June 30, 2004

SmartFilter / Secure Computing Web Porn Study is "Fabricated", claims target

[You heard it here first! And I know a great deal about David Burt (censorware PR Rep) and SmartFilter's propensity for fabrication - more later]


Numbers in Secure Computing Study on Web Porn Were Fabricated and Defame the Tiny Nation of Niue

June 30, 2004 07:13 PM US Eastern Timezone

.NU Domain to Take Legal Action Against Secure Computing In Connection with Its Study on Web Porn

"This study," [said J. William Semich, President of .NU Domain Ltd.], "along with all its claims about Niue and the .nu domain name, is false and defamatory."

Full Press Release below (I have no connection with these people, except for wishing them well against censorware company phony studies)

June 30, 2004 07:13 PM US Eastern Timezone

.NU Domain to Take Legal Action Against Secure Computing In Connection with Its Study on Web Porn

MEDFIELD, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 30, 2004--

Numbers in Secure Computing Study on Web Porn Were Fabricated and Defame the Tiny Nation of Niue

.NU Domain Ltd, the US-based operator of the .nu top level domain name registry, today announced that it will take legal action against Secure Computing Corporation (NASDAQ:SCUR) for making false claims that .NU Domain is hosting millions of pages of pornographic material. The company also stated that it will take legal action against anyone who republishes this inaccurate and defamatory study.

Secure Computing Corporation released a report on June 24, 2004 which it says shows the global distribution of millions of pornographic Web pages by the top 100 individual country domains. The report falsely states that "The domain of the Island nation of Niue hosts an astonishing 3 million pages of pornography on its .NU domain."

"There are no such pornographic Web pages being hosted in Niue or by the .nu top level domain, nor were there ever any such Web pages," said J. William Semich, President of .NU Domain Ltd.

"This study," he added, "along with all its claims about Niue and the .nu domain name, is false and defamatory." There are approximately 100,000 .nu domain names currently active on the Internet Worldwide. Since first launching registration services for .nu domain names on the Internet in 1997, .NU Domain Ltd has developed one of the most stringent sets of policies and terms of use of any domain name in the world. "Since then," Semich said, "we have deactivitated, revoked or removed about 6,000 names for violating our policies or US laws, including aggressive policies against pornography."

Rather than being a geographic study of Internet pornography, the Secure Computing report is merely a summation of the total number of Web page URLs the company has listed in its Web site access control filter. The more Web pages it can list in its filter the more protection it can claim to be providing, so in an apparent attempt boost the count, Secure Computing has included thousands of inactive and expired domain names, and the millions of Web pages associated with them, in its SmartFilter(R) v4 Control List. "The number of pornographic Web pages it has listed as being associated with the .nu domain name is wildly inflated as a result," said Semich.

.NU Domain has intentionally structured its use and pricing policies to discourage pornographers from using .nu domain names in their businesses. "Pornography Web site operators prefer to use the lowest cost domain names for their Web pages," said Semich. "Since they register many domain names - often thousands - for the same pornographic Web site. .NU Domain Ltd requires a two-year registration period to register a .nu domain name, for a total cost of $60 US or 60 Euro. Registrars for .com domain names charge as little as $8 US and only require a one-year registration."

About .NU Domain Ltd

.NU Domain Ltd, is a US-based private corporation located in Medfield, MA. .NU Domain is the leading commercial Top Level Domain Name Registry serving Northern Europe. It is also the only Top Level Domain in the world that can support the complete UNICODE international character set in live Web addresses without requiring the use of browser plug-ins or other changes to customer systems, using its unique patent-pending technology.

Besides its free blogging service for customers at http://www.blogga.nu, .NU Domain Ltd also offers free domain name parking services for customers who need to lock in a domain name but have no immediate plans to use it, and, for a small annual fee, the .NU InstantWeb Service which provides a quick, five-page mini Web site with blog pages, or URL forwarding for your .NU domain name to a Yahoo, AOL or other personal Web site without a unique domain name, and .NU InstantMail Forwarding so AOL, Hotmail and other mail service users can have a unique .NU mail address. You can visit .NU Domain Ltd on the World Wide Web at http://www.nunames.nu.


.NU Domain Ltd: J. William Semich, 508-359-5600, bill[at-sign]nic.nu
Laura MacSweeney, 781-395-6420, lmacsweeney[at-sign]comcast.net

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on June 30, 2004 09:58 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 29, 2004

Internet Censorship Law and Censorware Politics

[This is a REPOST of a message I wrote a few months ago. I'm putting it here again since I'm busy today with paid work, and besides, it says just about what I'd say anyway in reaction to the recent "COPA" net censorship decision.]

