Following my post on Anti-Piracy, I want to discuss an interesting article I just found off Ars Technica.

It's about filtering. Content filtering to be precise, striving to put an end to illegal downloading on all of the Internets floating around. We've never been so close to a Big Brother Watches You type of society, in my humble opinion of a caring Internet user.

We saw Comcast throttling Bittorrent traffic. We saw the MPAA and RIAA or whatever ??AA these associations are called hunting down downloaders in colleges and universities abroad. We also saw RIAA firing lawsuits everywhere with the hope of reducing illegal downloading of protected content. Now it seems another weapon surfaces: filtering.

Filtering was always here it seems. You might know about parental filters in IE. Or even child-lock on your TV? That's what it's all about: Restricting what you are allowed to do or see. Same things happen online. Google has its SafeSearch. That concerns Adult content. What about copyrighted content? It's here too.

Youtube recently implemented their own filter to prevent copyrighted content from being uploaded. TorrentSpy also implemented a hash-based content filtering, called FileRights.

Now it seems, ISPs will be implementing their own filters to prevent illegal downloading. It's begun with Comcast preventing seeding of torrents. Others will surely follow if persuaded by major labels. It seems that AT&T is leading the march, according to the Digg article below. The biggest irony in all this is that those same ISPs are offering megabit speeds to customers, FTTH and all, then tell you it's not meant for downloading stuff. What's it for then? Exclusive Youtubing? I don't think I need 8Mbps to load a page quickly, do I?

Universities are following the lead, threatened to see their funds reduced if they do not implement proper filters. I believe they would comply.

Filters are everywhere these days. I'm sure at your school or university, you are not allowed to do everything you like on their PCs. There are restrictions in place. Now it's going to be taken to a whole new level. New filtering techniques, such as the state-of-the-art, Motion-Based Filtering, are coming on scene.

Is this good? Proponents of filters cry "Die, illegal downloading!" while proponents of privacy, freedom and net-neutrality wail "No more restrictions!". IMHO, I think that the concepts of net-neutrality and freedom of information are taking a serious beating here. You are not allowed to do things in a network that supposedly has tags like "Public", "Free access", "Free flow of information", "Unrestricted knowledge and access". I'm not even sure that the net is so "unrestricted" these days. It's begun with the Great Firewall of China. And now it's going to extend to the rest of the world. Adios freedom!

I reiterate what I said in my Anti-Piracy post. Restraining mechanisms never work. What they are good at is setting revolts on. Just check the Digg comments! DRM had to kneel-over. Comcast is facing some troubles following their throttling. If universities and ISPs start their filtering campaigns, it can mean one thing: P2P will take a big blow. Downloading may be stopped, but I doubt that downloaders themselves will be happy about it. A consequence. Mass boycotts? Like this? Or this?

These events promise a good show. Let's wait and see what comes out of it all. I bet it will be making huge waves on the web very soon.


  1. Anonymous said...

    +1 :P
    I'd have to add that banning a protocol because it allows people to share illegal content is not really the solution since these protocols (torrents / emule etc) are also used for legal purposes such as world of warcraft updates, sharing of creative commons media, or, well, some linux distros.

    blocking these would be like confiscating all VCRs because it could record copyrighted movies. (okay, quite outdated example, but still, you get my point.)

    The funniest thing is that while i see them struggling against p2p protocols, most media hosting sites like rapidshare, megaupload, mediafire etc... are used to illegally share full albums and movies. sure, the teams try to clean off illegal contents, but they can't check everything. also, dissimulating what an archive truly is can be really easy.

    so i think that again they are using the wrong strategy. winning involves walking with the people, not against them.  


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