Michael Maiello's picture

    The Private Internet

    This is outside my usual subject matter so forgive me if it's trite or has been done before, but I've had a couple of Internet experiences lately that have really driven home for me how much things have changed.  When I started using the Internet back at the end of high school (around 1993) it was a bunch of bulletin boards with text interfaces.  It probably wasn't a commerce thing for me until around 1998/99 (making me a late adopter, I know, but for awhile I got an employee discount at a book, movie and video store so why Amazon?)  Throughout, there was a sense of the public square to the whole thing.  It was a false sense, to be sure.  There were always Internet Service Providers and hosting services and you were always playing on their turf, much the way we all play on the Dag turf now.

    There was never a reasonable expectation of free speech, given that we were always on somebody else's property.  The Internet wasn't exactly Central Park, but it was treated as public space.  A month ago I saw an item that in advance of a potential Wikileaks release, Bank of America registered a bunch of domain names about it and its executives sucking.  Inspired, I registered at Twitter as a parody of B of A president Brian Moynihan.  It was a pretty clear parody.  The darned bio said, "I run Bank of America, heard of it?"  BofA complained and the account was instantly suspended.  They didn't even ask for my side first, they just froze it.  This is their right.  They even said I could have it back if I followed their parody guidelines.  These guidelines are designed to take all the teeth out of any parody.  Can't call if BofAMoynihan.  I could call it "FakeMoynihan" though.  But I can't use a public domain picture of the guy, even though he's a public figure.  Oh and even the bio, which I remind you is something no major company CEO would ever, ever use as their online bio, would have to be changed to something like "this is a parody twitter feed about..."  Anyone who's ever done comedy, and I've done some stand-up, knows that calling attention to a joke rarely works.  Well, Twitter would rather have BofA ad dollars than guerrilla theater and better jokes.  Can't blame them, and I don't.  But this is the reality.  Don't take this as a complaint, it's just something that happened.

    Facebook can also tell you what pages you can and can't have and what you can and can't say on them.  Again, this is their right and I don't dispute it.  It also has 500 million users and for many has become something of a portal to the Internet.  So while I would say this control is appropriate since Facebook is private property, just like Dag, it also means the whims of Facebook management will have a lot to do with what people see and when and how.

    I have an iPhone.  I've contemplated an iPad.  I'm an Apple fan from way back.  It's likely I will eventually buy the iPad.  But here's a company that thinks you should be "free from porn" and thus rejects apps with adult content (but not Playboy, which gets an exception because it's an established brand) and that even rejected the Wikileaks app.  Again -- their device, their app store, their rights and their responsibilities.  But seems we're moving towards a world where the content of the Internet will be increasingly subject to the approval of private corporations that will act in the service of their own interests.  It's not just Apple, either.  Most smart phones and tablets have adopted the Apple "virtual store" concept and what is that but a gate between users and content?

    No doubt, there are plenty of places that remain on the Internet where you can say pretty much anything you want.  But there's a ton of drek out there and people don't want to waste their time on it.  So they turn to gatekeepers.  They ultimately prefer the whims of Apple management or Twitter user rules than pure anarchy.  I get that, I understand the impulse and the utility of it.

    But 5-10 years from now, I think we're going to have a voluntarily censored Internet.  It won't be hard consorship, just a kind of manufacture of online consent where the voices that don't merit corporate approval are left to shout in the wilderness while Bristol Palin and Kim Kardashian getting the microphone once again.




    Hmm. Maybe don't throw away all your old dialup equipment or your old VHS copies of The Matrix.

    The very existence of parody guidelines is stunning.

    Of course, how would the mainstream media cover the existence of such guidelines?  Probably as a good thing.  The media has always loathed the more anarchic elements of the Internet.

    I dunno but this really cracked me up.

    I hereby render unto Erica the Dayly Line of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site, given to all of her from all of me. hahahahaha

    Aw shucks, it's good to be back with you guys--thanks DickDay!

    Do you remember the parody website GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com?

    The website is pretty much gone now, but the story lives on in Wikipedia.  Because Beck knew he would lose in the US courts, he took his "trademark" case to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),  an arm of the United Nations, despite his previous claims that US law should trump international law.

    Due to an amazing First Amendment lawyer, Marc Randazza, who came to Eiland-Hall's defense, Beck lost the case.

    From Wiki:

    Randazza wrote: "Only an abject imbecile could believe that the domain name would have any connection to [Beck]". Randazza wrote that the website's domain name could not be confused with the "Glenn Beck" trademark, except to "A moron in a hurry". This phrase refers to a legal concept where a reasonable person could become confused or deceived.