I probably shouldn't waste my time writing these posts, but the recent net censorship Supreme Court argument struck a deep chord with me:

Ms. Beeson argued that there were less restrictive alternatives to the pornography law: parents could now take matters into their own hands by using Internet filtering software and configuring it to reflect their own values. Congress already requires that schools and libraries use filters.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia seemed skeptical of that argument, however, and both noted that the civil liberties union had opposed the library filtering bill. Mr. Olson also noted that a number of Web sites gave step-by-step instructions on defeating the technology.

Here - not ancient history, not years ago, but this week's Supreme Court Internet censorship law arguments [update 6/29 - and now Supreme Court decision] - is an illustration of the problem I faced for so many years. Because the part of the civil-liberties strategy was, and remains, arguing favorably about censorware in this legal context. See Peter Junger's "least restrictive means" message for the best legal analysis (in my view).

I never opposed this as a legal argument. But for too long, for too many prominent people, that legal argument turned into a social argument for touting censorware. And so ...

If you said censorware didn't work, you were going against the strategy.

And that was bad. And thus the censorware critics had to be discredited. And here my trouble began.

In 1995, when I first decrypted censorware. I called my then-friend Mike Godwin, famous net.legend Internet civil-liberties lawyer, for help. Well, at that time, he was making policy advocacy statements such as:

This is why I believe that the right role for Congress to play is to encourage the development of software filters that prevent my child and others from being harmed in the first place.

Recall that the basic technology we're talking about here is the computer -- the most flexible, programmable, "intelligent" technology we build and market.

-- Mike Godwin, 1995 Congressional testimony

Thus he was not pleased to be informed about censorware's lack of "intelligent" technology. And I got an earful of all the (my description) dirty deals that were trying to be cut behind the scenes. I suppose now it's no secret that the ACLU blew me off when I tried to get their help (I still have the messages). But they didn't go on a personal attack-campaign about it.

Anyway, much has happened since then. However, some of the fundamental paradoxes are still in evidence - this week, in the Supreme Court.

I note this in an attempt at a "teachable moment". When I try to explain the background of censorware politics, the factors which caused things to evolve as they did, I often get trivialization and dismissiveness ("Petty bickering! Size measuring! Pissing contest!"). It's so easy to scream "EGO!", which means you don't have to think about anything.

There were, and are, reasons which drove it all, and still matter right now. But looking back on how it affected me, over nearly a decade: If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't. Personally, it wasn't worth it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism , censorware , legal | on June 29, 2004 05:13 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3) | Followups
June 28, 2004

My Expert Witness Report quoted in FCC filing by EFF

I've just found that there is an on-line reference for an EFF filing to the FCC which quotes my expert witness work:


Before the Federal Communications Commission Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of

WC Docket No. 04-36 IP-Enabled Services

I'm on page 7, as footnote 17 (URLs added):

A tangle of local regulations may also lead to a wasteful and privacy-undermining effort by service providers and even publishers to determine the physical locations of all Internet users. [footnote 17]

[17] See Expert Witness Report of Seth Finkelstein, Barbara Nitke et al. v. John Ashcroft, 01 Civ. 11476 (RMB), S.D.N.Y., available at http://sethf.com/nitke/ashcroft.php (noting limitations and expense of geolocation technology; distinguishing "co-operative" from "oppositional" geolocation).

I'm an authority! :-)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on June 28, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 26, 2004

INDUCE ACT (IICA) Talking Points From Prof. Susan Crawford

Read this: Overstatement and IICA

There are reasonable people walking on this earth who will say that the IICA is not a big deal. Rather than jump down their throats, I'm going to suggest that we slow things down, have some hearings, and try to get to the bottom of what's going on. Three kinds of arguments, all of which interrelate, are being thrown back and forth:

[N.b.: This is the about the new copywrong, a proposed "inducement" liability]

Andrew Orlowski wanted resources for "Concerned citizens looking for NRA-style talking points". The above isn't NRA-style, but definitely worthwhile.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on June 26, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 25, 2004

CMP, Google News, and the Echo Chamber

Now that the claim that CMP Media was blocking Google News, seems to have proven unfounded (though they do block CNET, I've verified that), I was curious as to how it spread. An interesting thing about all the data available, is that often it's possible to make an attempt to trace the path of a story.

It turns out a trace has already been done in an article by Sam Whitmore's Media Survey. Birds on a Wire:

Jonathan Dube's cyberjournalist.net blog had no such luck Jun. 24 when it reported that CMP Media was blocking Google News from linking to CMP news articles.

Once one bird flew off the wire, others followed.


If Cyberjournalist.net says it saw CMP blocking Google News, then it did, as far as we're concerned. But no one else did. Did anyone from Cyberjournalist.net call CMP to ask why it was blocking Google News? You'll have to ask them. All we know is that Cyberjournalist.net filed the blog item and others picked it up.

