Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The dark side of the internet
November 27, 2009 9:23 AM   Subscribe

The dark side of the internet. In the 'deep web', Freenet software allows users complete anonymity as they share viruses, criminal contacts and child pornography.

Article in the Guardian.
posted by jouke (69 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
an official Freenet index lists the hundreds of "freesites" available: "Iran News", "Horny Kate", "The Terrorist's Handbook: A practical guide to explosives and other things of interests to terrorists", "How To Spot A Pedophile [sic]", "Freenet Warez Portal: The source for pirate copies of books, games, movies, music, software, TV series and more", "Arson Around With Auntie: A how-to guide on arson attacks for animal rights activists". There is material written in Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Italian. There is English-language material from America and Thailand, from Argentina and Japan.

Soooo it's ...IRC?
posted by The Whelk at 9:35 AM on November 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


[picture of Sealand]

Freenet means controversial information does not need to be stored in physical data havens such as this one, Sealand.

I think all Guardian stories should now feature photos of things that the stories are not about.

"The Queen is a member of the royal family, and not of Mötley Crüe."

"Tea is a warm drink enjoyed by millions, but not by this adorable kitten."

"The serial killer who chopped up forty Girl Scouts and baked them into cookies does not look like this man, whom my ex-wife is currently dating."

"Many people enjoyed the Morris dancing festival, which did not at all resemble this lawnmower scene from the last five minutes of Brain Dead."
posted by Shepherd at 9:35 AM on November 27, 2009 [164 favorites]


Clearly the groundwork is being laid for a War on Drugs Internet Freedom. Won't someone think of the children, etc.

The question is if they'll be able to do it. What does the Chinese experience suggest?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:35 AM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also nevermind that Sealand's main net uplink was a wireless E1 bridge to the mainland and a British Telecom terrestrial E1. Even if they had gone satellite there are a limited number of transponder MHz providers, and limited number of teleports available within one up-and-down satellite hop from Sealand. Any of them would have been subject to terrestrial law enforcement interference.
posted by thewalrus at 9:37 AM on November 27, 2009


Soooo it's ...IRC?

Soooo it's ...Tor?
posted by splice at 9:37 AM on November 27, 2009


I was not aware that there was a light side.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:38 AM on November 27, 2009 [20 favorites]


Reads like the treatment for a film soon to be starring Denzel Washington and/or Clive Owen.
posted by fire&wings at 9:39 AM on November 27, 2009


Software is so dangerous!
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:46 AM on November 27, 2009


Reads like the treatment for a film soon to be starring Denzel Washington and/or Clive Owen.


"UNDERNET:

FREEDOM ISN'T FREE

THIS FALL."
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 AM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


"The [Freenet] website is blocked in [authoritarian] countries like China so there, people tend to get Freenet from friends."

"Britain has a long and honourable tradition of respect for human rights. This is, after all, a country that gave birth to the Magna Carta and enshrined the concept of habeas corpus. Why is it then, that the subject of human rights and, specifically, the Human Rights Act of 1998, in force for almost a decade, remains such a challenge for so many people?" - The Guardian
posted by alasdair at 9:49 AM on November 27, 2009


Deep web = anything in databases not indexed by Google or other search engines. Libraries, article databases, intranets, closed learning environments etc, parts catalogues, scientific data. Be careful out there!
posted by Free word order! at 9:50 AM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


What does the Chinese experience suggest?

That authoritarian controls on the Internet are effective only in the most simple and obvious way, and that a mild degree of sophistication is all that's required to bypass them.
posted by fatbird at 9:52 AM on November 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh for goodness sake. Also from the article:

"The paedophile ring convicted this autumn and currently awaiting sentence for offences involving Little Ted's nursery in Plymouth met on Facebook."

Facebook? That's not exactly some unterweb dark side, is it? What a silly article. There are interesting debates to be had over privacy and free speech in a world of data mining, face recognition, electronic payments and ubiquitous online personal computer devices. This isn't a useful contribution to those debates.
posted by alasdair at 9:53 AM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


The creator of Freenet responds.

