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Internet Service Providers Need To Form A Retaliatory Censorship Alliance

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Infrastructure

Infrastructure

News just arrived that movie studios have made yet another court issue a censorship order against an ISP, despite the expected decision from the European Court of Justice that such orders violate Fundamental Rights and are illegal.

This won’t do. We can’t have this kind of censorship and suppression of free speech because a crumbling business likes it that way.

All over the world, the copyright industries are trying to cripple the net. They are trying to kill it outright; anything that doesn’t suit their distribution monopoly is branded “illegal” and fought in every court on the planet. People who distribute information, as the net was made to do, are denied fundamental rights and freedom of speech because an obsolete industry is about to die. Internet Service Providers are forced by courts to censor and filter on the dying industry’s behalf, under threat of multimillion fines.

At the same time, Internet Service Providers are scattered, divided, and easily conquered, and the copyright lobby is smart enough to attack the weaker defenseless service providers to create legal precedents. Us activists have been talking about how the ISPs need to form a legal defense fund. It has not happened; probably because it comes at a very real cost and its efficiency is doubtful. Well, this proposal has neither of those characteristics. It is free, it is efficient, and it is effective.

The copyright industry is entirely dependent on the Internet Service Providers. They are demanding the world and getting away with it, when the people whom they abuse could kill their entire business with a snap of the fingers. It is astounding that the ISP industry hasn’t done so already. The most powerful industry in the world is taking tons of abuse just lying down.

There’s an American saying: what goes around, comes around. And maybe, sometimes, it needs a little organized help in doing so.

The major ISPs need to stand up for their industry, and forge a retaliatory censorship alliance. It is perfectly doable as it means no cost to any partnering provider, only standing up for the ISP industry itself.

This Alliance should extend not just to those who actively partake in it, but to all brother and sister organizations that the ISPs consider one of their own. Anybody trying to force their will on the ISP industry, and force them to erase somebody else from the net, should themselves be erased off the net for some suitable period of time. The statement of the Alliance should be something like this:

“Any party forcing any of our kin anywhere in the world through a court of law to filter or censor any third part, or otherwise interfere with their communications, or threatening to use such force, directly or through an agent or membership alliance, and for whatever reason, shall have its identity and its business kicked off the net on all ports and all services. In transit, and at the end of the line. They shall be denied service and they shall be denied presence. For they who would deny communication to another, deserve no better for themselves.”

I believe Sony, the other MPAA/IFPI/RIAA member companies, and their traitorous likes would stop dead in their tracks if they realized that what goes around would come around. This would be the most cost-efficient way imaginable of stopping the ongoing abuse against Internet Service Providers, their entire industry, and the Internet they serve, in courts all over the world.

The ISP industry has the power to literally send these bullies back to the pen-and-paper Industrial Age. It’s time to bare some teeth.

Oh, and one more thing. I mentioned that the censorship court orders will probably be declared illegal by the European Court of Justice, as advised by the Attorney General? Self-defense censorship, initiated by the ISPs, isn’t covered by that verdict. Retaliatory censorship is absolutely legal.

Actually, this doesn’t even require an alliance. Any ISP can start doing this right now, to forge the alliance on the go. Better still, the mere announcement of the intention to set up this Retaliatory Censorship Alliance would probably stop the lawsuits within the hour.

I am surprised the copyright industry hasn’t even stopped to consider exactly who it is they are bullying.

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments; this would not be retaliatory censorship as there is no third party doing the forcing, it would not be censorship. It would be the ISPs exercising property rights over their own equipment over what to carry and what not to carry, which is completely different from the Government forcing them to do so (and which would be censorship). Thanks to Thomas Fullerton for pointing out this very important distinction.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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24

  1. 1
    Petter Ericson

    Fight fire with fire? Are you out of your mind? Not to mention the huge liability issues that the ISPs will expose themselves to by completely revoking their common carrier status.

    Seriously, this is such a bad idea I have difficulties finding the words for it.

    • 1.1

      Re. common carrier, that’s already gone. Pretty much all ISPs already filter and nobody cares. Also, as long as they were clear that this is the service they sell, Common Carrier status would be unharmed.

      This is an idea with serious risks and serious opportunity. It is disruptive, if nothing else. The risk is that the ISPs would formally take the right to determine who would be able to have a simple mail forwarded (and all other technologies); I don’t want them to have that right.

      But on the other hand, I don’t want the MAFIAA to have that right, either, which is the case of today. Just saying “this is bad” evidently does not work.

