Following NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s success in getting ISPs to turn off Usenet access and pretend it was a victory against child porn, a bunch of cable providers under the umbrella of the NCTA have announced an agreement with 45 attorneys general, claiming that they, too, are taking a “stand against child porn.” This “stand” is the same as what Cuomo pressured ISPs to do: officially it’s to block any newsgroup or website that is “known to host child pornography.” Taking a stand against child pornography would be a good thing — but this is not actually a stand against child pornography. This is trying to sweep a problem under the rug so that some politicians and some companies can get some good headlines.
Taking a stand against child porn wouldn’t be overly aggressively blocking access to internet destinations that may or may not have porn (and there’s no review over the list to make sure that they’re actually objectionable). Taking a stand against child porn would be hunting down those responsible for the child porn and making sure that they’re dealt with appropriately. Blocking access to some websites doesn’t solve the problem. Those who still produce and make use of child porn will still get it from other sources — but it will be more underground, making it more difficult for authorities to track down. Also, this sets an awful precedent in that the ISPs can point out that it’s ok for them to block “objectionable” content where they get to define what’s objectionable without any review. For those folks who support network neutrality, this is highly questionable, because it’s clearly going against the basic principles of network neutrality — but in a way no one will protest because they don’t want to be seen as siding with child pornographers. But the truth is this “stand” against child pornography won’t do anything to stop child pornographers other than making them harder to track down — and it sends these ISPs down the slippery slope of getting to decide what they think is objectionable content that should be blocked.