"I was a little surprised that it did focus almost exclusively on the negatives implications..."

Not, then, a regular reader of newspaper articles about the Internets.
posted by chavenet at 9:54 AM on November 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Freenet software allows users complete anonymity as they share viruses, criminal contacts and child pornography.

Wow, biased much?

Freenet also allows users to safely share information on religion, politics, or really any officially double-plus-ungood content, without fear of the local Gestapo taking them away for a good torturing in the middle of the night.

Any technology can have both good and bad uses. As long as we have such notables as the Great Firewall of China, Sharia rule anywhere, or Puritanical "wars on [insert anything fun here]", we have a need for software such as Freenet and Tor.

And yes, even if that means some people will use it for child porn or planning terrorist attacks.
posted by pla at 9:54 AM on November 27, 2009 [28 favorites]


A response to the article by the author of the Freenet software.

It was a decent article, I thought, even though it dwells pretty heavily on the negative aspects of the privacy that tools like Freenet, TOR, and others provide.
posted by gemmy at 9:54 AM on November 27, 2009


Clearly the groundwork is being laid for a War on Drugs Internet Freedom. Won't someone think of the children, etc.

Already happening... The Canadian government has just tabled a law making it mandatory for ISPs to report child-porn images on their servers, or to pass on any complaint from a user that they found such images. There are criminal penalties for not complying.

It's sort of like asking the phone companies to report the names & numbers of anyone who utters threats on the phone.

I'm expecting that the law will get amended a bit before it passes, or it won't survive a constitutional challenge, but we'll see.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:56 AM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I, for one, am glad services like this exist, even though I have no need to use them myself. Just because a government somewhere, including that of the US, says something is bad, doesn't make it so. And it's nice to know that there are alternate communication channels, should one of my hobbies somehow end up the subject of our current Two Minute Hate.

Yes, genuinely bad people will use this in genuinely bad ways, but that's part of the nature of humanity, and it was inevitable as soon as the Internet sprang into existence. Trying to stop these people by banning technologies is like trying to stop terrorism with soldiers; no matter how many technologies/terrorists you stomp on, there will always be another. The act of stomping will, in fact, create more of them.
posted by Malor at 10:00 AM on November 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Do Canadians use the expression "tabled" to mean the exact opposite of what it means in the United States, or does the Globe and Mail just not know what "tabled" means?
posted by yhbc at 10:03 AM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


'tabled' means it's been proposed in a bill and that it will get voted on (3 readings, etc)
posted by Artful Codger at 10:05 AM on November 27, 2009


If it's anything like the War on Drugs or China's firewall, it'll just end up being easily subverted by people who want access to a free internet, just like how people can still smoke pot just fine even though it's federally illegal, or people in China can usually set up some kind of a proxy pretty easily.

I'm not saying the things that go on on Freenet are necessarily good things, but that's the reality of trying to cut off a resource like this. Free speech and free networks are double edged swords, but they're much better than restricted speech. I do think that child pornography distribution is bad, but conventional police work can take that down.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:15 AM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Freenet software allows users complete anonymity as they share viruses, criminal contacts and child pornography.

Envelopes allow letter writers complete privacy as they share thoughtcrimes, criminal contacts, and child pornography.
posted by callmejay at 10:21 AM on November 27, 2009 [27 favorites]


It's also a wild misuse of what's becoming a standard term with a specific technical meaning.

"Deep Web" != "Dark Web"
posted by freebird at 10:22 AM on November 27, 2009


In a world where even the clarity of the first amendment is shut down, what hope is there for free speech if communications are not anonymous.

