Morning dawned awfully early today, and my alarm clock followed it all too soon. I’d set it to give me enough time to go down to the fitness center and work out, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend time in front of a TV watching endless repetitions of the same few facts, so I went outside and jogged instead. Up 8th to Central Park, through the park to 7th, to Broadway at the first red light, back to 7th at Times Square, down to 34th, and back to the hotel (with a short detour via Capstone Cafe to pick up lox and bagel for breakfast). I didn’t realize how cold it was till I was well on my way — when I got back to the room, I turned on the TV and found out that it was 42 degrees out. No wonder I was chilly when I stopped!
The conference also began early today, with the first session at 8:15. And today, we’re not going to be all-war, all-the-time; instead, we start with:
Plenary 6: Internet Architecture and Free Speech
Jeff’s up first; he is talking about the need for ISPs to be able to use broadband pipes to reach customers, in the same way that ISPs can offer service on dial-up. And he is decrying the recent FCC decisions allowing cable and DSL companies to deny ISPs such access, and to provide differential access to preferred sites and vendors. He pointed out Ellacoya Networks and their “Total Service Control” offering as an example of the dangers ahead.
Paula Boyd says that Microsoft believes that the broadband networks should remain a level playing field, as narrowband is. Consumers should have unrestricted access to services, sites, and devices within the limits of their bandwidth and without allowing theft of service or harm to the network. Their reasons are not entirely altruistic — they worry about a provider blocking or reducing their access to the consumer, both on the MSN side and on the sales side (they expect people to buy less shrink-wrapped software in the future and more online; given the size of Office, they really need broadband!). They also had to do significant negotiation with cable and broadband companies to launch Xbox Live, and they don’t want to have to do that again (they also say that they want to ensure that smaller developers without Microsoft’s clout can get to the network). And they believe that consumers need access to lots of content to make them want broadband in the first place.
Here’s an interesting quote to hear from a Microsoft spokesperson: “We worry that there is not enough competition in the marketplace to discipline the network folks.”
Microsoft is part of a coalition (the “Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators”, website to come) on this issue but doesn’t agree with the coalition in all respects; they focus on edge-of-network access for consumers, not for ISPs. They want network managers to address issues in terms of network management, not shaping the kinds of bits which flow through the network.
Mike Schooler of NCTA began his talk by pointing out that Microsoft, of all people, should be able to create a gloom-and-doom scenario about monopolization. He didn’t get many laughs from the audience, and I’m pretty sure he thought he was making a joke.
After that, he talked about the cable companies’ huge investments in improving their facilities; he asked the audience who has cable or DSL broadband service (most hands went up) — throughout this part of his talk, he continued to conflate cable and DSL services. His basic message is that there’s no problem now, so there’s no reason to regulate us to keep it from happening in the future. And anyway, any issues in the past (such as restrictions against VPN use) have been intended to keep a user from using more than his or her share of bandwidth so that’s OK. Of course, VPNs don’t necessarily use more bandwidth…but they are used for business services, and the cable companies would rather be able to charge more in such a case.
The Q&A was not particularly enlightening (and as usual at CFP, there weren’t many questions…mostly rants).
Plenary 7: Human Rights and the Internet
The panelists are Patrick Ball of the AAAS‘ Science and Human Rights Program, Dinah PoKempner of Human Rights Watch, Bobson Wong of Digital Freedom Network, and Elisa Munoz of the Crimes of War Project.
I am expecting this to be an advocacy panel. In fact, they distributed a handout from Human Rights Watch entitled “Internet Dissidents: A Plan For Action”, asking attendees to write letters on behalf of the prisoners profiled in the handout. They even provided the audience members with paper and envelopes and asked us to write letters NOW.
Patrick Ball’s talk was slightly different; he talked about the need to make encryption and data backup transparent — because users don’t take the extra steps to use them, even when it is literally a matter of life and death. He also talked about work to make encryption and protection easier, including the Martus project.
Plenary 8: The Great Firewall of China – Internet Filtering and Free Expression
Kimberley Heitman of Electronic Frontiers Australia started, discussing Internet Filtering in Australia, as required by the Broadcasting Services Act. The default position is that ISPs are supposed to block R and X rated content, but adhering to a code of conduct allows the ISP to not filter — the ISP must make approved filters available to users. But less than 1% of the users use a filter, so the government is considering stronger methods. Becuase there is no constitutional right of free speech in Australia, filtering is not neutral as it is in the US.
Benjamin Edelman from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School then discussed “Internet Filtering Worldwide: The Technologies of Filtering and their Unanticipated Consequences”. He’s written a paper on the issue.
Saudi Arabia blocks porn, discussion of religions (all religions, even Islam), and sensitive political content (human rights and Israel). China blocks Western news (sometimes), politics, and porn (half-heartedly (Playboy and Penthouse get blocked, but not Hustler or whitehouse.com)).
Today, blocking is generally fairly granular. Proxy-based filters allow specific URLs to be blocked, while router-based filters block entire servers, causing overblocking. In Saudi Arabia, they use proxies; in China, they use routers and see overblocking (and underblocking) as a result.