In the spirit of skepticism, I did my own trace, with a Feedster search on CMP and Google. The results are similar to the above.

Interesting result: I'd never heard of Cyberjournalist.net before this. It seems to be a "local" A-list, in that net journalists and PR types know it, but not people outside the field. Maybe the story was stopped before it could really get going? Perhaps because it involved journalists, who are members of the tribe, and so are heard by other journalists, when they complain about wrong stories? (if so, that's not helpful to me for my own media defense problems).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on June 25, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 24, 2004

CMP Media, Google News, blocking report

There's a report, now A-listed, that:

CMP Media is blocking links from Google News. When you click on a link on Google News to a headline on one of CMP Media's technology publications, you get [a block page]

I can't reproduce this. I'm not saying it's wrong, but I can't get it to happen for me. It's of course possible that CMP changed it.

I can get that blocking to happen from a few domains. Anything at domains:

"com.com" (CNET/ZDNet), "cnet.com", "linuxtoday.com".

But not from news.google.com or similar.

It's working off the "Referer:" HTTP header, so any header-removing privacy program stops the effect.

[Yeah, I know I should be cheerleading today on the INDUCE Act. But I want to use my technical skills, that's my strength, and in addition Google is a much less dangerous topic for me]

Update: Seems not to be true, or a brief accident. There's commentary in the cyberjournalist post

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on June 24, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
June 23, 2004

Weblogs.com And The Aftermath

Given that news article followups on the weblogs.com shutdown have appeared today, and other flack is flying, I'll risk some retrospective comments.

Now, I don't think this was "a 9/11 of sorts for the weblogs.com bloggers". Not because 9/11 references are sacred, but rather the metaphor seems wrong. Rather, this was a Howard Dean implosion of sorts, complete with a "Dean Scream"-like remix contest. Very similar dynamics. The center of the firestorm claiming that a minor event had been blown out of proportion, that opponents took advantage, it all sounded very familiar. But deeper, it's another moment when an overhyped promise of social change goes down in, err, flames. Or, just to take one notable comment:

Anyway, I got out of it. Now onto the next time I'm attacked. I want to be ready for it. I want to make sure my track record is available to the press, and that there are people to disagree with the flamers about the danger (they grossly exaggerated it, no surprise, but no one but me said otherwise). And finally, turning the focus on the flamers, so if they're hiding anything, a conflict of interest, a reason to doubt their competence, this has to come out at their moment of greatest vulnerability. Maybe one more huge shitfest. I imagine the ones with something to lose will be much more careful already.

Here is the Blog God, importuning the Great Satanic Powers (aka BigPress), hoping they shall smite his enemies, almost literally seeking the lamentations of the women.

Long live blogocracy!

It's all about gatekeepers.

I've said about the RSS/Atom Wars: "How can you route around big media, revolutionize society, create new forms of participatory democracy, solve deeply complicated social problems ... when "we" CAN'T EVEN AGREE ON A FORMAT FOR WEB SITE CONTENT SYNDICATION?!

Now crank it up to "handling stressed server".

YEARRGH! [Deanish Scream]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on June 23, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (0) | Followups
June 22, 2004

Personal Technology Freedom Coalition

Speaking of assembling political coalitions, a "Personal Technology Freedom Coalition" has been formed to lobby for the DMCRA (a DMCA reform bill).

The Personal Technology Freedom Coalition kicked off Tuesday with a Capitol Hill press conference and support from more than two dozen organizations and companies. Supporters ranged from the United States Student Association and Consumers Union to tech giants Intel Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Gateway Inc. Four major telecommunications carriers and ISPs, including Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., also joined the coalition.

A cynical view: Money? Money? Where are the lobbyists, I don't even see a website.

I've been thinking of this part of the DRM speech

But now we live in a world where any cipher used to fence off a copyrighted work is off-limits to that kind of feedback. That's something that a Princeton engineering prof named Ed Felten discovered when he submitted a paper to an academic conference on the failings in the Secure Digital Music Initiative, a watermarking scheme proposed by the recording industry. The RIAA responded by threatening to sue his ass if he tried it. We fought them because Ed is the kind of client that impact litigators love: unimpeachable and clean-cut and the RIAA folded. Lucky Ed. Maybe the next guy isn't so lucky.

Matter of fact, the next guy wasn't. Dmitry Skylarov is a Russian programmer who gave a talk at a hacker con in Vegas on the failings in Adobe's e-book locks. The FBI threw him in the slam for 30 days. ...

Sigh ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , dmca | on June 22, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 21, 2004

Dull Righteous Mumblement

Frank Field has the best post I've seen on recent digital restrictions management discussion. Particularly this remark:

Until we assemble the political coalition necessary to get the rulemakers to listen to us, instead of the RIAA/MPAA, we aren't going to get anywhere.

