Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Supreme Court lets COPA ruling stand without review


The ACLU has announced that the Supreme Court has declined to review Judge Reed’s 2007 opinion striking down The Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA) (and the Third Circuit’s concurring opinion last July). Here is the Press Release, dated Jan 21, 2009, “Supreme Court Refuses to Revive Online Censorship Law”, here. The ACLU email calls this “an amazing result.”

The ACLU has a 3-minute YouTube video on COPA "Protecting Children and Free Speech Online", here.

Patricia Neal Warren (Wildcat Press and “The Front Runner” classic lgbt novel) wrote today in an email “And yes, we won't be surprised to see another monstrosity of a new bill show up.” But that can be true in a lot of other areas (maybe something like mandatory insurance).

Lee Tien of Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article, Jan. 21, 2009, "After 10 Years, an Infamous Internet-Censorship Act is Finally Dead," link here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

China, Hong Kong, British Commonwealth all interesting in rating and filtering sites with filter technology


Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a interesting perspective, dated Jan. 14, 2009, “Global Net Censorship in 2009: For the Children, For the Rightsholders, link here.

On this COPA blog, we already considered the Internet Safety Technical Task Report, which seems to indicate that children are safer than we thought. Everyone knows that China has strict Internet censorship, mostly to quash political dissent, but to “protect children” with respect to their Confucian values. Less known is the fact that Hong Kong is implementing a somewhat “milder” censorship practice, restricting bandwidth and imposing a “three strikes rule” for offenders, similar to what the RIAA wants ISP’s to do now regarding copyright infringement. The same is coming true in Britain and Australia, which are considering ratings systems. But we’ve already noted the ICRA (centered in London) is already making strides getting the net publishing and browsing community to adopt a filtering system, that would probably be more effective than the “adult ID” concepts that had been proposed for COPA. I would expect to find the same trend in socially conservative countries, like Singapore and Malaysia.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Internet Safety Technical Task Force finds Internet not dangerous for minors, but questions age verification attempts


The Internet Safety Technical Task Force has issued a final report (Tuesday Jan 13) “Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies: Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States” with the link here on the Harvard Law School site. The report is almost 300 pages long, like a book. The Task Force found that, as a whole, cyberbullying among teens was a far more serious threat that sexual predators (as in the notorious NBC Dateline series). Unlike many other sources, it feels that most Internet users in the US use it in good faith. Apparently it does not think most general content is harmful to minors. Furthermore (relative to what was already litigated in COPA) it found that it would be hard for companies to verify the ages of minors because they usually lack driver’s licenses (since states are raising ages) and their own insurance. Apparently the unsuitability of using credit cards for this purpose is a given now, as it was analyzed in the COPA trial in 2006.

The New York Times has a story on the report on p A14 on Wednesday Jan. 14, by Brad Stone, here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Parents, schools should be wary of proxy servers; however COPA had addressed the issue


One problem with using filters could be the idea that minors could visit proxy servers, which then would deliver material to them that ordinarily be filtered. Mixx this morning (Jan 5) is offering a story by “Punch Through” that explains how this works. I note that McAfee has not rated the site yet, and I wonder what the policy toward a proxy service from a safety rating service like McAfee Site Advisor or Web of Trust should be, since the service seems to be designed to get around parental or school controls.

The descriptive page for Punch Through is here.

A home user (such as a minor) who uses this site might risk visiting a harmful site, with spyware, in the attempt to see “prohibited” content. I don’t know how anti-virus software would behave when sites are visited this way.

The COPA opinion, mentioned below, discussed the Proxy server issue, and PunchThrough's claims may not be completely correct. Nevertheless, public school administrators and information technology departments should monitor their systems (such as Internet caches) and make sure that students do not use unauthorized proxy servers. Parents should do likewise. In this environment, there is no substitute for parents who are Internet-educated themselves and tuned in to what their teenagers want to do online. Parents and schools should also use memory content-based as well as blacklist or whitelist filters, as noted below.

Furthermore, proxy server access would not get around voluntary content label filtering, as discussed before on this blog.

In the March 22, 2007 COPA Opinion (link is available on the entry for that date on this blog) and ruling by Judge Reed, Point 108 on p 35 maintains that it is difficult for minors to circumvent filters with proxy servers and cites testimony at the 2006 trial in Philadelphia. Point 109 points out that accessing a Proxy server will not avoid the effect of a filter that analyzes the content of a page once delivered to computer memory, although it might avoid blacklist or whitelist technologies.

Point 183, on p 58, discusses geolocation of access, including proxy server access, through companies like Quova, with which I once had a phone discussion. The point goes on to discuss AOL access also, with behaves like proxy access in some ways.