      So this could be a catalyst for anti-censorship and net neutrality laws. In the meantime, no MAFIAA would dare try to censor if they risked a backfire of the same kind.

      Basically, in a world where the MAFIAA has free reign of terror, I’m floating the idea that maybe a balance of terror is preferable.

      • 1.1.1
        Petter Ericson

        The filtering “most” ISPs do today is a) DNS blocking of censored domains (mainly CP, but abuse exists) and b) blocking of port 25 to stop spammers to operate spambots efficiently on client machines. Any more filtering than that (e.g. torrent throttling, preferential treatment for Spotify etc.) usually generate customer backlash and talks of (if not actual) antitrust investigations.

        Also, no, common carrier status would _not_ be unharmed by them saying how they do. That’s not how common carriers work, and I am honestly surprised that you would try claiming that it does, considering your experience in this area. Common carrier means that they can _not_ discriminate among its clients. Either they carry all traffic, with little or no (self-imposed) filtering, or they are, basically, liable for everything that passes through their networks. No ISP wants this, and the legal battles they would find themselves in for blocking SonyBMG are tremendous, considering that they would have to contend _not only_ with SonyBMG et.al. but with several of their other (non-music/movie) large clients as well, who may not be amused to find themselves unable to communicate with (say) clients, resellers, and/or partners.

        There are several other analogies I could make to show what a bad idea this is, such as bombing violent people to pacify them, using lies to spread truth etc. but let’s move to a slightly more obvious reaction:

        Many of the biggest ISPs have _no interest_ in stopping the censorship wave, especially if it means they can block out competitors. Allowing/encouraging ISPs to censor _even more_ is the fastest way to get to a walled garden, rather than a neutral internet.

        If politics doesn’t work to stop censorship, use technology to make censorship irrelevant, don’t encourage _more_ censorship.

      • 1.1.2

        @Petter,

        my point is that the DNS blocking that’s already happening would already have invalidated Common Carrier status, but nobody seems to care about it.

        You’re using many analogies — I’ll counter with the fact that every law enforcement against violent bullies is based on the threat of violence. Every police force in the world.

        That said,

        Many of the biggest ISPs have _no interest_ in stopping the censorship wave, especially if it means they can block out competitors. Allowing/encouraging ISPs to censor _even more_ is the fastest way to get to a walled garden, rather than a neutral internet.

        If politics doesn’t work to stop censorship, use technology to make censorship irrelevant, don’t encourage _more_ censorship.

        you may be right.

        In any case, it’s clear that the current path does not work, and the ISP industry holds a lot more power than it’s making use of here.

        • Petter Ericson

          There is one very obvious difference between the DNS blocking that is happening now and your proposed scheme: the DNS blocking has other people behind it, usually the police forces of the respective countries. As such, it has both democratic legitimacy in some sense, and an external part which does the actual selection of sites to block. Your scheme is all internal, and has nothing to do with the state legislature or the democratic process whatsoever.

          In addition, every police force in the world has the legitimacy of the state behind it. Other people doing similar actions are called “vigilantes” and are in general regarded as criminals.

          As for this being a boycott? No, it is more akin to a blockade, with the few ISPs actively refusing to mediate traffic to/from certain clients.

          Though you may argue that the state is just another actor, rather than the representative for the general public that it makes itself out to be, you are not likely to find much support for that view among non-anarchists.

          The current path, being a) working through the democratic, political process to stop censorship and b) working with technologies that make censorship either irrelevant or at most an inconvenience, seems to at least make some headway, what with ACTA getting delay after delay, HADOPI being an object of ridicule in France, and the Digital Economy Bill being protested, circumvented and ignored in the UK.

          I would definitely argue that encouraging ISPs to further compromise net neutrality is a bad, bad, bad idea. They should concentrate on ignoring content as much as possible, not drop phoney threats that will be laughed at, then challenged in court, then rather soundly defeated in court.

        • Thomas Fullerton

          The idea that the fact that the police come from the democratic system gives them the right to use force is completely fallacious, and is the source of all of our problems. There is no such thing as ‘democratic legitimacy’ this is brainwashing pure and simple and is easily refuted:

          http://www.georgeoughttohelp.com/

          What Falk is advocating is not ‘all internal’ he is advocating that people (the people who own ISP service companies) exercise their property rights. They have the absolute right to block whatever they like in whatever way they like. Period. The democratic process does not legitimise evil, and that is what we are talking about here.