And yes, that means it's made up largely of people who want to say Stuff You Don't Like, because those are the people who need to pay the cost to do so. Wordpress is simpler if one doesn't have to. But when you need to you need to; the surface community of Freenet is largely English speaking, but there's a surprising amount of Chinese content on there if you know where to look (no links, for obvious reasons).
posted by jaduncan at 10:24 AM on November 27, 2009


'tabled' means it's been proposed in a bill and that it will get voted on (3 readings, etc)

I've always been rather confused by this expression, as in a Canadian municipal council setting (in my experience at least) tabling an item means postponing it to the next session of council.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:25 AM on November 27, 2009


Snark all you want, I thought it was a good layman's article for explaining there's a whole lot more out there on the Internet than the web site. For readers for whom "Dark Web" means the porn site they visit when the wife's asleep I think this will be educational. It is a shame they focussed so much on the bogeymen (oooh, CP! beware!), but that's sort of par for the course. I liked that the article talked about so many different technologies.
posted by Nelson at 10:25 AM on November 27, 2009


TORa! TORa! TORa!
posted by HTuttle at 10:28 AM on November 27, 2009


I've not yet had the pleasure of going to the UK, but what I've seen on mefi gives me the sense that the Guardian performs a useful function in keeping chip grease from soaking through the bottom of paper bags.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:37 AM on November 27, 2009


It's sort of like asking the phone companies to report the names & numbers of anyone who utters threats on the phone.

I'm expecting that the law will get amended a bit before it passes, or it won't survive a constitutional challenge, but we'll see.


Good analogy.

The Fed DOJ would have already vetted it for Charter compliance is the thing, not that push necessarily comes to shove. But -- as you imply -- even not as a constitutional issue but as a practical one -- how the hell are ISPs supposed to do this, exactly?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:45 AM on November 27, 2009


I posted about this exact topic a few years ago here:

http://www.metafilter.com/57204/Anybody-want-to-swap-refs
posted by localhuman at 10:48 AM on November 27, 2009


Already happening... The Canadian government has just tabled a law making it mandatory for ISPs to report child-porn images on their servers, or to pass on any complaint from a user that they found such images. There are criminal penalties for not complying.

It's sort of like asking the phone companies to report the names & numbers of anyone who utters threats on the phone.


I don't actually see the problem here? The keyword is "on their servers". If this means that people aren't allowed to host child porn on their ISP-provided home page, what's the problem?

This might also be a roundabout way of attacking Usenet groups containing such content, which is a bit worse, but I thought most ISP-driven Usenet servers had died a long while ago.
posted by ymgve at 10:48 AM on November 27, 2009


Man, reading this is really discouraging. The costs of enforcing laws against trafficking, child prostitution and other things must be extraordinarily high if there exists technology that makes it virtually untraceable. Makes me wonder more about the people we do arrest for these crimes - they almost certainly represent the lowest hanging fruit of the criminals involved in these things.
posted by scunning at 11:01 AM on November 27, 2009


Actually, I *believe* that the proposed Canadian law involves *observed* [potential] child porn. They don't have to look for the porn, but if an employee should observe it (including being directed to it by a complaint), they would be required to report it.

From a societal point of view, it is an interesting idea. Would it be then right for individuals to be obligated, by law, to report possible observed wrong-doings? Is is ISP different by dint of being a company, or is it different because it is delivering the content and thus at least somewhat complicit? Or is it not different at all?

I don't think it is as cut'n'dried as most like to make it out to be.

OTOH, the guardian article (and the FPP) is silly in that it is sensationalism and wildly biased. The envelop analogy up above states it nicely.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:07 AM on November 27, 2009


Looks like you're quite right, Bovine Love. In fact, they went out of their way to make this clear in s.7:

"No seeking out of child pornography

7. Nothing in this Act requires or authorizes a person to seek out child pornography."

It's all about being responsible for following up on complaints or "reasonable grounds to believe" that there is child porn. So: same old, same old. Way to go as usual, MSM.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:12 AM on November 27, 2009


In Canada, it is illegal to not report child abuse. It seems the ISP law is a clarification of that responsibility.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:19 AM on November 27, 2009


I was not aware that there was a light side.