Yup. That's it. Everything else being posted besides that sentence is various degrees of irrelevant. For the simple reason that we're all talking to ourselves, about why the other side should do what we say (sigh ... this is why I'll never be on the A-list ...)

Let me know when you figure out a way to do it. Beyond my skill.

As for the various debate and discussion regarding the Cory D. speech given at Microsoft concerning digital restrictions management, I'll pass. I don't need to get one of BoingBoing.Net's gatekeepers angry at me, I have problems enough with Slashdot. (and I've had enough net.god trashing of me to last a lifetime :-().

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on June 21, 2004 11:53 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (4) | Followups
June 19, 2004

Cites & Insights July 2004

Walt Crawford has written even more material of his library 'zine (not blog) "Cites & Insights", releasing the July 2004 issue, (I haven't even finished with the Copyright special issue)

The best technical part are the extended discussion of E-books, audio CD and DVD burning, and monetizing the 'zine. But I must say I most enjoyed his, err, unedited human voice, in certain observations:

Joi Ito may be one of the new gods of the internet, but based on a little Wired item he might want to learn to ask about prices. Going on a business trip, he got a new cell phone that allowed him to connect his notebook to the Internet via GPRS. Internet everywhere. "It was sooo cool..." The access rates were on the company's website, but I guess it's like actually listening to speakers at a conference: The A-list can't be bothered. ...


I don't know David Weinberger. I have yet to figure out what Orkut's good for, other than some bizarro notion that I could make meaningful contact with more than 400,000 people because of my 17 "friends" (most of whom are casual acquaintances). I do know that Weinberger's essay pushed me even further to the view I held when I started reading the whole set of comments and feedback, at least as applied to the kinds of conferences I would tend to attend or speak at. I won't bother to repeat that view; it's not one that celebrates backchat.

The world looks different to non-Alisters :-)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on June 19, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
June 18, 2004

Patent Infringement INDUCEment No Excuse for INDUCE Act?

[Not an echoing of newsreports! Uncommon information!]
One justification which has been made for the newly proposed inducement-to-infringe copywrong, the (INDUCE Act), is that patent law already has an inducement provision (so, implicitly, what's the problem?). Besides the obvious difference between patent law and copyright law, it seems the patent law inducement to infringe offense may not be such a good recommendation.

I found an interesting article, in "Intellectual Property Today", MARCH, 2004, by Richard Roos :


As most people know, it is a criminal offense to aid and abet the commission of a crime, the logic being that if one participates in furtherance of a crime, one is as much a criminal in the eyes of the law as whoever perpetrated the offense. However, not all companies realize that somewhat analogous scenarios exist in the patent world due to the laws of contributory infringement and inducement to infringe.

That article describes a set of pitfalls and uncertainties with patent law inducement to infringe.

Does it sound like an improvement to take this "uncertain law", expand it, and apply it widely in a fast-changing context? Am I a radical for thinking this is not a good idea?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , legal | on June 18, 2004 10:49 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
June 17, 2004


The INDUCE act is the copywrong du jour, story from EFF / Fred von Lohmann (via Copyfight / Donna Wentworth and commentary from Susan Crawford, thanks to Copyfight / Ernest Miller)

It's bad. "Intentional Inducement of [Copyright] Infringement"???

But then, you knew that.

As a more original comment, I'll inquire regarding that it actually doesn't look like patent law. Rather, the text:

(1) In subsection (g), "intentionally induces means intentionally aids, abets, induces, counsels, procures, ...

Seems almost cut-and-pasted from http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2.html

Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

And http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2.notes.html

The section as revised makes clear the legislative intent to punish as a principal not only one who directly commits an offense and one who ''aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures'' another to commit an offense, but also anyone who causes the doing of an act which if done by him directly would render him guilty of an offense against the United States.

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know where this all fits

Oh, regarding the chilling effect:

There are more examples. What of the cryptography researcher who publishes a paper or gives a lecture on the vulnerabilities of a particular type of DRM? Must Prof. Ed Felten of SDMI fame and the Freedom to Tinker fear penury?

Or a censorware researcher who wants others to be able to verify his research against companies lies and knows he won't receive any press defense (sigh ... I know, I'm not a lovable hero).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on June 17, 2004 09:01 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 16, 2004

Weblogs.com free sites shutdown, and supplicating gods

How Not to Shutter a Service: Weblogs.com Goes Dark (James Grimmelmann) is the best article I've seen which described those events. It would be unfair to say Dave Winer pulled a Michael Sims with those weblogs. But shutting down people's sites without any warning is a very rude thing, even given any extenuating circumstances.

First, I must take the nethead loyalty oath, which consists of stamping one's foot and saying "MY SERVER, MY RULES".

[stamp foot] "His server, His rules!" - forever and amen.