          Every police force in the world does not have legitimacy when it comes to initiating force. This is an extension of the fallacy that voting exempts the state from morality. It doesn’t. Furthermore you are conflating violent vigilantism with voluntarism and voluntary boycotts. This is not only a straw man, but it is a total misrepresentation of what the word vigilante means. People who voluntarily join boycotts are in no way criminals; you really must understand the words you are using in order to make sense when you make an argument.

          This is absolutely a call for a boycott. The ISPs are boycotting the sites that are attacking them. They are not physically stopping other people from connecting to the web, which is what a blockade would do. Once again, you are mixing up the meaning of words to make your straw man point.

          The state is not just another actor; if it were, it would not have special laws or application of morality that is specific to it, like the ability to murder or steal without consequence. This is not a matter of truth just for anarchists, but it is always true. If you believe it, then you are rational. If you do not you are irrational.

          Once again. we have an example of a person who does not know the meaning of the words he is using. You think that Net Neutrality (where people are forced to do something against their will) is fair and right, simply because it has been mandated by the state.

          The problems we are having come not only from the violent State, but from the legion of people who cannot frame the arguments correctly due to their habitual misuse of language. Unless these people are very quickly educated, the problems are going to get worse, as is the thinking swirling around them.

  2. 2
    Cesar

    Two wrongs do not make a right.

  3. 3
    well

    Well USA and NATO are doing that all the time IRL – why should cyberspace be any different?
    Live by the sword – die by the sword.

  4. 4
    Thomas Fullerton

    This is actually a very good idea. What it is is a voluntary boycott of the computer on the network of peers that are owned by people who do not want to cooperate. There is nothing wrong with a boycott; it is non violent and totally justified.

    No one has the right to access your services, and ISPs should assert that they have the right to block whatever they like. If it is not the case that they have this right, then they are made into slaves that are forced to put their equipment to uses that they have no choice in.

    The people who are against this boycott are exhibiting an inconsistency in their philosophies and understanding of the meaning of the word ‘censorship’, and their understanding of the proper role of government.

    Firstly, people have the right to dispose of their property as they see fit. ISPs are entering into private contracts with their clients that are not the business of anyone, including the State. This is a matter of the right of property. ISPs have it and it cannot be taken away from them, and anyone who suggests that it should be taken from them is immoral. The judgement forcing ISPs to block content is precisely an immoral, property rights infringing act.

    Secondly censorship can only be done by the State. When a private company blocks a website, this is a private choice made by a property owner. Another property owner (ISP) might choose not to block a website, and you can always switch to them in a free market. When the State orders that a website is blocked however, this is an entirely different thing, and is censorship, because the block is backed by violence, and the ISPs do not have a choice in the matter. It is very important to understand the precise meaning of words if you are to get a grip on this subject.

    Thirdly it is not the role of government to control ISPs and what is or is not on the internet. People who call for ‘Net Neutrality’ do not understand that it is not the place of the State to manage the network. It is up to you to join an ISP that is in line with your needs and to divert your money to them.

    You cannot on the one hand, call for Net Neutrality, and then on the other, when the very same State uses the power you want to abuse does something that you do not like, rant and rail against it and still be consistent. Net Neutrality enforced by the State is not legitimate. It is a form of coercion and force. People who are for freedom are against the use of force to get things done.

    All ISPs should band together and block the traffic of all the MPA RIAA MPAA sites until they relent from using the State to violently infringe their property rights. If this sort of action is not taken, you can kiss your beloved open internet goodbye.

    Once again, a boycott is non violent, very effective and will hit them very very hard. They will soon understand that what they are doing is unacceptable. They will then be forced to relent as their revenue streams disappear. This will happen long before they can go to court to try and steal the bandwidth / use of racks of the ISPs through a bogus and violent ‘Net Neutrality’ statute.

    This really is a war, and the people who are weak minded, confused about liberty and even the words they are using to describe what is going on, are acting in a way that is guaranteeing the dismantling of the free internet at the behest of the corporations through the violence of the State.

    • 4.1

      Thank you – this was a necessary sorting-out of concepts. Obviously, it is never censorship if somebody decides themselves not to carry a particular party’s traffic.. I will put in a small note of this in the post.

      • 4.1.1
        Petter Ericson

        So torrent throttling is a-ok then? As is blocking TPB, competitors’ websites, news sites and political parties that the CEO of the ISP find repulsive? As long as there is no outside influence, it can never be censorship, right?

        Or, even better, the RIAA could just pay a few thousand directly to the ISP to get a pirate site blocked, instead of having to go through those pesky legal processes first. Just plop the ISPs a small cut, and everyone will be happy.

        I do believe you’re on to something here.