There is no dark side of the net, really. Matter of fact, it's all dark.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:25 AM on November 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


"How To Spot A Pedophile [sic]",

Weird. What's the [sic] for? Is there a mistake in the rest of the sentence, or is he claiming that whatever person wrote that page was making a mistake by spelling in the American/Canadian fashion rather than the British one?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:27 AM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Same as It Ever Was... penny-arcade's podcast on the "playstation pornable" was hilarious and really said it best.
posted by jcruelty at 11:33 AM on November 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Soooo it's ...IRC?"

Soooo it's... the Gfiles section of a BBS in the 1980s? Wasn't there a big panic about this stuff then, too? And then again in the 90s with the freakout over &TOTSE and NirvanaNet in general? Hm, looks like Renegade had a release this year, and I still have a copy of MajorBBS lying around (mbbsforever, actually), and I vaguely remember how to run PCBoard and write PPEs, what with that weird thing where you invoke them from the localization text files.

*hitches up pants* I guess if the 80s are back, it's time to run me a BBS again.
posted by majick at 11:36 AM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with Free word order!'s earlier post--the term "deep web" is being deliberately misused in the context of this article. In "Deep Web", the deep refers to non-indexed, NOT deep = dark. Article could have used a helluva lot more research.
posted by Quiplash at 11:38 AM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, i see that the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse are still alive and well..
posted by vivelame at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Solon and Thanks, the Guardian is a UK paper, so they use the [sic] to indicate that the American spelling comes from the original source rather than being a typo on their part.
posted by whir at 12:01 PM on November 27, 2009


I love this title: "The Terrorist's Handbook: A practical guide to explosives and other things of interest to terrorists"

What's in the terrorist handbook? Well, things of interest to terrorists. You know, terrorist stuff.

Already happening... The Canadian government has just tabled a law making it mandatory for ISPs to report child-porn images on their servers, or to pass on any complaint from a user that they found such images. There are criminal penalties for not complying.

I'm not really sure I understand the problem with this. They're not arguing that ISPs deep-scan every image on their servers and run it through some kind of chid-porn detection algorithm (which couldn't even exist at the moment), simply to report child porn when they see it. I would imagine that most people would report it if they came across it.

That's really the least of the problems, though. The real issues are the kind of packet sniffing and recording that's being mandated to try to prevent copyright infringement. Another thing that really sticks in my craw is all the promiscuous data collection that's going on with various web services. Google just put out a new update to their latitude software that allows you to track yourself everywhere you go, on google's servers.

The software could have been written to allow uploads to your own server or home computer, or saved on an SD-card, but instead it all gets uploaded to Google to get data-mined and used to server you text ads.

And did you know ISPs actually sell data on what websites are visited by their users? Right now, I only know of aggregate data sales to companies like Alexa and Quantcast, but what's to stop them from personalized data tapping in order sell that information to advertisers?

And don't even get me started on facebook.

I kind of get creeped out by the idea of everything we do online being monitored, not by government overlords but by various companies worming their way as deeply into our lives in order to... well for now just serve better ads, but that's technically a type of manipulation.

A lot of the features that are currently offered by these companies could be done on an individual basis (like location tracking) or through P2P software (like location sharing, or social networking)

'tabled' means it's been proposed in a bill and that it will get voted on (3 readings, etc)

Ah, here in the U.S. it means the legislature isn't going to bother with it for now and debate/votes on the bill will be suspended.

--

Anyway, I'm kind of surprised freenet is still around and kicking. I remember when it came out and I thought it kind of died off. Haven't heard about in a while. The problem with things like freenet and TOR is that the government could theoretically just setup as many honeypots as they like. I mean anyone can go on EC2 and setup 100 TOR honeypots and run them for a day for $192. There was an article a while ago about someone who setup their own TOR honey pot and found all kinds of sensitive stuff. I don't know if freenet has any defenses for this kind of thing. The way it worked originally was that no one knew what was hosted on their own machine, and all the traffic was laundered through other nodes.
posted by delmoi at 12:12 PM on November 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I often wonder what the ratio is of bytes dedicated to worrying about child porn vs. bytes that actually are child porn.
posted by Foosnark at 12:19 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I often wonder what the ratio is of bytes dedicated to worrying about child porn vs. bytes that actually are child porn.

