December 9, 2007

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Heading shortly to Logan for a pair of Lufthansa flights that will land me in Paris by dawn tomorrow there. (Still yesterday, here, which is still today… reminds me of the old Bob & Ray soap opera parody: Today is Yesterday Tomorrow.) The cause is LeWeb3., where I’ll speak on Wednesday and listen the rest of the time. See ya there, if not sooner.

[Later…] Arrived in Frankfurt. Actually the time given above referred to the first leg, just completed. The Paris flight out of here is at 0840. Meanwhile I’m paying 18¢/minute for “roaming” on T-Mobile’s network, for which I already pay $29/month. I learned on the last trip that there are many T-Mobiles, and my deal is with just the U.S. one. Still, if your many carriers force customers to pay for “roaming” between them, at least give your carriers different names. Maybe D-Mobile and B-Mobile and U-Mobile. Meanwhile, paying this fee makes them all all F-Mobile to me.

A couple years ago a former high U.S. govenrment official — one whose job required meeting with nearly every member of Congress — made the best argument I have yet heard against any regulation of the Net. Or of anything technical. Though not veratim, this is essentially what he said: I can tell you that there are two things nearly every congressperson does not understand. One is economics. The other is technology. Now proceed.

That line comes to mind when I read House vote on illegal images sweeps in Wi-Fi, Web sites, by Declan McCullagh in CNet. It begins,

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including “obscene” cartoons and drawings–or face fines of up to $300,000.

That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user’s account be retained for subsequent police inspection.

In a follow-up post which includes an email dialog between Declan and one of the bill’s defenders, Declan added,

So what exactly does the SAFE Act do? It doesn’t mandate ongoing network surveillance. What it does require is that anyone providing Internet access who learns about the transmission or storage of information about illegal image must (a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s “CyberTipline” and (b) “make a report” to the CyberTipline that (c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity and (d) the illegal images themselves. (Note that some reporting requirements already apply to Internet access providers under current law.)

The definition of which images qualify as illegal is expansive. It includes obvious child pornography, meaning photographs and videos of children being molested. It also includes photographs of fully clothed minors in unlawfully “lascivious” poses, and certain obscene visual depictions including a “drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting.”

So, would this be obscene to a Phillies fan? How about a Mets fan? Can we even tell if the subject is a minor? It’s not like you can count the rings.

By the way, I’m looking for hard data on how much Net traffic, including search requests, is for junk, porn or both. I’ve heard many different numbers, including some that say the percentage of porn search requests alone is north of 70%. But I dunno.

For a sample, however, watch the scroll at Then imagine how much filtering you have to do if you’re Technorati or Google Blogsearch.