        • pop

          Have you not been paying attention to the things happening in the US and Australia? The media cartel is already making private agreements with some ISPs (who have media divisions, as you can imagine) to willingly block sites they don’t like. Just google “six strikes”…

        • Petter Ericson

          I was not sure if it was already happening, but I am not surprised that it is.

          The question seems to be: is this censorship? I claim it is.

          However, since there is no government involved, I am not so sure that Rick (and especially Thomas) would agree. It is, after all, a voluntary agreement between a group of companies, with no coercion involved.

          This article seems to argue that different sites should be censored, but does not object to the practise in and of itself.

        • pop

          Google “six strikes” and you’ll see what’s currently going on in the US.

        • Thomas Fullerton

          You don’t understand the true nature of the issues here.

          Torrent throttling is perfectly OK, as long as when you sign a contract with an ISP, you know in advance its going to happen. For example, in the UK, BT uses traffic shaping with respect to torrents. BE, another ISP does not. I can choose to go with BE if I want a service that is clear to the internet. Traffic shaping is a business decision, which is totally different to a regulation coming from the State. The same goes for blocking any website. If you want a clear connection to the internet, pick an ISP that does not use a blocking list. If you want a connection that blocks content you do not agree with, then ISPs can advertise that they block undesirable content. The people who want a filtered style of access can pay for that, and those that do not can choose something else.

          This is not censorship; it is private people controlling their own equipment and resources that they sell to other people under contract.

          Im sure you would have no problem with a blog moderator deleting blog posts that he thinks are offensive; you understand that it is his blog to do with what he likes, and this is perfectly natural. The same goes for ISPs. They can forbid you from doing things they do not want to see passing through their networks, and even though they have no legal responsibility for what you do, almost all ISPs have terms of service that forbid you from doing stuff that is your right, but which they have a moral objection to.

          Bribing an ISP to break its contracts with its users is not a good analogy, but it is in fact, what Lord Puttnam and his cronies have just done; they have paid a law firm to convince a judge to violently stop an ISP from allowing access to a website, causing them to break their contracts with their users.

          In order to understand this, you need to be clear about the difference between a private company and the State, you have to understand what property rights are and what the obligations of a contract mean to two parties. Its clear that your thinking is a little confused; hope this helps!

  5. 5
    Peter Andersson

    Här i Sverige vore det kanske en bra ide att gå genom pensionsfondssystemet. Övertala en av dessa pensionsfonder som har “etiska” placeringsregler till att utöka den tolkningen till att omfatta även ISP:er o.d som står för ett helt fritt och ocensurerat internet.

    En av de stora kritikpunkterna (från höger) mot det svenska systemet där man numera får välja själv är att alltför få gör det och att alltför många sitter kvar på default-valet.

    Det skulle alltså onekligen ge dubbel effekt om framförallt unga människor här i landet började flytta sina pengar till en sådan fond, dels att det vore en bra markering i sig, dels att det skulle få alliansregeringen att slå knut på sig själv, de skulle inte veta vilket ben de skulle stå på när folk börjar göra som de har bett dem om i åratal, men placerar så att det svider för deras lobbyister! :-)

  6. 6
    pop

    Boycott them, that’s the way to go! But… how do we get the ISPs to act?

  7. 7
    Peter Andersson

    Annat ämne, du kanske är intresserad av att svara även om du inte är berörd längre: Varför ligger Piratpartiets Livefeed nere sedan snart 48 timmar? Ung Pirats Hemsida? Flera olika prominenta piratbloggare. Till och med Anna Trobergs sida var nere ett tag. Ingen förklaring ges på Partiets hemsida, där i alla fall förstasidan är åtkomlig.

  8. 8
    Joakim Signal

    Peter: Det har varit strömavbrott i Portlanes serverhall. Piratpartiet har postat en handfull inlägg om detta de senaste 2 dygnen på sin wall på facebook.

  9. [...] recent post suggesting that ISPs should introduce retaliatory censorship produced very interesting reactions, ranging from enthusiastic endorsement (“Hell Yes”) [...]

  10. 9
    Charles Broam

    OMG! HELL YES. Any other business has the right to refuse service to any customer or organization. Why not the ISP’s too? Well within their rights. Quite right. Why haven’t they started doing this already? Greatest idea I have heard from anybody in a very long time.

  11. [...] Always good for a controversial line of thinking or two, Falkvinge has thrown up a ‘straw man’ scenario for discussion. Yes it’s radical and extreme, but it’s well worth [...]

  12. 10

    This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the
    blogosphere. Brief but very precise info… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

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Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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