There. That allegiance being pledged, we can move on to consideration of the nuances that even though one may have a legal right to do something, it can still be against common courtesy and social obligation.

Second, I must praise him for the often-thankless task of providing a free service. Consider that done. I'll also note with deep sympathy and true consolation that he got a heavy Slashdot-slam, which is some of the most troll-filled hate-flaming known to the net.

So I haven't wanted to say much, since after all the coverage, there's not much to say. But I did want to note something which moved me to speak truth to power. When Dave Winer proclaims:

One thing is gratifying, the weblogs.com users have uniformly been patient, supportive, gracious, and just plain nice.

I have to add my voice to say this is bullying in effect to the powerless, no matter what's inside the speaker's head. If a person's files depended on the goodwill of someone who just yanked their site without any notice, then all the affected person might want to say is:

"Most kind and beneficent Blog-God, bringer of RSS, giver of links, router of media, exemplar of the New Era, apostle of Truth, Defender of the Faith, smasher of Atoms, grand radiance of the 'Sphere ... please grant this unworthy freeloader the boon of site restoration."

Yeah, they'll have to be "patient, supportive, gracious, and just plain nice". Until they get their files back. But by then it will be "old news", and practically nobody would hear what they had to say.

I've been there. And it's not pretty.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on June 16, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
June 15, 2004

Atari v 321 Studios, DMCA lawsuit over Games X Copy

321 Studios, which makes backup-software, is being sued under the DMCA by Atari and other Entertainment Software Association members, over 321's Games X Copy backup product (via Copyfight).

Press Release: Leading video game companies sue 321 studios

Text of complaint against 321

By coincidence, I was just going through the decision of 321 v MGM, a similar DMCA case, which 321 lost. Notable excerpts (my emphasis):

This Court finds, as did both the Corley and Elcom courts, that legal downstream use of the copyrighted material by customers is not a defense to the software manufacturer's violation of the provisions of S 1201 (b)(1).


Fair use and misuse are defenses only to copyright infringement claims, which are not at issue in this motion. Additionally, as this Court has already related in some detail in the summary judgment portion of this opinion, the First Amendment is not an affirmative defense to a claim under the DMCA. Therefore, as 321's proposed amended defenses are futile, this Court DENIES the motion to amend counterclaims.

Frankly, I don't think 321 Studios has a chance here.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca , legal | on June 15, 2004 06:55 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
June 11, 2004

On Not Taking Another Spin At Russian Roulette

[This is revisiting material regarding my having quit censorware decryption research, and DMCA Exemptions Diary - It's an update in view of iLaw versus head-banging]

Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.

-- Provisional Irish Republican Army on the failure of their Brighton hotel bombing to kill British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher or her ministers.


I had a very good time attending iLaw, and did discuss grant possibilities with some people there. But afterwards, when I sat down and went through implications, the mathematics still didn't work out.

As today was Ronald Reagan's funeral, I'll borrow his famous question of "Are You Better Off Than You Were [Before]?" And the answer remains, on a personal level, I am not. After nearly a decade of very hard free-speech activism, despite the eventual recognition of a Pioneer Award, of a hard-won DMCA Exemption victory, I'm still begging and pleading, scraping and scratching. I'm not being theatrical when I say, as I did in the Greplaw Interview, that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't.

The people trying to do me ill, they only have to be lucky once. Because there is no downside, no cost, to taking sniper shots at me, they can keep trying until something hits: Leak sensitive information to a censorware company, try to poison friendships, attempt to alienate potential employers, etc. And when - not if they eventually do score, I will additionally be told, by people who should have helped me, but did not, that it didn't happen (because this salves the troubled consciences).

It's not as if I have prospects of a six-figure consulting fee in a court case, or a paid platform to 250,000 readers (also giving me the journalistic invulnerability to abuse virtually anyone), or even a faculty appointment anywhere. The very, very, best case seems to be now that if I pursue funding aggressively and skillfully, I might - not will, but might - get a minimal level of monetary compensation. That's the best case. Arguably it's an improvement of sorts, but really, not much of one. I have to be lucky always in order to escape the metaphorical bomb-throwing at me, nothing has changed there. I'm still way underpowered/overmatched, with expected negative return for my life personally.

I just can't take another spin at Russian Roulette again.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on June 11, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (6) | Followups
June 10, 2004

The Parable of Banging-Your-Head-Against-The-Wall

Once upon a time, a hapless activist contemplated the lack of effect, and personal costs, of banging your head against the wall.

Start of scene: Me, banging head against the wall: bang! ouch! bang! ouch! bang! ouch! ...

Then I received much "advice".

Me: "Maybe I should stop banging my head against the wall. It hurts. And it doesn't seem to be affecting the wall in any way."

Advice-Giver: "Bang your head harder. But don't ever say "ouch", because nobody likes a whiner. And look, you made a blood smudge on the wall, isn't that worthwhile?"

