A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I thought the U.S. was headed down a “slippery slope” in a number of ways, one of them being that I felt the Federal Government was becoming too involved in the personal lives of Americans. I have noticed that this trend is continuing at an alarm pace as I pay closer attention to what is going around me.
One of the earliest technologies of the Internet was Usenet, a collection of “newsgroups” that anyone could read and contribute to. Usenet has been around for a really long time (in technology years). Newsgroups pre-date web-based message boards, AOL communities and all of the graphical (point-and-click) technology. Participation in the group can be fairly anonymous. I have been an active Usenet user since 1988 or so; a proper search in Google will turn up posts I wrote in 1989.
Over the past several years, spammers and the like have discovered Usenet and have used the technology to further their dubious causes. There are over 100,000 newsgroups which cover a wide selection of topics; I could usually be found on the roadgeek group: misc.transport.road. As Usenet technology evolved through the 90s, some newsgroups devoted themselves to exchanging binary files: illegal copies of software, porn, font files and the like. Unfortunately, a very small number of groups started trading child pornography. We are talking less than 80 groups out of more than 100,000.
I am a broad minded individual (to say the least). I have met folks with wildly varied sexual tastes. Some I get, some I don’t, but I never judge. Hey, if it turns your crank and doesn’t harm another person then do what you need to do to find your nirvana. If everyone was the same the world would be wicked boring. HOWEVER, child pornography is a whole different story. That’s one subject that will evoke the same response from me every time: “That’s just sick.” And while I find anything related to child pornography to be intolerable, I do NOT believe in the government shutting down technology that may (or may not!) have been used for that purpose. It’s too close to censorship. And that’s exactly what has happened: The NYS Attorney General is leaning on Internet Service Providers to ban the Usenet newsgroups used to traffic child pornography. ISPs are opting to take the easier route: they’re just shutting down Usenet access for their users all together.
This is unacceptable. ISPs are shutting down open communication between American citizens. We are talking about 80 newsgroups out of over 100,000. That’s like throwing the entire population of Cambridge, Massachusetts in jail because there are 80 criminals on the street.
Does that make sense?
Another disturbing turn of events is that the Department of Justice is going to be involved with the development of Microsoft’s latest version of Windows, Windows 7. It’s slated to come out in 2010. Let’s think about this. I am no Microsoft fan by any stretch (they’re stuff works but it doesn’t blow my skirt up or anything), however, why should the Federal Government be involved with the development of their product? That’s like asking Uncle Sam to stir the recipe with Ben and Jerry! Do we trust the DoJ to not put a “backdoor” into Windows 7 so that they can spy on the American public in the name of “Homeland Security”? I certainly don’t.
I think I need to add a layer of tin foil to my hat.