Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

Net-neutrality through legislation?

May 19, 2008

Now, this looks like an attempt to deal with questions of net-neutrality through legislation. John Conyers (D-MI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) are trying to promote a new bill aimed at making it “unlawful for any broadband network provider … to block, to impair, to discriminate against, or to interfere with the ability of any person to use a broadband network service”. Apparently it is already second attempt to assure net-neutrality through legislation and it will be interesting to see how things evolve. Interestingly, there was practically no mention of this in the mainstream media…

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In the meantime, in a kingdom far, far away…

March 22, 2008

While the Israeli legislators are passing laws for big-brother-like censorship of the Internet, the “developed” world is taking more complex, yet more thoughtful steps towards the same goal – online safety for children. For example, the EU is going to spend 55m Euros on educational efforts in the next four years to promote online safety. In the US there is a similar initiative fighting its way through the Senate, even though with some difficulties. Even Google is partaking in the educational effort, even though they are perfectly fine with promoting safety through better algorithms. It seems like everybody, but the Israeli lawmakers (together with their colleagues in other Middle Eastern countries and in Asia) realize that in order to keep the balance between openness and safety we need education.  We can definitely create a very limited version of the internet, hoping it will be safe, but it is that openness of this platform that drives the internet as we know it today.  Education may be a more expansive and a more demanding solution, but it appears as the most substantial one

It seems like there is a great distance between the rhetoric employed by proponents of the law and their action. If you read the linked articles you will see that even the definition of threat to the children is different. While the Israeli MK see their role as protectors in preventing the children from viewing naked bodies online, everybody else are actually concerned with more tangible issues such as utilization of online resources for child abuse. Maybe I am missing some highly philosophical part of an argument that suggests that child abuse originates in corrupted minds of those who consume porn (or any other sex related content for that matter), however I doubt that.  There is actually a real threat for children actively participating online and it has to be addressed.

When put side by side, both types of efforts apply the same rhetoric for defining the goal. However when one is aimed at addressing a real problem rooted in contemporary issues, the other is taking advantage of people’s prejudges and fears in an attempt to promote one way of life at expanse of another.  This later part is really warring and it results in different types of action with different types of broad repercussions.  While following the censorship route brings with it limitations on creativity, openness, etc. thus hurting the long-term technology driven innovation, I cannot foresee similar difficulties with the education route.  On the contrary, i believe that following the education route would bring additional benefits in terms of capacity building for the society and its economies.  I hope that MKs will do some research before they register their votes in the second and the third rounds of hearings for the internet censorship law.

Israel is not alone

March 17, 2008

It is believed that people who spend a lot of time together, tend to acquire characteristics of each other. It seems like countries that spend a lot of time side by side, tend to acquire similar policies. Here is a recent update about Iranian government now demanding the internet cafe users to register (including their ID numbers and specific times of using the cafes). Reminds me of earlier attempts of Shas to do practically the same in Israel and seems perfectly in line with the internet censorship initiative they are (unfortunately) successfully leading.

IP – private information or not?

March 12, 2008

Recently EU decided that IP is a private information. Google is arguing it is not. What do you think?

Regulating online content

February 29, 2008

Kind of related to my previous post.

Recently we witnessed how Pakistani government was trying to block YouTube, and when that did not work they just took the entire country off the grid. What caused that decision was supposedly discovery by the authorities that YouTube has content critical towards Islam (HE).
But Pakistan is not alone in attempts of screening the internet. Europe is in the midst of heated debate about filtering online content too. There the authorities want to block child pornography and terrorism-related websites (very broad definition). And recently similar sentiments have been voiced in Australia.

Israel of course is not lagging behind. Together with the internet censorship law passing in first hearing another law proposal, calling to monitor talkbacks on news websites, has passed in the first hearing too. According to this latter proposal (HE of the original) individuals leaving talkbacks on news websites will be personally legally responsible for their content. In other words a typical reply like “shut the f@#k up, you have no f#@king clue what you are talking about” could lead to a legal suit. This is in fact a more liberal version of the previous iteration of the same proposal according to which all people leaving talkbacks were supposed to identify with their real name.

Are we witnessing a trend? I wonder what the internet will look like in 10 or 20 years… the efforts seem to push it more and more towards the television model. What do you think?

My Yiddishe Mama post, or “I told you so”

December 17, 2007

A couple of years ago I participated in a conference titled “Telecoms in Transition”. It was a gathering of (primarily European) telecom industry leaders who were discussing the question of the future of their industry. My talk focused on the “digital divide” and the main point was that the next big wave of users is going to come from the developing world. It seems like this idea is catching up and here is a post on “Information Policy” blog with a link to an article analyzing where the next billion of internet users will come from based on the last Internet Governance Forum.

