Cuomo: Just Say No to Usenet

Published on June 10, 2008
by John Paczkowski

John Gilmore once famously claimed that “the Internet interprets censorship as failure and routes around it.” If he’s right, there’s no reason to worry that an agreement by three of the nation’s largest Internet service providers to block access to newsgroups and Web sites that traffic in child pornography might have other frightening consequences. If not, well …

Prodded into action by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Verizon (VZ), Sprint (S) and Time Warner Cable (TWX) have agreed to block Web sites identified by Cuomo as ones that disseminate child pornography. They’ve also agreed to restrict access nationwide to most, and in the case of Time Warner Cable all, of Usenet’s discussion groups, most of which are not repositories of illegal material. To repeat, Time Warner will now block all of USENET.

“It’s going to make a significant difference,” Cuomo said of the agreement. “It’s like the issue of drugs. You can attack the users or the suppliers. This is turning off the faucet. Does it solve the problem? No. But is it a major step forward? Yes. And it’s ongoing. No one is saying you’re supposed to be the policemen on the Internet, but there has to be a paradigm where you cooperate with law enforcement, or if you have notice of a potentially criminal act, we deem you responsible to an extent. This literally threatens our children, and there can be no higher priority than keeping our children safe.”

Of course. A noble effort, this curtailing of access to child pornography. It would just be unfortunate if it became the first step in widespread Internet censorship.

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