[Attempts to take "advice"]

Me: [Bang!] "Ow" [Bang!] Ouch, that's painful!

Advice-Giver: "Keep at it. And remember, I told you to stop saying "ouch". Maybe you should consider that you're not making any progress because you moan and groan so much? And that bloody smudge is even bigger now, isn't that progress?"

[one more time]


Advice-Giver: "Well, I've given you my advice, and you just won't follow it. It's obvious that you get some deep satisfaction from playing the victim, since I've repeatedly said you shouldn't complain and you keep doing it. It's all your fault, since you won't do what I say. And you shouldn't be surprised that the wall is still there, with an attitude like yours."

The above is only slightly fictional.

Folks (to whom this applies), if your "advice" is essentially:

1) Work harder
2) Have a positive attitude
3) Settle for whatever you get

Then that is in fact utterly useless. Because it can be said for anything, regardless of merit or lack thereof. So it has no value in distinguishing good from bad. It's a secular version of "Trust in God, and if you fail, it's because your faith was weak.". That's not helpful.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism , memoirs | on June 10, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1)
June 09, 2004

Slashdot / Resurrect

I did not write the following:

Sometimes the truth is not in the middle. Sometimes the truth is simply that one person acted in a grossly immoral fashion, and everyone else is just trying to work out how best to respond. It is a disgrace to Slashdot that they continue to employ Michael Sims as an editor after his indefensible shutdown of the censorware.org website.

Paul Crowley did, in his Slashdot homepage. Thank you (even if I didn't write it, I thoroughly agree with the sentiments). And he noted my essay about Michael Sims domain-hijacking in a mere signature on a high-ranking comment in a Slashdot discussion today (a bunch of referers spiked my website traffic, and that reminded me to make a small update, that I'd quit censorware decryption, Slashdot's de facto backing of Michael Sims meant the legal risk was unbearable).

As far I can can tell, the very small expression of support above has now set off Michael Sims again to renew attacks on me. I also received a related email from someone else.

The mental model too many people have is just wrong. I will never, ever, be able to fight back against a Slash-smear. And there should be no moral equivalence here.

More some other time. This has decided me against any backsliding in doing censorware decryption :-(.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on June 09, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 08, 2004

"The Information Commons" - report from Free Expression Policy Project

[This deserves more distribution that it's getting so far]

See http://www.fepproject.org/policyreports/infocommons.preview.html and http://www.brennancenter.org/presscenter/releases_2004/pressrelease_2004_0608b.html

"The Information Commons", [by Nancy Kranich], just published by the Free Expression Policy Project at the Brennan Center for Justice, is a groundbreaking report that links the vitality of 21st century democracy to the creation of online communities dedicated to producing and sharing information. A response to "digital rights management," media consolidation, and growing imbalance in the copyright system, the information commons emphasizes open access, sharing, collaboration, and communal management. The report gives an overview of the problem of enclosure, explains how theories of the commons have been adapted to the information age, and describes dozens of flourishing information communities. For the full report, see: http://www.fepproject.org/policyreports/InformationCommons.pdf or http://www.fepproject.org/policyreports/infocommons.contentsexsum.html

[Disclaimer: They're organizational friends, have referenced me in the past, and conceivably I might write something for them for (minimal) pay)]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on June 08, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
June 07, 2004

Cleanfeed, "Internet Watch Foundation" statement

Continuing my hopes of providing original or uncommon material, I went looking for further information on the proposed "Cleanfeed" British Telecom ISP blacklisting of illegal sites. I found some interesting news on the Internet Watch Foundation pages for: Internet Watch Latest News

BT intends to install the database within their internet services, to protect their retail customers.

This initiative is launched at a time when existing and emerging internet services & technologies are often believed to pose potential risks to internet users, because of the availability of certain types of content online.

Peter Robbins, CEO, IWF:
"We believe that everyone is entitled to an abuse free online environment. Our child abuse image database contains details of websites, which if knowingly accessed by UK consumers could lead to them committing criminal offences under UK law. By preventing access to that content, BT are protecting their services and their customers."

Nobody can be in favor of child pornography. Not in any way, shape, or form. But that being said, the above statement is an "interesting" way of framing the censorship efforts.

Update: Clive Feather has written (to a mailing list), about technical implementation:

As explained to me, the system takes a daily feed of URLs and generates a list of IP/port pairs from it; this list is fed to various routers in BT's network. Traffic to those targets is diverted to a special web proxy which behaves normally except that it fakes 404s for URLs on the list.

This will address the "one page at Geocities" bit, but not the "ten minutes later" bit.