So China, for example, blocks all of blogspot.com (over a million blogs) as a result of wanting to block a smaller number of blogs on that site.
Kijoong Kim of JinboNet in South Korea then discussed the Internet Content Regulation System in South Korea. The Korean Ministry of Information and Communication proposed requiring a PICS rating system for all web content in 2000, but the proposal was defeated after activists unleashed DoS attacks on the MIC website. The 2001 version of the law includes a provision prohibiting online protests, which the activist community does not like.
Arturo Quirantes of the Universidad de Granada discussed Spain’s 2002 law requiring web publishers to register sites with the government or pay large fines. 415 Spanish webmasters responded by replacing their websites with a protest page.
The conference offered many lunchtime activities again today. The most technically-interesting choice was a session on ENUM and privacy; I went there just long enough to grab a copy of the paper that CDT is preparing and to eat the box lunch provided by the conference (today’s was better than yesterday’s, but I’m sure I could have done better on the free market). The most interesting alternative was a Video Surveillance Tour of Manhattan by the Surveillance Camera Players; from what I heard, it was a very eye-opening experience.
But I hadn’t been in Manhattan since July, 2001. We’d most of that day in the Financial District, largely atop the World Trade Center, and I felt the need to go back. So I took the E train to the end of the line (Chambers Street) and went up to the street. And of course, there was something missing. I walked down the street to the Ground Zero viewing ground itself. I passed places we’d seen 21 months ago (like the Century 21 Department Store); I passed markings on buildings which said things like “9-17-01 — ash and glass”; I passed people taking pictures; and, of course, I passed T-shirt vendors. I didn’t find it necessary to buy a T-shirt to remember my visit.
Then I walked over to Broadway and walked back to the hotel. It was a long walk (about 3.5 miles), and I was glad to get back and rest; I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have done such a trip on 9/11.
Plenary 9: Data Retention in Europe and America
Even though I was in the room in time for the beginning of the panel, I had a hard time following the speakers, so I’m hoping that Henry Farrell took good notes despite being on the panel.
The one point I did take from the panel is that, in the US, there is no government requirement that ISPs (and similar businesses) retain traffic data about their subscribers unless there is an order concerning a specific active investigation; such an order can be issued for 90 days (with a possible 90-day renewal) to give the government time to request a court order to examine such records, but it applies only to traffic data created after the order is issued. Absent such an order, ISPs are free to save or discard data as their business needs require. In contrast, there is a “data retention” regime in the EU. Providers can be forced to preserve all traffic data in case the government might be interested in it at a later date.
Plenary 10: Moot Court — Beyond LICRA v. Yahoo: Free Speech in a World Without Borders
Interesting session, but nothing I can summarize and blog. In the after-court discussion, I found it interesting that several non-US participants didn’t see why the US courts might consider maintaining the ability of US-based persons or companies to be able to speak freely
Plenary 11: Terrorizing Rights: International Cooperation and
International Anti-Terrorism Policies
Gus started, and here’s the big problem he pointed out: Definitions of
And it’s not always clear what the facts are (journalists, for example,
have been known to fabricate quotes).
Tracey discussed the Algiers convention on anti-terrorism (which does not appear to be available online). There are major problems when dictators (such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe use anti-terrorism laws against their opposition, even when that opposition is not using what would generally be considered terrorist tactics). Interestingly, the Bank of England considers his family and colleagues to be subject to anti-terrorist financial sanctions.
Toshi discussed the use of anti-terrorism regulations and laws in Japan.
David Banisar tried to summarize the situation in Europe in 10 minutes. He pointed out that many countries in Western Europe have had terrorism laws for decades, because they’ve had terrorist groups for decades (think IRA or Red Brigades); this is unlike the situation in the US, where terrorism is recent. But there have been new laws since 9/11 — for example, introducing an EU-wide arrest warrant and coming up with a common definition of terrorism.
Finally, John described the situation in the UK. Liberty was set up in 1934 and they produced their first report on terrorism two years later (relating to Northern Ireland). There was already significant new legislation before 9/11, but after 9/11, stronger regulations were introduced. For example, it is a criminal offence not to tell the police about any information you have about possible terrorist activities. Membership in some political groups is a criminal offence — in fact, even claiming membership in some groups is a crime (even if it’s not true).
Dinner at Macy’s
Somehow, that doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, does it? And it wasn’t where I wanted to have dinner, but time was short and no one had a better idea (well, I did, but I wasn’t quite sure where I was really trying to take the group), so that’s where we wound up. And it wasn’t a bad idea, really — I wanted to have a New York pizza in the worst way, and that’s pretty much what I accomplished (memo to self: don’t order BBQ Chicken pizza in New York again). But the company was good and so were the shared desserts.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel for the Brandeis/Big Brother Award ceremony. Details will be available sometime; the winners were well-chosen (Osama bin Laden won the Lifetime Menace award; his “acceptance” speech was rather chilling, even though it was intended to be funny).
And now I’m going to call it an evening; we start a bit later tomorrow morning, which will be quite welcome.