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.

Personally, I'm close to a free speech absolutist. I also recognize that a strong majority in most countries believe in censorship to maintain an harmonious society. Many Israelis believe blasphemy should be censored although I hope they are not a majority. The U.S. is demanding prison terms for advertising counterfeit handbags.

Certainly, shutting down the Internet is not going to bring peace between Arabs and Israelis. Putting hundreds in jail for speech rather than actions doesn't seem to be working either. The Times figure of "hundreds" arrested in more than any other Internet censorship I know. (I suspect the total in China is higher but I have no good source.)

Everyone knows that censorship can follow a slippery slope. For example, I could say "millions are cheering the martyrs who fought the Israelis," a true statement. Please don't misread me; I am not saying they are right.  I could go further and say, "How else could Palestinians respond to Israelis tearing off a woman's clothes and shooting her?" Again, a plausible statement that I don't agree with. "It is time for every brave Palestinian to fight for human rights and dignity!" I do agree with that, although I don't believe the fight should use violence. 

If "hundreds" have been arrested, I'm sure many of them made statements no more threatening than the above. They need not be an incitement to violence. That's a strong argument against censorship; there is no easy way to draw the line. In Germany, I believe circulating a copy of Mein Kampf is illegal. My grandfather Abraham, an orthodox rabbi, had a copy on his bookshelf. As a little boy, I asked him why. He replied, "We have to understand." That's my inclination as well.

I'm not objective here. I'm Jewish. My uncle Sammy Burstein was one of the first pilots in the Israeli Army in 1948. My father Joel, then 17, worked to smuggle guns on the Brooklyn docks. I've long been an advocate of Israelis doing whatever it takes to find an honorable peace. That's easy to say from 6,000 miles away in New York. The reality in Jerusalem is far worse than most people know. Recently, as I tried to walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to show it to Jennie, I had an assault rifle pointed at me by a very young Israeli soldier. He was using it to point the crowd in the direction he wanted us to go and I'm sure did not intend to shoot. (Jennie and I were walking through the Old City as Friday services let out. I had no idea what we would see. It was an angry crowd of many thousands, directed by soldiers every few meters. That war is ongoing was obvious and frightening.)

I have no special wisdom on what it will take to bring peace. As a technologist, I do know this: Every decade, small, inexpensive weapons are becoming more powerful. I have friends who today could probably create something horrifying in a good high school laboratory. There will be many more with that skill in coming years.

For the record: The Times reported the Israeli authorities claimed the woman being stripped had just stabbed someone and the crowd was looking for weapons. Here, even a true report showing the pictures could be called incitement. 


Continue reading the main storySlide Show


Palestinian Attacks Leave 3 Israelis Dead as Violence Escalates

CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press


JERUSALEM — The morning of the attack, Subhe Abu Khalifa did not get up for work, telling his mother he was too tired and his feet hurt. He had spent the night watching and rewatching footage of a Palestinian woman, who the Israeli police say stabbed a Jewish man in the back in Jerusalem’s Old City, being harassed and shot.

Instead of going to his job as an apprentice electrician, Mr. Khalifa, 19, sharpened a knife he bought the day before, according to an account friends later gave his brother, then plunged it into an Israeli near Police Headquarters. With that, he joined a cadre of youngPalestinians who, spurred on by social media, have independently decided to attack Israelis, killing seven and wounding scores in two dozen episodes since Oct. 1, authorities said.

“What we see now is like an octopus with many hands but no brain,” said Orit Perlov, an expert on Arab social media at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “You don’t need something sophisticated. We’re talking about 15-year-old boys. You just write the word ‘it’an,’ stab in Arabic, and then whoever has a knife in his house and wants to go, that’s it.”

The current violent uprising has a very different character than the second Palestinian intifada, whose suicide bombings were orchestrated by well-organized armed groups. It consists of spontaneous outbursts by individual young people unaffiliated with any formal political movement. Their weapons are mainly small knives, but also screwdrivers and even a potato peeler. And their inspiration seems to come from their ubiquitous smartphones, which provide an endless stream of videos like the one Mr. Khalifa viewed over and over before he struck.

,,, the Facebook scroll of so-called martyrs.

Ms. Perlov, the Arab social media expert, said Israeli and Palestinian security services had arrested hundreds of online instigators in recent months, but that it had done little good because “ideas are becoming immortal — you can take down pages but it will multiply itself.”

The next morning, before sharpening his knife and hunting for an Israeli, Mohammed added, Subhe “put on Facebook that he’s planning on following the footsteps of all the martyrs.”

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


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,