Well, the pertinent question would be how many children are harmed worrying about child porn vs. the number of children harmed producing it. The problem with child porn isn't really the number of bytes it takes up.
posted by delmoi at 12:27 PM on November 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Almost every applied technology has a good side and a bad side. When you think of transportation technologies, do you think of how they enable a delightful vacation or get the family back together during the holidays—or do you think of traffic jams and pollution? Are books a source of wisdom and spirituality or a way to distribute pornography and hate? Do you applaud medical technology for curing plagues or deplore transportation technology for spreading them? Does encrypted e-mail keep honest people safe from criminals or criminals safe from the police? Are plastics durable conveniences or everlasting pollutants? Counterfeiting comes with money, obscene phone calls come with the telephone, spam comes with e-mail, and pornography comes with the Internet. Every law creates an outlaw. - Edward Tenner
posted by tommasz at 1:21 PM on November 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, the bogeyman here is -- gasp! -- anonymity. I doubt many people would deny that most technologies have both potential upsides and downsides. The implication here, though, is that anonymity permits those that would do harm to do so freely or easily.

But then that's always the argument, isn't it? 24/7 omnipresent cctv, random searches and interrogations. It could all potentially help. Of course, it would absolutely harm, but a few eggs, etc, etc. How many times have you heard the phrase "If it stops just one person from..."?

The more sensational the crime, the more people are willing to forego freedoms (especially those little used by the people in question) to stamp it out. And it doesn't get more sensational than this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:28 PM on November 27, 2009


simply to report child porn when they see it. I would imagine that most people would report it if they came across it.

I would hope so, but on the other hand it's only been about two weeks since we read about what happens to people who go to the police when they find themselves unwittingly possessing something illegal in Great Britain. Helping the police investigate child abuse is the moral thing to do, but it may be safer to do so anonymously, just in case your jurisdiction makes it impossible to provide such help without announcing the existence of an inadvertent felony in your browser cache.

Of course, ensuring anonymity will require using a remixer type technology. Try not to step in the irony.
posted by roystgnr at 1:49 PM on November 27, 2009


>...the Guardian is a UK paper, so they use the [sic] to indicate that the American spelling comes from the original source rather than being a typo on their part.

Yes, because The Grauniad is well known for never committing typos...

/derail
posted by chavenet at 2:02 PM on November 27, 2009


I remember checking out Freenet back in the early part of the decade, when it was kind of new. The content that was easy to access wasn't particularly shocking, or particularly interesting. (Checked it out again last year, when I heard it was still around. It was about the same, but was faster and worked a lot better.)

I find many parts of the "regular" internet *far* more creepy than the stuff on Freenet, at least the stuff I had any idea how to reach.

I wish the author had checked each of the items he'd found to see if it was also available via a Google search. I bet dollars to doughnuts it would have been.

It seems like a poorly thought out, sensationalistic, handwaving article on some interesting topics.

I mean:

Other terms circulate among those in the know: "darknet", "invisible web", "dark address space", "murky address space", "dirty address space". Not all these phrases mean the same thing.

"But I'm going to string the terms together anyway, with only a token effort to disambiguate them. The important thing is they all sound scary!"

It could have been worse. But it could have been a lot better.
posted by edheil at 2:33 PM on November 27, 2009


I'd never heard of freenet before, and I just downloaded it and flipped through the directory out of curiosity. It seems pretty analogous to what you could find with a little bit of determination and a google search. Or, on preview, what edheil said.
posted by codacorolla at 3:05 PM on November 27, 2009


Regarding the use of "tabled," I remember the Economist Style Guide explicitly identifies this as a potential point of confusion for an international audience:

Table: avoid it as a transitive verb. In Britain to table means to bring something forward for action. In America it means exactly the opposite.

http://www.economist.com/research/styleGuide/index.cfm?page=673901
posted by dubitoergosum at 3:08 PM on November 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


dubitoergosum, thanks for the definitive answer on "tabled".

