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Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint to Block Usenet

New York’s Attorney General has just launched a blacklist-based initiative to quell undesirable Internet content. Child pornography is the target, although like all blacklists there will be a large number of blocked innocents and civilian casualties.

An undercover investigation by the Attorney General’s office uncovered a major source of online child pornography known as “Newsgroups,” an online service not associated with websites. The Newsgroups act as online public bulletin boards where users can upload and download files. Users access Newsgroups through their Internet Service Providers.

According to a report by Declan McCullagh, Sprint will be blocking the entire alt. hierarchy of Usenet, while good old Time Warner Cable has no time for such fussiness and will just stop offering all Usenet access. Verizon, the third participating ISP, has not yet announced its blocking plans.

There are plenty of other ways for subscribers to these ISPs to access Usenet still. It’s an ineffectual solution and a scary precedent. ISPs, whether under the influence of governmental or financial pressure, should not control what their customers can and can’t access, not least because they exert their control so sloppily.

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