Hurry up and do absolutely nothing differently, or face the consequences....
New York AG Andrew Cuomo recently conducted a "sting" on broadband ISPs that consisted of discovering that Usenet is home to some horrible things (no, not TV show fan fiction
). Under penalty of suit, the AG then got ISPs to agree to highly publicized deals that ISPs themselves admit don't have them doing anything differently
. The deals seem aimed at providing good press for Cuomo, while allowing ISPs to justify their elimination of newsgroup services (AT&T now blocks the entire alt.binary hierarchy "for the children").
While Verizon, AT&T, AOL, Time Warner Cable and Sprint have all played along with Cuomo -- apparently Comcast has been ignoring the Attorney General's advances. In response, Cuomo is threatening legal action against Comcast, and has given the cable operator a five day ultimatum. While covering the story, the Associated Press
) made their FTP login information (and the letter) accessible for everyone to see (the password was quickly changed and the story edited). From a copy of the letter
(pdf) from Cuomo to Comcast:
Comcast's unwillingness to sign the code of conduct and purge its system of child pornography puts Comcast at the back of the pack in the race to fight this scourge, and would likely be surprising to Comcast's millions of customers across the country. Time is of the essence here, as every day without these measures is another day that this illegal material is sluicing through the Internet.
Last week the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), of which Comcast is the primary driver, announced a "historic" agreement with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). But the letter claims this deal "fell well short" of Cuomo's code of conduct. That's ironic, considering neither agreement appears to actually accomplish anything.
Cuomo's push is worrisome because it nudges ISPs into the role of content nanny; a role that by law
they weren't initially obligated to play (though some cases suggest otherwise
). The existing legal framework already effectively targets child porn at the source, while ISPs already cooperate with law enforcement in taking such content offline when notified. Placing ISPs in the role of front line content cop increases the possibility of pressure for increased ISP filtering down the line (extremism, whistle-blowers, people who pick on Dick Cheney, etc.).