Wednesday, January 9, 2008

CP80: designed by Americans, for Americans

CP80 is a proposal being promoted in the United States as a means of "cleaning up" the Internet. Under the proposal, it would become illegal, under US law, to host adult content on port 80 and a number of other designated "Community Ports". Individual consumers could then choose to block access to "Open Ports" and to "Community Ports" of IP addresses with non-compliant content. This blocking would be enforced at the ISP-level.

On first glance, this proposal is apparently an improvement over the current Australian Government proposal because it is an opt-in solution for individual consumers. It does, however, impose a censorship regime on the so-called "Community Ports". The proponents of CP80 indicate that parties who violate the content restrictions of "Community Ports" will be liable to prosecution.

It is clear that the intent of this proposal is to drive adult and other non-acceptable content onto other ports where it can then be more easily attacked by traffic shaping and filtering technologies. Evidence that there is a hidden agenda of this kind is clear from this quote:

No longer will non-porn viewing consumers be forced to subsidize porn-viewing consumers—because the average porn-viewing consumer uses a considerably more bandwidth than non-porn viewer.

This statement would be true, if and only if, CP80 also contained an explicitly specified proposal to filter or otherwise shape traffic generated by porn-viewing consumers. However, this is not stated explicitly, which suggests that the proponents do in fact have a hidden agenda to do this, perhaps with a later proposal. Their failure to directly mention this in their current proposal suggests they are afraid of scaring the horses with an explicit proposal to involuntarily filter or shape "Open Ports". Their self-righteous sense of moral indignation, however, has caused them to subconsciously reveal their hand.

The CP80 proposal creates a "zoning" fallacy which suggests that there is a direct correspondence between IP ports and local government zones.

This is a very shoddy analogy. In the real world, if the place next door is zoned in such a way to allow a brothel to operate, then the neighbours of that brothel have their amenity directly and seriously affected. This is not true with adult content distributed over port 80, despite the fear mongering of the pro-censorship lobby.

To be clear, just because a someone else on the Internet is using port 80 to view porn doesn't mean that you have to - your amenity is not anyway affected by what that other person does. The quality of your own Internet experience is directly determined by the regions of the Internet you choose to visit and what you choose to view. The notion that your own amenity will be substantially improved by censoring adult content on port 80 is absurd, since the net change in porn you consume will be zero.

If people want to opt-in to IP address based blacklists of their own choosing, then let them do that. Censoring forces should not expect the forces of freedom to support them in their attempt to shove their moral standards down other peoples throats which is exactly what the policy of traffic shaping is about.

And before you attack me with hysterical claims that it is pornographers who are shoving pornography down everyone else's throats, please step back and take a reality check. If pornography is currently "wheedling" it's way into your household via port 80, it is because you or someone in your household has pulled it there. Pornographic material accessed by HTTP doesn't just appear in your browser. It gets there because the user of the browser is insufficiently careful about which sites they visit. If your innocent children are exposed in this way a PC-based filter will adequately address the issue. If your children are not so innocent to be trusted with a PC-based filter, then lobby your ISP to provide you with a sufficiently totalitarian filter that provides you with the level of censorship you desire - just leave mine alone.

In the Australian context, the CP80 policy is irrelevant. Australia already regulates its own adult content providers by demanding that adult content is shielded by a logon prompt. Admittedly, this doesn't deal with material hosted overseas, but then Australia doesn't have any jurisdictional authority over material hosted there.

From a personal view, my main concern is that a proposal like CP80 would enable mechanisms by which other unsavoury content could be effectively censored by socially regressive forces in the USA. As a hypothetical example, suppose it was deemed that pictures of dead Palestinian babies shot by Israeli soldiers wasn't acceptable on Community Ports. Media organizations would be free to publish such pictures on "Open Ports", but anyone blocking these ports would not receive the images, thereby effectively censoring them from a large proportion of the "morally upstanding" community.

Is that scaremongering? Perhaps, but then the CP80 proposal is very vague about how the acceptable content rules would be determined. It is also very vague about who the ultimate proponents of the initiative are. True, many respectable corporations have put their names to the proposal but it is far from clear that these corporations are the original instigators of the proposal.

I think it is a reasonable question to ask. Who is behind CP80 and what is their agenda?


Deborah said...

Firstly, there is nothing revolutionary about your blog. You want to maintain the status quo on the web--what is revolutionary about that?

Secondly, you obvioulsy haven't grasped the concept of CP80 and I recommend you do your research before making such wild accusations. I suggest a thorough reading of the CP80 website.

The CP80 initiative will create Community Ports. All porn and violence will remain on Port80 (the open port), so those of you who want your porn won't have to do anything different to what you are doing now. Because the system will be 'opt-in' you will not have to identify yourselves to any government authority.

As I've already explained on my blog and if you did your research on the CP80 website, you would know that this proposal is just like having different channels, like you get on cable TV. No censorship, Jon, just giving internet users a real choice for the first time. Afterall, you wouldn't expect an XXX rated program on a kid's TV channel would you?

In regards to your final point, the CP80 is a grassroots initiative started by a group of private citizens. So there is no hidden agenda, Jon. I am not affiliated with any religious or political groups. I am campaigning as a private citizen for the government to investigate the CP80 initiative option. There is nothing more to it than that.

BTW, this will be my only response, I have no wish to debate this issue with you yet again. No point trying to link to my website either. I no longer approve comments from those who oppose any changes to the Internet, so this group are no longer visiting my blog and you will no longer find support there.

Your argument is based on your personal opinion. It is your right to voice your opinion, but it doesn't mean the rest of us have to read it.

Jon Seymour said...

This response was so rich that it deserved a posting all of its own.

Danny Yee said...

The CP80 idea is just broken.

A much less broken idea would be to pick a *new* port and declare that to be a "children's content" port. Then you get governments to make it an offense to put anything unsuitable for children on it...

This is still not going to fly, but at least it's not obviously broken.