Comcast/Sandvine inquiry, but I highly doubt anything good will come of it -- the FCC has been saying for some time now that ISPs can engage in "reasonable network management," and it's pretty clear that includes traffic shaping, no matter how slimy.

6. The ISP safe harbor isn't necessarily the lynchpin to the ISP's safety; they still have the takedown-notice shield (i.e. they have to get and have time to respond to the takedown notice first), and packet-sniffing allows them to do that much more easily. Keep in mind that this sort of filtering is the sort of thing that the RIAA and the MPAA and the other big copyright abusers would like.

7. The ISP safe harbor is pretty much mooted by CALEA anyway -- the ISPs are required to select and modify material in order to comply with the government's digital wiretap programs, so in actuality the ISP safe harbor has been more or less a dead-letter law for years. The FCC/PTO only defended the safe harbor until the DOJ came along, and when the RIAA stopped going after ISPs anyway, it because pretty much irrelevant. Grokster doesn't stick to ISPs -- it sticks to people who write p2p apps.
posted by spiderwire at 11:57 PM on January 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


AT&T scanning packets is significantly different. Firstly, because there is no agreement between AT&T and individual people. AT&T would be handling packets for many people who had no idea AT&T was even involved.

This doesn't matter.
1. AT&T does this anyway under CALEA. All the major ISPs do. And all the major ISPs peer with each other, so they actually handle everyone's traffic, from on and off their network. Again, they're required to do this under federal statute.
2. DPI/DPA doesn't even implicate the safe-harbor provision in the first place -- it's not a copyright violation for a number of reasons, notably because packet-sniffing concerns transitory information. Copyright infringement suits against ISPs are generally for data being stored on their servers and the safe harbor provision only concerns protecting from contributory copyright infringement.

Of course not... not my financial information or medical records. If AT&T is going to filter encrypted packets, they're in for a rough time.

No, they'll offer you high-speed, SHA-encrypted, priority routing for packets tagged as "financial information" or "medical records," and they probably won't even charge you extra at first for the "service" it costs them nothing to give! Isn't that awesome?

the point here is that AT+T is willing to give up thier "safe-harbor" status, and open thierselves up to multiple lawsuits in order to appease the media cartels.
mullitover seems to be the only one that seems to catch that. the moment that att starts to descrimate on the packets that they deliver, they lose any legal protection from lawsuits from media, advertisers, other isp's, any so called "family" group or any other group that thinks they should have priority on thier network.


No, the FCC's pretty much said that packet discrimination (if it's for putative network management reasons) is A-OK, as has the DOJ and a few others. The "media cartels" are all about filtering as a way to keep out competing content, and they were the only ones would would sue AT&T anyway. Now they'll just sure smaller hosting providers. Whoopee.

In any event, you can protest the artificial management of your QoS, and you damn well should, but you ought to be aware that the ISP safe harbor provision is probably not at issue for any of the lawsuits you envision -- the safe harbor provision applies only to contributory copyright infringement claims, which (a) don't come from anywhere by the RIAA and MPAA, (b) are small change to AT&T, (c) saves them cash on network infrastructure by keeping high-bandwidth uses like BT off the network, and (d) is easy to comply with anyway via takedown notice responses.

Many of us saw this coming a long time ago -- AT&T's last merger required them to accept a two-year commitment to net neutrality that expires right at the end of 2008. I guarantee you that they will have a huge bombshell poised to drop on that day.
posted by spiderwire at 12:15 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, wont the net just interpret AT&T as damage and route around it?
posted by scodger at 1:30 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know people can go on and on about AT&T all they want but the real problem is BushCo and unwarrented wiretapping and expansion of executive power under the guise of keeping us safe. If that problem isn't big enough there is Military Industrial Complex. Then there is Corporate Fascism. If that doesn't really seem more important then there is Satan, the biggest problem of them all. Why do people bother talking about such tiny things as Internet filtering?
posted by srboisvert at 1:49 AM on January 23, 2008


So if you're not an AT&T customer, would this affect you at all?

Muddler - get the "customize google" firefox extension. It addresses a few of the issues you raised. With Google, at least.
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:08 AM on January 23, 2008


So if you're not an AT&T customer, would this affect you at all?

Not unless any of your in/out traffic happens to take a trip through AT&T's pipes at any time. Which it will.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:01 AM on January 23, 2008


Anyone suppose there will be a take-down notice for that video real soon?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:13 AM on January 23, 2008


Or, perhaps he didn't want to do their little monkey dance as expected, and wanted to have a more substantive discussion about something people actually care about.

I understand what you are saying and what he was trying to do, but such efforts seem counter-productive to getting the issue out. If he had been on something with an actual audience, even basic cable, I would argue that he pulled one over. Now booking agents are going to be weary of BoingBoing and people pushing net neutrality.

Don't get me wrong, I completely agree with his message, but I think there is a better ways to discuss it than tricking a talk show into thinking you're coming on to talk about gadgets and then discuss something that has nothing to do with gadgets. It just is dishonest and unethical. I guess we can fundamentally disagree with this tactic, and that's fine.
posted by geoff. at 6:35 AM on January 23, 2008


That house band must die.
posted by Dizzy at 6:50 AM on January 23, 2008


That house band must die.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that tune was what you'd get if you replaced "Wayne's World" with "BoingBoing".

but I think there is a better ways to discuss it than tricking a talk show into thinking you're coming on to talk about gadgets and then discuss something that has nothing to do with gadgets. It just is dishonest and unethical.

Would you be calling it dishonest and unethical if he'd talking about great it is to be a new father or something like a lot of talk show guests end up doing, instead of talking about the new movie they're in or whatever they were ostensibly booked for? Those shows air despite this "dishonesty" and nobody gets outraged. No, the change of subject isn't immoral, the outrage is because he dared to say something that challenged corporate media in a medium where he was supposed to be gushing about consumer products.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:12 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Many of us saw this coming a long time ago...
And you're telling us NOW????? Gee, thanks for the heads up.. ;)
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:17 AM on January 23, 2008




That took balls but would've been more effective if he'd gradually built up to it.
posted by cell divide at 9:01 PM on January 23, 2008


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