    He wrote: "We are not here because the domain name could cause confusion. We do not have a declaration from the president of the international association of imbeciles that his members are blankly staring at the Respondent's website wondering 'where did all the race baiting content go?'" Randazza further explained the "moron in a hurry" argument, with respect to this case: "It is specious at best for Mr. Beck to assert that his fans, or the public as a whole, would confuse Respondent’s website with Mr. Beck himself — unless of course it is Mr. Beck’s view that his fans and the average internet user are in fact hurried morons."

    Oh, well. The Internet is just a series of tubes, anyway.  :-)



    One way to look at it is that the internet will reflect a similiar reality in the world of hard-copy publications.  One can always publish one's own zine.  But one had to get through the gatekeepers if one wanted one's essay to appear in places like The New Yorker or Foreign Policy.  People tended to turn to these more widely distributed publications rather than browsing through the stacks of independently created zines at some local bookstore (if such a place existed in the community).

    One critical difference being that the post office does not block delivery of your 'zine if someone decides they want to order it - even if the 'zine has dirty pictures in it.

    I am not aware of the federal government blocking people from passing information similiar to the zine between one another.

    I was not aware that we were discussing the federal government per se.

    We have moved into a new era. Electronic information is wholly equivalent to printed content. Several corporations who ostensibly offer communications devices and services do indeed limit devices to delivering only approved 'zines. Likewise with carriers. They also reserve the right to inspect every bit of data and only transmit packets containing information they want to have delivered. The carriers have been less aggressive about it than those who are arbitrarily throttling capacity at the device level, but the underlying questionable justifications are the same - as are the negative practical impacts on free expression and market commerce in an age of modern technology.

    Requesting content be delivered to one's physical communications device (fixed PC or mobile) is the modern equivalent of requesting delivery of a 'zine. If the post office won't deliver it, are we really going to argue that the theoretical ability for the publisher to physically hand deliver their content across the nation would mean the post office's decision didn't seriously curtail the publisher's ability to realize the same free speech benefits as those allowed to access the nation's communications infrastructure?

    What we have today is as if mailbox manufacturers and the USPS  have both claimed the right to tell people what information they can and can not have delivered - deciding who can and can not take advantage of the modern communications infrastructure. That's the whole deal with net neutrality; corporations assert they have a right to inspect detailed contents of every packet transmitted by bandwidth consumers and decide what is and what is not delivered based on what is inside - determined by their own corporate interests.

    In the case of the internet, the taxpayer has funded the bulk of R&D, infrastructure and backbone (the cellular infrastructure sees plenty of public funding too). We just gave corporate America another $7.2 billion to establish access in low-income and rural areas.Yet somehow policy regarding access and proper standards of conduct are a question properly decided entirely by private corporations? Why is it accepted as given that the American people shouldn't even question when corporations restrict our use of a communications infrastructure we've spent trillions in national treasure to build for ourselves?

    The federal government has not fulfilled it's regulatory responsibilities for over a decade. This is just another example. Back in 2008, there was a candidate for president who was very articulate about these sorts of things. He totally promised to restore the needed strong regulatory functions of government. In fact, he even addressed this exact issue. Sadly, he died.

    Again -- their device, their app store, their rights and their responsibilities.

    If a person pays hundreds of dollars for an electronic device, in what universe does that device belong to Apple? That entire concept seems as perverse as it is absurd.

    It makes sense that Apple would control content distributed across it's store - that falls under the rubric of what you seem to be talking about. But Apple goes beyond that and intentionally cripples the device. And until the FCC stepped in they were taking legal action against people who just wanted to install their own software on the hardware they paid good money to own - going so far as intentionally pushing malware to people using phones in an "unauthorized" way for the purpose of turning the devices into "bricks" (giving birth to the urban nomenclature "bricking). Ultimately, it is about controlling content - which is the exact same thing as controlling speech. It would be one thing if the situation seemed primarily a case of users selectively turning to the whims of these providers as an alternative to chaos - but reality seems to reflect a situation where users are being prevented from turning anywhere else and/or really having nowhere else to go.

    I strongly disagree that providing backbone communications services grants a corporation the inherent right to apply discriminatory - or coercive - policies on users of those services. By extension of that logic, it should be fine for the telephone companies to listen in on your conversations and only allow the communications grid to be used to discuss things they approve of - and disconnect anyone who fails to comply. In fact, it would be the same as saying the maker of your physical ma-bell analog phone should be allowed place restrictions on who you can call with it and what you can say when you call. As the systemically critical tools of our communication infrastructure evolve, the same limitations and requirements applied to providers of last-gen communications services which have to date prevented corporate/government implementations from placing unconstitutional restrictions on American speech must also be applied to the emergent technologies. Corporate investment in modern communications platforms does not grant corporations the right to co-opt the constitution in determining what can be communicated by the users of the platform.

