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Current Topic: Internet Civil Liberties

Wendy's Blog: Legal Tags: My First DMCA Takedown
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 1:56 pm EST, Feb 21, 2007

That didn't take long. On Feb. 8, I posted to YouTube a clip taken from the Super Bowl: not the football, but the copyright warning the NFL stuck into the middle of it, wherein they tell you it's forbidden even to share "accounts of the game" without the NFL's consent.

Their copyright bot didn't seem to see the fair use in my educational excerpt, so YouTube just sent me their boilerplate takedown. Time to break out that DMCA counter-notification.

Wendy's Blog: Legal Tags: My First DMCA Takedown

Thought Crime
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 10:02 am EST, Feb 19, 2007

Christopher Soghoian posted the following simple idea in response to one of a myriad of proposals floating in Government this year to turn the Internet into an architecture of control.

Declan reports that Senators McCain and Schumer have proposed the SAFE act, which would create a national database of child porn images - or I'm guessing, simply require that the FBI make their own database public. ISPs would be given access to this database, and would be required to screen traffic and alert the authorities of any user who transmits/hosts an image that matches a fingerprint in this database.

Once the infrastructure is in place for them to compare hashes of child porn, it won't be too difficult for them to start comparing hashes of music, copies of dissident literature, photographs of dead soldiers in Iraq, anti-Scientology documentation, or anything else that someone with their hand in a Senator's pocket doesn't like.

To combat against this evil intrusion into our private Internet behavior, I now introduce 'broken glass'. It is a perl script that when given an image file, will change 1 pixel's red component by /- 1. It's not enough for the human eye to see, but it will make the MD5/SHA1 hash fingerprint of the image be completely different.

Then he pulled the code, fearing that he'll be accused of aiding and abetting child pornographers.

Source code pulled until I chat with a couple legal minds.

Its worth noting that the law doesn't require ISPs to screen traffic. It merely authorizes the sharing of child porn images for this purpose. Presumably there are ISPs lined up who want to do this but presently its illegal. Soghoian's perl script is a simple example of a myriad different things that can be done to data to make it invisible to this sort of screen. But Soghoian, having already had the FBI break into his house in the middle of the night for pointing out naked emperors, thought better of publishing the code.

Consider this in light of the recent Mooninite fiasco. What is deterred by the fact that the people who were hired to hang the signs are facing years in prison? Certainly not terrorism of any sort, or any kind of behavior that might reasonably be considered malicious, but a great deal is deterred. Are those things valuable? Of course. Are they worth the cost of not throwing the book at anything you mistake for an attack after it becomes clear that its not an attack? Of course. Do I expect authority to get that? No, I don't.

Neither Terrorism nor Child Porn need create these fissures in our society. It is our failure to avoid embracing fear and sensationalism that will be our undoing. We're still our own greatest threat.

Thought Crime

MemeStreams response to Georgia Senate Bill 59 - 2007
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 5:05 pm EST, Feb  4, 2007

A bill has been proposed in the Georgia State Senate which would require social networking websites, possibly including MemeStreams, to verify that minors who create accounts have parental permission. In practice this would mean that any Georgia website, no matter how benign, which allows users to create profiles, would be required to implement as yet undefined age validation procedures for all new users.

We believe that this proposal is a bad idea for a number of different reasons. We composed the following open letter to the sponsors of the legislation in an attempt to articulate our concerns.

BTW, If you are a Georgia resident and you are concerned about this issue, a polite and respectful letter to members of the Senate Science and Technology Committee wouldn't hurt.

MemeStreams response to Georgia Senate Bill 59 - 2007

The Global Online Freedom Act is back, and this time it looks much better!
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 5:14 pm EST, Jan 31, 2007

To promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments, and for other purposes.

While the original version of this proposal was well intentioned I raised some serious objections to it. This version is much better. The export provisions have been cleaned up considerably and the right answers are far more likely to be reached through the process envisioned here than the one that was proposed by the prior bill.

The provisions about hosting computers have been improved as well, but it remains to be seen if the changes are sufficient to make this workable. This bill simply prohibits U.S. companies from storing personal information about their customers in "internet restricting" countries. It really depends on how people have their technologies architected, but this is at least plausible. I think minimally there should be a grace period for reaching this goal, but if anything kills the bill it will be this provision.

Unfortunately the bill that I did like last year, which funded development of circumvention technology, does not appear to have been reproposed. However, that work could be funded under the Office of Internet Freedom proposed here.

The Global Online Freedom Act is back, and this time it looks much better!