Durn Bronzefist, delmoi - I see the Canadian legislation as the thin edge of a wedge that puts the onus onto the ISP to act as a police proxy, and to take action (preserve the evidence, provide contact info) that may be against their business interests as an ISP.

The bill's measures are of dubious benefit as an enforcement aid... first because there are more than enough non-Canadian web hosts, right? the aspiring Canadian child pornographer can simply host their web of sin elsewhere. Also... how many of the public are going to do a tracert and IP lookups to match a CP site to a host? They're more likely to call their provider of connectivity. Confusion ensues.

It seems to me then that the Canadian bill won't really do any more to track and apprehend offenders than if the discovery was directly reported to police, and investigated.

What's current US law regarding obligations of the ISP?
posted by Artful Codger at 4:15 PM on November 27, 2009


I think, Artful Codger, if you are going to employ one of the common logical fallacies (slippery slope), you need to back it up somewhat by providing illustration of the slide. The principle here, in Canada, is quite old; for example, photolabs have certain obligations w.r.t. observed photo's which appear to depict illegal activity. But there is scant, or no, evidence that it has been carried further.

I believe this legislation also applies to sites carried, not just hosted.

I don't necessarily agree with the legislation in principle, but I'd like to see evidence of the larger purpose of police proxy before I can buy that.

And, again, it is interesting (though no one likes to talk about it) that the ISP could be considered complicit since they receive a fee in return for carrying/hosting the illegal material. We generally 'let them off' for various reasons (many good), but a reasonable argument can be made that they should not have any culpability at all.
posted by Bovine Love at 4:30 PM on November 27, 2009


Boy, sometimes I'm glad I keep all my child porn on dusty 8mm reels and on stained, bent Polaroids in a little wooden box at the bottom of a creepy chest in my attic, beneath my various war medals and awards and the old wedding gown I sometimes like to wear while I am looking at it. That way it will only ever be found after I die from autoerotic asphyxiation and, ha ha, get your already-traumatized heads around that, loving wife and offspring!
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:34 PM on November 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Solon and Thanks, the Guardian is a UK paper, so they use the [sic] to indicate that the American spelling comes from the original source rather than being a typo on their part.

I realized that it's a UK paper, I just always thought that [sic] indicates a misspelling/grammatical mistake on the part of the original source. Looking it up I see it just means something is unusual and not necessarily incorrect.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:54 PM on November 27, 2009


it's only been about two weeks since we read about what happens to people who go to the police when they find themselves unwittingly possessing something illegal in Great Britain

Not so much "unwittingly" and not so much "go to the police" as "deliberately provoke the police by wandering the streets carrying the weapon, then freaking them out by handling the live weapon right there in the station." The perp was an ex-soldier, IIRC: he knew enough to know that he should have disassembled the weapon before moving it around.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:59 PM on November 27, 2009


Is Freenet still as slow as it was nine years ago?
posted by furtive at 7:09 PM on November 27, 2009


As much as i hate to say it, pure anonymity isn't really a right in public, is it?

Just as any suspicious behavior on the street (lets make it simple and say someone flipping through a manual titled HOW TO BUILD BOMBS) might warrant interest from any concerned citizen or police force within an eyeshot, the same rule might apply ethically online.

This doesn't mean i'm in favor of unlawful wiretaps, anonymous monitoring or even searches on people based on this behavior alone from law enforcement, but through this kind of thinking i can see how fragile and difficult to justify such a demand for untraceable online conduct is.

That said, in 2003 i walked onto a bus with a clarinet case covered in duct tape with big red letters that said "BOMB" on it, and was not approached or arrested. I expected at least one of the two.
posted by phylum sinter at 7:18 PM on November 27, 2009


That said, in 2003 i walked onto a bus with a clarinet case covered in duct tape with big red letters that said "BOMB" on it, and was not approached or arrested. I expected at least one of the two.

Well, that isn't very suspicious. Particularly on a bus.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:55 PM on November 27, 2009


I haven't read the Canadian law in question, but boy did I ever skim some badly-written articles about it, so in internet terms I'm pretty much an expert on this.

The general hubbub seems to be that sure, reporting requirements are already covered under existing law: ISPs (like any citizens or corporations) are already obliged to report child pornography if they happen to find it.... but it's that last part that seems to be under strain here. The worry in this case is the transfer of new responsibility on the ISPs to the point that they must be aware of what is hosted on their servers at any given moment, or be seen as tacitly approving/supporting/abetting.

That is, ISP-onus can be interpreted as a mandate requiring ISPs to monitor and filter content. And that's a huge amount of lifting, in ways technological, legal, and ethical. Your giant ATT providers might be just fine with it (I'm sure they already have billions in CIA-supplied equipment that already can do this, after all), but adding this burden would mark the end of any small ISP or web-hosting provider.

The question an ISP would fear in court: "How could you not know this image of a naked 11 year old was on your servers for six months? That's like saying you didn't notice the poster on your office wall."

Maybe a technologically-savvy judge can handle that sort of thing, and would realize that there's no reasonable way to monitor ever-changing content without installing human overseers at great expense. But the average judge? A jury? It's easy to see how they might hold an ISP liable for anything on their network.


I believe this legislation also applies to sites carried, not just hosted.

What do you mean by the word "carried" in this sentence? I sure hope you don't mean, for example, images transferred to end users over their ISP-supplied internet connection. Because that would take the above already-scary workload and make it ridiculous. Every word and image downloaded (read, viewed) by ever user? 24/7?

Again, I don't know much about this particular step, but most overall efforts in this direction seem to be neatly aligned against net neutrality. (One either passes the data, or discriminates.) As such, they are attractive to big ISPs/content providers who want to filter/control their streams anyway, for their own filthy and anticompetitive reasons.

Child porn is just a cynical wedge to use, and the big ISPs will use it as shamelessly as politicians do to get what they want: who could be against stopping child porn?
posted by rokusan at 8:48 PM on November 27, 2009


Bovine Love > "I believe this legislation also applies to sites carried, not just hosted."

What do you mean by carried? A website is hosted on one (or more, eg clusters or mirrors) server(s). If by carried you mean ANY pathway that may happen to handle one or more packets of an offending image, then you're either implying that each and every packet travelling the 'net must be intercepted, or you haven't quite grasped the fundamentals of the network technology.

I thought the slidy part of the slope was obvious, but I'm happy to expand upon it. If ISPs can be held responsible for the reporting of suspicious content on their servers, then it's not that much of a stretch to require them keep certain types of records just in case they might be hosting CP, and ultimately to provide regular server access to authorities for audits.

What happens next? Grammar police, and then we're all sunk.

Seriously, there's nothing in the legislation that the police can't do already, if CP is reported to them. ISPs have generally been cooperating on CP. And any porn-distributor with an IQ higher than their shoe size is not going to use web hosting in Canada or any jurisdiction with tough laws when they can serve their stuff from anywhere. Or they can use the "Dark" net that's the topic of this thread.

So, this proposed legislation is just a P.R. exercise to show that the Conservatives are tough on crime, without actually doing much.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:01 PM on November 27, 2009


or what rokusan just said. (I gptta preview more...)
posted by Artful Codger at 9:02 PM on November 27, 2009


rokusan: What do you mean by the word "carried" in this sentence? I sure hope you don't mean, for example, images transferred to end users over their ISP-supplied internet connection. Because that would take the above already-scary workload and make it ridiculous. Every word and image downloaded (read, viewed) by ever user? 24/7?

If you read up above, you would see that they specifically do *not* have to look for porn. It is spelled out. Again, and again, it is about observed content, *specifically* observed, by a person. Not traffic in general, nor hosted files in general.

