Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Understand the true enemy

John has a post about a proposed Internet censorship amendment to the US Stimulus Bill.

The Jurist picked up on the theme, and links to this online campaign.

The Jurist has made a critical error in logic in combining two distinct issues. The issue John highlights involves ISPs snooping Internet traffic to determine the actual data being carried. I.e. spying. His analogy that if you were to "Propose that the government should be able to open every piece of mail in order to snuff out child porn and copyright infringement, and you'd be laughed at" is spot on.

The issue that The Jurist links to is about throttling traffic type. To extend John's analogy, this is like Canada Post deciding whether to send a letter you mailed by truck or by plane.

One issue is about people reading your mail, the other issue is about how long it takes to get to its destination.

This is a very important distinction, because Bell in fact won its case at the CRTC. As the tech site Ars Technica says in its article on the issue: "the CRTC found that congestion did exist on the network, small groups of P2P users were in fact causing a good deal of it, and Bell wasn't discriminating against anyone because it throttled its own retail service as well."

The highlighted part is very important. A small group of users were causing network congestion, which would prevent other subscribers from using the network.

Internet censorship is a very serious issue, and we have to be vigilant about it. But we have to ensure that we are fighting the right battle and properly identifying the enemy.

But with allies like the ones commenting at Michael Geist's site, we have a long way to go.

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