    This goes double for financial services. If we are moving to an economy largely based on electronic commerce, we have essentially ceded control of our currency to electronic transaction providers. Certainly it should not be the case that corporations can randomly eliminate a person's ability to survive by blackballing them from currency usage with zero due process. Entities that would act in the way Visa/Pay Pal et al did in relation to Wikileaks should be barred from providing transactional currency-based financial services (i.e. money transfers, retail cash dispensing, retail payment services, etc.). That was the most disturbing weapon the government employed in their attempts to destroy Wikileaks - the implications should scare the crap out of every American.

    You can't say corporations are not granted the right to co-opt the constitution in determining what can be communicated by the users of the platform.  As long as GOPer's are throwing wrenches into the spokes and Obama keeps talking about bipartisanship, corporations have implied consent to co-opt the constitution to make money at the expense of their user base.

    I think what's going on is before the meltdown, the entertainment industry didn't think illegal downloading was a big enough fish to go after. However, with falling revenues because people are cutting back on expenses, those guppies are starting to look tasty. Hence the efforts to cut services at ISP's and at the platform.

    This will keep growing simply because the business sector is still trying to keep the same levels of growth they had before the downturn. If their growth doesn't meet or exceed Wall St expectation they could loose investors and go out of business.


    There are not nearly enough fish in this story for me to pay attention to it. 

    Please rewrite. This time, with more fish. Your readership will soar, and -  together in greater fishhood - we will defeat consorship.

    {secret fish sign}


    When trying to write satire inside a shoebox, is it any wonder you keep getting elbowed? Comedy by definition has anarchy in it.  Having some guidelines isn't necessarily bad, but having non-funny people making decisions as to what is or isn't funny almost always leads to bad outcomes.  

    Of course, the cliche of working within and triumphantly overcoming such restrictions, has a long and cherished history in broadcasting.  From Fred Allen's fight with the censors and stupid NBC vice-presidents, to David Letterman and Howard Stern's similarly well-publicized bouts with corporate numbskulls, we love to see comedy writers/performers take the restrictions imposed on them and turn them on their head.  Comedy is also about context.  So, my advice would be to stop being so literal that corporate idiots and corporate internet providers feel specifically offended, and make the parody appear to fit within the imposed structure, while also being totally recognizable as the comedic flaying of pomposity and corporate idiocy that it is intended to be.  It can be done.  It just takes some work.  But when a piece of devastating satire hits home, it is a thing of beauty, isn't it?


    Excellent advice, sir.  I'm trying!

    I can understand an ISP regulating the type of traffic thru their point of presence on the internet. While a user is leasing a portal for a finite period of time, they are ultimately responsible for the content going in and out 24/7 including week-ends and holidays. However, if I purchase a platform, such as a PC, iPhone or whatever, I should be the one to decide how I wish to use the device when accessing the internet.

    My access to info/data on the internet should only be limited at the portal, not at the device I own. In fact, there are many flavors of ISP's available for users to select. One can shop around for the one that allows you the access you desire. So ISP restrictions are dependent on the the type of traffic an ISP is willing to accept. However, the legal beagles are stepping up their campigns to legally corral users so ISP's are being forced to curtail users access.

    I suspect efforts to clean up the internet aren't working as quickly as expected simply because every time they close down one porno or bit torrent niche, it reappears somewhere else. Unfortunately, that's what the internet is suppose to do. So the next step is to curb access at the device itself. But that's infringing on users by eliminating the possibility of choice. Soon we may find we have little room to make choices...we will have to accept devices with pre-installed applications/limitations that force users to make choices with fewer options thus directing attention to what others want us to see. So for example, when price checking out a pair of men's red wool socks, you could end up with pages of nothing but women's pink silk ankle socks because someone needs to get rid of excess inventory. In fact, I've been using Google to search for running compression socks. I can't get to the US side so I keep getting redirected to European sites with similar socks but prices in Euros or English pounds, both which includes a 20% VAT tax...I'm looking for a site in the US with the product lines in dollars that ship to an APO.

    Your compression socks can be found at Zappos they can and will ship to APO addresses.

    I understand the whole notion of a privatized internet, somewhat censored and completely surveillanced... but do you think the "big man" really has the power to control the masses via what's accepted and what isn't.  I think the internet's too big; it's beyond control.  It's free doman terrain, as far as I'm concerned.  And there's always loopholes.

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