Um, I don't know where in the process the DNS lookups are done, so possibly a change of IP address ten minutes later would be caught; a change of actual URL, though, wouldn't.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on June 07, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
June 06, 2004

"Cleanfeed" - British Telecom to ban child porn site connections


(my emphasis below)

BT puts block on child porn sites

Martin Bright, home affairs editor
Sunday June 6, 2004

The Observer

British Telecom has taken the unprecedented step of blocking all illegal child pornography websites in a crackdown on abuse online. The decision by Britain's largest high-speed internet provider will lead to the first mass censorship of the web attempted in a Western democracy.

[Note it's not clear to me that this effort, called "cleanfeed", is the same as http://www.cleanfeed.co.uk/ - I've inquired.]
[Update: This "cleanfeed" is NOT the same as that website, Clive Feather says "A coincidence"]
[Update - slightly more info: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/news_story.php?id=58650]

The key question, which I hope someone in journalistic power will ask:



Abstract: This report examines a secret category in , a product often sold under the name BESS, The Internet Retriever This category turns out to be for sites which must be uniformly prohibited, because they constitute a LOOPHOLE in the necessary control of censorware. The category contains sites which provide services of anonymity, privacy, language translation, humorous text transformations, even web page feature testing, and more.

[N.b., it's not a secret anymore, I'd like to think because of my expose]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on June 06, 2004 10:47 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (4) | Followups
June 04, 2004

Frank Weltner (JewWatchCom) replies

Frank Weltner, who is responsible for the "Jew Watch" site, has taken issue with my report:

"Jew Watch", Google, and Search Engine Optimization
http://sethf.com/ anticensorware/google/jew-watch.php

I believe in these circumstances, netiquette permits me to post his letter below. In the spirit of journalistic fairness, I'll let him have the last word.

Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 20:44:02 -0700 (PDT)
From: Frank Weltner <frankweltner[at-sign]yahoo.com>
Subject: your idiot article
To: Seth Finkelstein <sethf[at-sign]sethf.com>

I read you article which seems to puff with your own self-pride. Of course, you knew little about which you wrote.

If you had any brains, you would have figured out that Jew Watch was put on the web in 1998 and not really changed much. A look at the Way Back Machine on www.archive.org would verify this.

BTW, 1998 was BEFORE Google was even conceived. And, since Jew Watch was not altered, how could it have artificially "triggered" an unfair advantage.

Now, Wikipedia, on the other hand is using new blogs to artificially gain some unwarranted exposure which it does not deserve. Under Google's own rules, such interference in order to just influence placement, would indicate that Wikipedia should be tossed out for interference with the Google algorythm.

BTW, Jew Watch is authoritative, honest, and scholarly. Your usual Jewish sites are mostly opinionated little hack religious sites demonstrating ingrown brain waves and nothing more.

Jew Watch gets very few hits from Google. Google really doesn't affect its traffic alot. Did you think it did? You were wrong, again. Millions visit Jew Watch every year. It has had a tremendous effect on world opinion.

No one goes to Google to type "Jew."

I never did.

I never knew it was number one on Google for 3 years until I started seeing my name in the NEWS. Why? Because I am not the type of person who visits Google and types "Jew." Very few do. As Google said, the number of hits on "Jew" before the stories got into the press were nothing.

What's the matter? Does the truth about the Jews who murdered of 65,000,000 Christians in Russia and the rest of the USSR bother you being aired in public, where your tribe's blood-drenched Bolshevik brothers are pulled up from under the dark rock where you were hiding them for so long and their vileness and evil displayed in total sunlight to the masses of their victims, which you hoped would not occur?

Ahhh. Well, that's too bad. You Jews killed my Slavic relatives. You must take the heat for it.

Want the names? Trotsky (Bronstein), Yagoda, Kaganovich. For others, check Jew Watch. You will be amazed. Lots of names. Lots of dates. Lots of places where they heartlessly massacred white little boys and girls with blonde hair and blue innocent eyes.

How about the Jews that murdered the Tsar and his little white son and daughters, all of them innocent kids who had done nothing? Oh, that was very Jewish of you. Your red star of David was on your hats as you slaughtered those kids. And, of course, Rothschild, means "red star", and he changed his name from Bauer to rothschild or "red star"/"red flag".

You little neo-Bolshevik, you. Still killing girls and boys in Palestine, aren't you? Yes, and you do it while you call all of us a bunch of haters and racists.

Tisk. Tisk. You are the racists and haters.

Just to prove it, I bet you married a nice little Jewish girl, didn't you, instead of a Negro? Yet your little brother Murray Rothstein alias Sumner Redstone, owner of CBS and MTV spends alot of his wealth trying to get white girls to marry black guys. How come you Jews don't do that? After all, if race means nothing to you, which your Jewish owned papers and TV networks say all of the time, how come you always seem to marry a nice Jewish girl? Couldn't be because you are so racist, could it?

No. I didn't think so.

So pathetic.

You pathetic person.

Frank Weltner, Librarian

"You can fool some of the people some of the time, but with the truth before them they can no longer ever be fooled." -- Frank Weltner

Have a nice day as a member of the little tribe that kills and kills and pretends to be the victim.

So pathetic.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in misc | on June 04, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3) | Followups
June 03, 2004

"The Memory Hole" site censorware'd by SmartFilter

The Memory Hole website, devoted to "material that exposes things that we're not supposed to know (or that we're supposed to forget)." reports that it's censorware'd on US Army computers:

Trying to get to the site results in the following message:

Access Denied (content_filter_denied)

Your request was denied because of its content categorization: "Extreme;Politics/Religion"

For assistance, contact your network support team.

Nart Villeneuve wrote up a nice investigation:

The facts indicate that http://www.thememoryhole.org/memoryblog/ is blocked, most likely by a BlueCoat appliance configured with SmartFilter 3.0. But the site is not classified as "Extreme;Politics/Religion" but simply "Politics/Religion"? The most likely explanation is that the military is filtering the "Extreme" category and not using to the most recent version of the SmartFilter database. At some point the Memory Hole was probably doubly classified as Extreme and Politics/Religion and, if the military has not updated their blocking lists, is blocked by the military as a result.

(note the link :-))

Purely as a guess, the Abu Ghraib torture photographs of Iraqi prisoners may have been a cause of the blacklisting as "Extreme". Those images are exactly the type of material which gets blacklisted, since after all, they are sexualized abuse and brutal degradation. They just get a pass in terms of people's perceptions, because conceptually it's news.

I should note here that I'd developed a tool which would have made historical/archival investigation much easier in this case. Remember, i couldn't publish it, because of the lack of support for me. The potential benefits (going to others in general, from increasing knowledge) weren't worth risking a lawsuit (falling on me in specific, from the various costs). Thus I had to write off that work. It matters.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on June 03, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
June 02, 2004

Dave Winer vs Big Media (or getting routed and run-around)

Dave Winer details being routed by Big Media:

We're getting nowhere with The Guardian on the lack of proper disclosure in Ben Hammersley's story about the supposed "wars" in the RSS community. The editors take weeks to respond, when they do they say the same thing over and over, they think his conflicts were adequately disclosed, but they don't explain why.

This is the arrogance of big media. ...

It's an op-ed piece that's not labeled as such, and no opportunity was provided for an opposing point of view. ...

Without taking sides on the RSS wars, I tender my sincerest sympathies on struggles with the media.

The lesson is this: For all the talk of "We Media" or "participatory journalism" or "citizen reporting" or some such, it's real clear where control lies. What happens when the journalist decides to blow-off any challenge? (e.g. sneering "Are you high?" or the like?)

Again, let's do some numbers. The Guardian has a circulation of 1,172,000. That's one million plus. The power-law lives.

Journalistic arrogance arises from very straightforward rational principles: They don't care. They don't have to. Because in general, they will reach far more people than anyone they abuse, so they have no accountability, except to others of similar power. And in general, telling one's friends the story doesn't alter anything. Case in point :-(.

And note there's nothing in the blog world which changes this. Power is power.

[I nearly didn't post this message, because of the potential recursive application, but I decided the violent agreement elements would probably let me get away with it]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on June 02, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
June 01, 2004

PressThink, A-link, time-sink

PressThink, Jay Rosen's blog, celebrates "PressThink Passes The Quarter Million Mark" (Congratulations!)

Since September, 2003 there have been 250,000 officially recorded visits at PressThink. Plus, some other significant markers in the life of a weblog.

I'm listed as one of the "top referers" (must be "top" meaning quality rather than quantity :-)).

Hmm ... nine months ... (250 x 10^3) / (9 months x 30 days) = (2.5 x 10^5) / (2.7 x 10^2) =~ 1000 visits per day

It's certainly deserved. But the numbers are interesting (regrettably, not too many of those thousand or so seem to be following the link to me ...)

PressThink is a good example of where frequently-updated-reverse-chronologically-oriented writing is workable for a person.

Let me look deeper into what makes it successful. To perhaps run the risk of being accused of sucking-up for A-linking, Jay Rosen is smart, thoughtful, articulate, and many other excellent qualities. But more critical, I think, is the way the topic works "ecologically".

Like the weather, people talk about the press. And again like the weather, there's a constant stream of uncomfortable events, wrong predictions, speculation on what's next, historical background, ahistorical hyperbole, and sometimes lurking fear from the ordinary person regarding ponderous forces which seem beyond control, all of which serve to keep interest.

As an NYU professor of journalism, Jay Rosen is nicely situation to both observe this and provide commentary on it, and to do it well. Which all results in the excellent work which we see. A well-deserved blog success story.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on June 01, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups