For the last few months, Google has been dealing with the changing tides of public opinion. Many sites and pundits have started calling The Big G out for search results that seem to be increasingly filled with so-called "content farms". These are sites run by the likes of Demand Media that create huge amounts of (sometimes) low-quality articles directed at getting search hits. Now, with a new Chrome extension Google has started fighting back in earnest.
While it’s no secret that the Australian government is a fan of censoring and filtering the country’s Internet, they’re taking a bold new step this time. They’re planning to block BitTorrent completely.
The move comes from the Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy, who wrote in a blog post that he’s planning to oversee a trial if technology could filter data sent directly between computers as opposed to data downloaded from a central server. “Technology that filters peer-to-peer and BitTorrent traffic does exist and it is anticipated that the effectiveness of this will be tested in the live pilot trial,” said Senator Conroy.
“I'm aware that this proposal has attracted significant debate and criticism – on this blog and at other places in the blogosphere,” Senator Conroy wrote. And how does he plan to follow that debate? “I'm following the debate at sites like Whirlpool and GetUp and on Twitter at #nocleanfeed.”
Wikipedia clearly is among the most innocuous websites and one can not imagine it being blocked by a child pornography filtering mechanism. However, the improbable has just occurred in the UK. The whole problem began when an image of a Scorpions album prompted Internet Watch Foundation’s Cleanfeed child pornography filtering system - used by many of the leading UK ISPs - to block the particular page.
Consequently, all traffic to Wikipedia from ISPs that deploy Cleanfeed beagn to be routed through transparent proxies – one proxy per ISP. Even if a single user is barred from editing by Wikipedia’s anti-vandalism system, all other users using the same proxy suffer exactly in the same fashion as most UK-based Wikipedia users are sharing a handful of IP addresses.
You can track the problem as it unfolds on this Wikipedia page dedicated to it. The IWF has stated on its website that the particular page was reported through its online reporting mechanism. After it was found unsuitable for minors, the page was “added to the list provided to ISPs and other companies in the online sector to protect their customers from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child.”
In a seemingly never ending battle with the FCC, Comcast is back on the offensive. The cable giant is looking to overturn the ruling reached on August 1st which found them in violation of the FCC’s network neutrality principles. Comcast was mandated to immediately cease any packet shaping initiatives and to publically disclose the full extent of its traffic blocking policies. Experts close to the case have chimed in on the issue and it would appear as though news of the appeal wasn’t all that surprising. Comcast has become famous in legal circles for appealing any decision it doesn’t agree with, and this case is no exception. Comcast firmly believes that packet shaping of peer-to-peer traffic is a legitimate and reasonable means of managing network traffic and intends to defend that contention to the bitter end. Despite the impending appeal, Comcast has agreed to abide by the FCC mandates until a new verdict is reached. Comcast’s packet shaping activities have been in the spotlight since late 2007 when the Associated Press revealed proof that Comcast was blocking P2P traffic during peak hours. The FCC case was seen as a test run help to determine if it could enforce its network neutrality principles. I’m sure most Maximum PC readers are rooting for the FCC, but since so little precedent in a case like this; the outcome of an appeal could still go either way.
Various streaming video services, and not just Youtube, have found favor among internet users in Britain and that has driven people away from P2P. Furthermore, according to PlusNet’s Dave Tomlinson, people are turning to streaming videos as they want to access content instantly.
All ISPs unequivocally despise P2P traffic and some have even devised clandestine methods to suppress it. There machinations against P2P are always wrapped in the puritanical garb of fighting piracy. Although streaming services are also used for propagating copyrighted content, the percentage of such unauthorized content is nothing compared to P2P. So ISPs might not have a moral pretext to combat streaming video, if it becomes as popular as P2P.
The Federal Communications Commission is now going to reign in on Comcast’s controversial practice of hampering peer-to-peer internet traffic. Out of the five FCC commissioners, three have voted, thus far, on whether Comcast is liable for punishment for filtering internet traffic. And all of them want the cable company to be punished, but the punitive order will officially be executed once the remaining members have voted – a mere formality. The FCC doesn’t intend to fine Comcast but merely wants it to abstain from internet traffic filtering altogether.
Comcast has been in the eye of the “network neutrality” storm since August, 2007, when TorrentFreak revealed that the leading cable company was filtering internet traffic. It is rumored that the company utilizes Sandvine hardware for warding off P2P traffic but Comcast has not even acknowledged that it indulges in such practices. Comcast is currently busy defending itself in a class-action suit which alleges that the company’s actual services betray its promises, for it restricts internet access despite promising unshackled service.
This being such a contentious issue, that has invited intense reactions from all corners, you all are expected to set the comments section afire.
Major wireless carriers, including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, and their primary trade association, the CTIA, are opposing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s proposal that would put free wireless broadband in the hands of consumers. This is the filtered public broadband proposal that we covered before. Basically it is an advertising-supported network that would filter out porn and who knows what else.
I disagree with Martin’s proposal on that filtering the service would be wrong, unless adults have a way to shut off the filtering. It just smacks of China somehow. I also disagree that the government should fund such a service directly competing with small businesses that are already trying to offer similar services. I also don’t believe the government has the experience or structure needed to run such a network effectively. They aren't facing any of the realities needing to be confronted in the operation and control of the system.
How does the CITA look at the FCC proposal? Hit the jump to see.
It sounds like Comcast is about to get it’s hand slapped for blocking P2P file sharing on it’s network. That is good news, as it will send a message about screwing with folks internet access. The funny part is where the message is coming from.
The head of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin Martin said he will recommend that the Comcast be punished for violating agency principles that guarantee customers open access to the Internet. "The commission has adopted a set of principles that protects consumers access to the Internet," Martin told The Associated Press. "We found that Comcast's actions in this instance violated our principles."
This is the same Kevin Martin that wants a free but filtered national broadband that we covered previously. Don’t mess with people’s file sharing, but it is a good idea to filter access to information. (we really want our pr0n). Ah, the duplicity of politicians, even appointed ones. It’s kind of like the obnoxious Uncle from when you were a kid. He’d point at your shoes so he could whack you upside the head while you were looking at your feet.
More on Martin's order for Comcast after the jump.
Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin's quest for a free, wireless, national broadband service for the people has taken a new turn. On the surface it sounds good, they did say “free” after all. That is free in the monetary sense, not in the free thinking, freedom loving sense. Of course I can hear my economics Professor shrieking “TINSTAAFL” (There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) at me now in her high pitched voice. Oh, the horrors of college. Of course the American people would have to pay for this in one of the many taxes we now enjoy paying, or maybe we get the pleasure of a nice new tax somewhere.