Senator wants restrictions on social networking sites | Capitol Updates
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 11:29 am EST, Jan 30, 2007

A Georgia senator worried about the safety of young teenagers who log on to Internet social networking sites such as and has proposed a bill that would force such companies to tighten up their access to minors.

The measure would make it illegal for the owner or operator of a social networking Web site to allow minors to create or maintain a Web page without parental permission. Senate Bill 59 also would force and to allow parents or guardians to have access to their children’s Web pages at all times.

Oh great. Looks like this is going to be an interesting few months. Here is the bill.

Senator wants restrictions on social networking sites | Capitol Updates

Ixquick Protects Your Privacy!
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 12:30 am EST, Jan 30, 2007

Ixquick's position:
- You have a right to privacy.
- Your search data should never fall into the wrong hands.
- The only real solution is deleting your data.
- We delete our users' privacy data within 48 hrs.
- We are the first and only search engine to do so.
- Our initiative is receiving an overwhelmingly positive response!

This search engine claims that they delete their logs.

Ixquick Protects Your Privacy!

Wired News: Hillary: The Privacy Candidate?
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 1:24 pm EST, Jan 29, 2007

[Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton] has clearly staked out her positions on [digital-era privacy], and they're sending electronic civil libertarians' hearts a twitter.

Speaking as an electronic civil libertarian it is simply not possible for any position taken by the video game censorship candidate to send my "heart a twitter." If Clinton was interested in reaching people like me she wouldn't have been so vocal in attacking our culture over the past few years. What is, however, interesting is that Clinton is picking up this issue because it resonates with the people she is interested in reaching, mainstream Democrats. If mainstream Democrats care about privacy thats a good thing for privacy, regardless of who wins the Presidency.

Wired News: Hillary: The Privacy Candidate?

Wired News: Computer Privacy in Distress
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 7:07 pm EST, Jan 20, 2007

My computer is my most private possession. I have other things that are more dear, but no one item could tell you more about me than this machine.

Yet, a rash of recent court decisions says the Constitution may not be enough to protect my laptop from arbitrary, suspicionless and warrantless examination by the police.

Wired News: Computer Privacy in Distress

Wired 15.01: Lessig on his mistake
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 3:16 am EST, Jan 16, 2007

We pro-regulators were making an assumption that history has shown to be completely false: That something as complex as an OS has to be built by a commercial entity. Only crazies imagined that volunteers outside the control of a corporation could successfully create a system over which no one had exclusive command. We knew those crazies. They worked on something called Linux.

I think about this mistake whenever I think about the current Microsoft-like network-neutrality debate – whether network owners can pick the stuff that flows across "their" network.

Wired 15.01: Lessig on his mistake

Illegal Images Must Be Reported!
Topic: Internet Civil Liberties 8:32 pm EST, Dec 12, 2006

Oh boy...

Any social-networking site must take "effective measures" to remove any Web page that's "associated" with a sex offender.

Because "social-networking site" isn't defined, it could encompass MemeStreams.

"This constitutionally dubious proposal is being made apparently mostly based on fear or political considerations rather than on the facts," said EFF's Bankston.

In other words, Sen. McCain would like to welcome you to the social wedge issue for the 2008 election: Internet Predators.

Calling this "Constitutionally dubious" is the understatement of the year. However, anyone who raises their voice in opposition to this will be branded as a pedophile sympathizer, so you can rest assured that this will roll through Congress like a hot knife through butter. The inevitable result will be a Constitutional challenge and a lot of really pissed off people on the Internet, as every independent blogger, and every small website like this one, will be forced to comply with federal regulations that were designed with multi-million dollar companies in mind. Of course, thats impossible, but unlike Clinton, Bush will not forgo enforcement pending the outcome of the challenge, resulting in what will basically amount to a fundamental threat to the future of online discourse.

As the 2008 election season unfolds this thing will be winding its way through the federal appeals process, with a literal 5 alarm fire burning online as site after site shuts down out of fear of liability that some user might have committed statutory rape while in high school 30 years ago. Conservative pundits will be handed a constant stream of angry commentary from Internet users and quotations from civil liberties attorneys like Bankston to hold up before the masses while saying things like "these liberals want to defend child molestors, this is what you get if you vote for a Democrat!"

But, there is one thing they're not counting on. This isn't 1995. Today, all of the smart, well educated, powerful people in this country use online discussion systems. Obviously, the Republicans haven't figured out where their money is coming from. If they really decide to carpet bomb the Internet they may be in for a surprise. Would you donate money to the guy who killed your favorite website?

Illegal Images Must Be Reported!

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