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When Porn really is free speech 3/21/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Government.
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In the past few years, U.S. courts have made a series of incomprehensible rulings protecting nudity and obscenity as if they were types of free speech contemplated when the First Amendment was written. Finally, here is a situation where there actually is the semblance of a connection, as can be understood by reviewing history. When the printing press was invented, governments immediately instituted licensing, prior restraint, and censorship to suppress criticism. When broadcasting was invented, governments immediately either took full ownership of it or required proof of “responsible use” for renewal of licenses, greatly chilling criticism of public officials. But as the Internet has emerged in the U.S., it has remained surprisingly free of government intervention, and Thomas Jefferson would be thrilled to see how it is allowing citizens to monitor and criticize their officials to an unprecedented degree. Beyond the obvious futility of passing laws that only impact sites originating from the U.S., do we really want to invite in the government to regulate the Internet? Once that precedent is set, politicians will only find more definitions of what is “responsible” and we will relive the era of chilled political speech that came along with broadcasting. (BTW, these same arguments can be applied to Net Neutrality legislation, something that ought to give pause to its many fans in Silicon Valley).

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1. strom - 3/22/07

Go take a look at http://www.cp80.org/ and see if you can collect the numerous technical reasons that assigning Internet port numbers for particular content (meaning porn and other things that kids shouldn’t see) is such a bad idea. Silly wabbit, ports are for protocols, and last time I checked, protocols don’t care about content and shouldn’t. Not only is it too much work to completely redesign TCP/IP to address this hairbrained scheme, but it is doomed to fail even if you could.

And too bad port 69 is already taken for something really ironically useful (you get extra points if you know off the top of your head what it is).

Let’s get that .xxx TLD going, not that that is much of a solution, either. Any solution is going to be more parental than technological, anyway.

Favorite comment from Annalee Newitz: The group “sadly isn’t a phalanx of uptight androids who enjoy mysteriously homoerotic relationships with mailbox-shaped companions.” Doesn’t that bring something to mind? What a wasted effort.
— David Strom


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