And no, i am not claiming the authorship, but I think it is important to stress this point once again. I believe that we are at the beginning of a trend in the rhetoric (and probably action) of the telecom industry and it is nice to say “I told you so” :)

No Pandora outside the US?

December 12, 2007

Just a few month ago I was really disappointed for not being able to listen to Pandora in Canada (and got some really good suggestions for alternatives). Now it seems like it happens elsewhere. I am currently in Israel and am getting the same message: “We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for most listeners located outside of the U.S. …” I wonder if it is now the case anywhere outside the US?

Obama on technology

November 15, 2007

Thanks to John Daly’s blog reference I had a chance to watch Barak Obama’s talk at Google yesterday. It is interesting to hear what the candidates have to say about their views of technology, and it is particularly interesting to me as someone who aims at studying this.

First, i think the fact that Obama was talking at Google is interesting. Just a few weeks ago Hilary Clinton, together with her husband, visited Microsoft campus. I find it a little bit symbolic how images of the candidates align with the images of technological companies they chose to visit. Obama went to the young, dynamic, and innovative Google. Clinton went to the established and experienced Microsoft. During his talk and the Q&A, Obama made a few direct references to his resemblance with Google founders.

Second, the rhetoric Obama used to talk about technology. I have to admit it was expectedly technocratic. He talked about the information age, about the inevitable connection between technoloy and progress, and did not forgot to talk about threats from outside to the US technological leadership. To his credit, i have to notice that he explicitly committed to net neutrality (and investment in basic research) and at the same time promised “intense” anti-trust to insure competition. The last point is interesting as Google itself is moving into spotlight of anti-trust authorities. The greatest applause was gained however when he talked about reforming the immigration policy, specifically referring to HB1 visas issue.

The last point i want to highlight is Obama’s reference to the digital divide. Interestingly, i don’t think he ever used the term, but it was a topic crossing his entire talk. Addressing the digital divide he framed it similarly to the mainstream discourse. He talked about access to technology as an issue worldwide and broadband connectivity as the main problem in the US. Literacy was briefly mentioned, but the main topic was still access. It is interesting because this discourse has dominated the US political arena for over a decade now. There was a shift from talking about just access to talking about broadband access, but the primary idea remained.

Somewhat unrelated, but still interesting detail was Obama mentioning that over 300,000 people have profiles on his website. This is not related to the point i was making in this post, but just an interesting fact. If you have the time, here is the video on YouTube:

And if you have extra time, here is a link to the Q&A session. It didn’t really deal with technology, but with more general topics.

Regulatory divide?

October 28, 2007

Recently I was surprised to discover that the Italian government is researching an option to tax and monitor bloggers. According to various sources, there is a pending law proposal requiring bloggers to register with the national registry of “communication operators”, which so far has been used for professional media only. Basically this law proposal is asking to enforce greater control over the blogosphere both in terms of its economic activity and in terms of content.

In addition to the ideological debate, i wonder how exactly they plan enforcing that? Will Italian members of Facebook have to register as well? What about Italian immigrants elsewhere blogging in Italian? And what about Italian using overseas platforms? It seems to me there are many questions and unclarity surrounding this issue, but it all links back to the ongoing debates about internet governance. I wonder to what extend the lawmakers asking to regulate the “new” media, are actually familiar with them and understand what is going on? The whole initiative seems bizarre at this point. If I had a mood icon here it would definitely be set to “confused” at this point.

Disappointing indeed

October 20, 2007

I love Pandora! Particularly in the last year it has became my main music channel. However, today in Vancouver, as i typed the URL, i received the following message:

Dear Pandora Visitor,

We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for most listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

We believe that you are in Canada (your IP address appears to be 142.179.108.32). If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please contact us at pandora-support@pandora.com

If you are a paid subscriber, please contact us at pandora-support@pandora.com and we will issue a pro-rated refund to the credit card you used to sign up. If you have been using Pandora, we will keep a record of your existing stations and bookmarked artists and songs, so that when we are able to launch in your country, they will be waiting for you.

We will be notifying listeners as licensing agreements are established in individual countries. If you would like to be notified by email when Pandora is available in your country, please enter your email address below. The pace of global licensing is hard to predict, but we have the ultimate goal of being able to offer our service everywhere.

We share your disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding.

Did I say disappointed?