Again, it is for observed content. It is not a law mandating searching for child porn, and specifically mentions the fact.

Codger: I thought the slidy part of the slope was obvious, but I'm happy to expand upon it. If ISPs can be held responsible for the reporting of suspicious content on their servers, then it's not that much of a stretch to require them keep certain types of records just in case they might be hosting CP, and ultimately to provide regular server access to authorities for audits.

That is just re-iterating your belief that the slope is there without any proof (in any way) that anyone is sliding down it. There is no evidence that those requirements are being developed, or will be developed, at all. Furthermore, as stated previously, they are *not* responsible for any suspicious content on their servers, they are responsible for reporting suspicious they have directly observed or received a complaint about, a rather different thing. Furthermore, what you are suggesting is that our current law requiring child abuse to be reported means that we will now pass laws requiring all people to install video camera's everywhere, record everything, review it and then report it. A bit of stretch, don't you think? That isn't so much a slope as it is a cliff.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:18 PM on November 27, 2009


The "start" of the slope is in the legislation that requires the ISP to be a part of the reporting chain, instead of just a utility, a server of websites. As I mentioned, the police already have the power to investigate any complaint, and the ISPs are already cooperating on CP. So this legislation really adds nothing to the process, except for unnecessarily prying open the door to the ISP.

> [ISPs] are *not* responsible for any suspicious content on their servers

.... aaaand this legislation would change that. Under this legislation, if an allegation of CP is made, the ISP can no longer just warn the website owner to remove the content, or just boot that client off. They HAVE to report it, and they HAVE to keep that content for a period (and probably all traffic records of that website owner). Not to do that is now a crime. That's responsibility.

We've all seen now nutty authorities can sometimes get about CP. Innocently post a baby photo with a tiny dick visible? CP. Amateurish nude sketch where the model looks... young? CP. Uncomfortably arty child portrait photos? CP. Playground telephoto shots? Paedophile. Who makes the call? Does the ISP have any discretion, or are they now obligated to pass ANY complaint up, whether they think it's valid or not? Is not reporting the baby pic with junior's dick automatically a crime? The bill says it is, if someone complains about it.

As rokusan said the principle at stake is net neutrality. The ISPs and carriage providers provide utilities - website hosting, conducting traffic to and from the wider internet, and individual connections. Anything that hinders their ability to offer those services or makes them responsible for content is a step against that neutrality, and if this legislation goes unchallenged, the precedent is set. The next step may be to make web hosts jointly liable for web content that is alleged to be libellous, offensive, infringing, NSFW.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:21 AM on November 28, 2009


The Fed DOJ would have already vetted it for Charter compliance is the thing,
Maybe not:
“The prevailing attitude was: ‘We'll sign the certification saying that this is Charter-proof – and let the judiciary fix it later,'” the insider said. “There is a real fix-it-later attitude.”

But the average judge? A jury? It's easy to see how they might hold an ISP liable for anything on their network.

It wouldn't be a jury trial. The general situation is that you don't have the right to a jury trial without being charged with an offense having jail time of 5 years or more. There are exceptions, but something like the ISP liability would not have a jury trial.

Beyond that, remember that findings of fact are to be interpreted, in a criminal situation, to the benefit of the accused. I'm not sure a judge would hold that, almost certainly not at the appellate level.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like the law's effects - but judges are less influenced by the 'think of the children' than you might think.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:37 PM on November 28, 2009


So how do I find this 'dark net'?
posted by Bageena at 7:29 PM on November 29, 2009


"Is Freenet still as slow as it was nine years ago?"

No. Instead of being godawful horrible pointlessly slow beyond all conception, now it's just unusably and worthlessly slow.
posted by majick at 4:18 PM on November 30, 2009


What kind of reaction to this are they expecting? Here's mine: "Sweet. Time to go blow something up. Once I've finished at the playground, naturally."
posted by malusmoriendumest at 10:11 PM on November 30, 2009


« Older 'World's strongest' beer with 32% strength launche...  |  Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments