Serious Censorship: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter collaborate on better tools

Most Americans and Europeans will support "Terrorist" censorship. The U.S. giants are under pressure from Germany's Chancellor Merkel and soon probably President Trump to effectively censor the net. They've come together to create a database of hashtags that can reliably detect repostings in today's systems. They can be worked around with a little work, but many posters are too lazy to do so or don't have the expertise. Details in the Facebook post below.

Hillary Clinton is an example of the many "liberals" who have joined "conservatives" calling for limits on speech for those labeled "terrorists." Unfortunately, no one can agree on who is a "terrorist." The Turkish government labels some Kurdish groups "terrorists" while the United States sends arms to their close allies in Syria and Iraq. The term has become almost meaningless. The U.S. free speech standard - that almost everything is protected except an immediate call to violence - seems better to me. ("Clear and present danger.") 

I doubt more than 10% of people in Europe and the United States are near-absolutist in a free speech debate. One reason I do is I have a clear perception of the slippery slope.

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Steve Crocker: Nothing really changed because of ICANN

Steve-Crocker-from-WikipediaIt always was a symbolic battle. Steve Crocker is Chair of ICANN as well as an outstanding engineer throughout Internet history. 

 "While today is an absolutely historic day for ICANN and for the success of the multi-stakeholder approach toward governance of an important portion of the Internet ecosystem, from the perspective of the Internet user community, today is a day like any other.  The transition of the stewardship of the IANA process from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to multi-stakeholder oversight of ICANN, has had and will have no impact on the orderly operation of the Internet.  Packets will continue to flow and new services will continue to be invented.  (And, of course, the multiple forms of abuse, conflict and controversy over content and other matters will also continue as before.)

Thousands of man hours and very large numbers of emails, documents and meetings tallied up between NTIA’s announcement 2-1/2 years ago on 14 March 2014 and the big event last night.  And what was the big event?  The quiet completion of the contract between NTIA and ICANN which was really vestigial in nature.  ICANN now has stronger accountability mechanisms, and the paperwork documenting the interactions with the operational communities is now more direct and does not involve the U.S. government, but otherwise it’s business as usual."

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NY Times: Facebook "Inspires Rise in Violence" in Palestine

Totally unproven, very dangerous but common idea. Hillary Clinton believed the Internet could inspire "regime change" and the U.S. State Department spent millions supporting dissidents in Egypt, Iran and China. Angela Merkel has personally demanded Facebook heavily censor anti-immigrant comments in Germany. Now the New York Times reports "Israeli and Palestinian security services had arrested hundreds of online instigators in recent months," but "it had done little good because 'ideas are becoming immortal — you can take down pages but it will multiply itself.'" 

It's too easy to blame the Internet and the above is probably overstated. There were few Internet connections in Palestine during the First and Second Intifadas but thousands chose to risk their life. It's certainly true the Internet makes everything easier, from arranging a bowling date to fomenting a revolution. Lenin needed couriers at great risk to smuggle his papers into pre revolutionary Russia. 

There are no easy answers here.

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ITU Must Include Peering/Transit Costs in Affordability Analysis

My comments to U.S. State Department ITAC group. One of the issues at the ITU is whether the cost of peering/transit should be part of the discussion on affordability of access. Africans tell me this is perhaps the largest single impediment to bringing down the cost of the Internet in Africa. Backhaul is 10x the cost in Europe or the U.S., only a small part of which is due to the cost of undersea cables. I infer a (weak) cartel and strongly urge the ITU to produce the data to convince anyone objective something should be done.

Some people are trying to exclude this from the development agenda. They come from countries with companies that benefit from high transit prices. (Surprise.) By accident, I'm on the U.S. State Department International Telecommunications Advisory Committee and wrote this. By my choice, I do not report what anyone else says at that committee. This is my opinion.  

On Peering

Carlos Slim at the Broadband Commission told me $50 mobile phone prices will allow two billion more people to connect, a goal i know we all share. Since then, I've looked closely at the actual cost factors delivering Internet to the poor in emerging nations. I also discussed it with numerous people at ITU Busan. (Article below) Peering/transit costs appear the largest single international issue in affordability in Africa especially, as I report below. According to an African at the Busan Plenipot, the saving from reducing peering/transit costs is 5-10x anything likely from IXPs. Several Africans saw peering/transit costs as a key issue and welcome ITU involvement.  

It is extremely disrespectful for the U.S. to oppose the Africans getting the actual data on peering/transit, especially since U.S. companies are profiting. 

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Dave on the decline of the West in communications

Tony Rutkowski, an American once very active in the ITU, wrote a piece for CircleID lamenting the diminished role of Western companies. His conclusion was this was a rejection of the ITU. I strongly differed and wrote this comment.

Actually, many parts of the ITU are thriving. The new DSL standard,, was almost completely developed by the ITU working group. It brings DSL speeds to hundreds of megabits and sometimes a gigabit.

Tony is right many of the Western companies are less active. In one way, that's not a surprise. We've seen the end of formerly great contributors to communications like Siemens and Nortel as well as the decimation of Bell Labs. Everyone else has cut back.

Much of the slack in research - and ITU standards - is being taken up by Asian companies like Samsung, NTT and Huawei. The ITU, unlike most other groups, has done a great job of involving the new players. In other parts of the ITU, Africans and Latin Americans are deeply involved, a good thing.

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Dave in India on neutrality facts

Verizon in an article in India's Economic Times disputes a report that they throttle their service based on the application. A far as I know, today they don't, and neither do the other large U.S. telcos and cablecos. The big issue today is throttling at the peering point, where companies like Verizon refused ordinary connections without payment. Verizon claims that has nothing to do with neutrality and obfuscates. I asked Tim Wu, who coined the phrase, whether edge throttling was a neutrality violation. It is. 

Verizon is accurate that they do not throttle applications such as VOIP, I believe. But that doesn't mean they aren't violating neutrality.

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ISOC's Brown on what the Plenipot shouldn't do

Kathy Brown is proving far more responsive to members and is doing a remarkable job bringing people into the Internet Society. That makes it even more crucial they align policies with their slogan, "The Internet is for Everybody." At the ITU, they are among the strongest supporters of the new U.S. position, "Hands off the Internet, ITU and governments." (Few remember that in 2006, U.S. Ambassador Gross applauded the ITU effort to be more involved with the Internet.}

   Kathy hasn't changed ISOC policies largely determined by the worry that ITU Governments will have too much power. We all know governments have the ability to foul things up in a major way, but corporate domination and economic power are also issues. 

    Net Policy News will work hard to present informed opinions that disagree with our point of view. Here's Kathy's widely distributed note and their official ITU presentation, in full.

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The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein