Worldcom Forced To Block Sites

from the uh-oh...-hello,-slippery-slope dept

As horrible as child pornography is, a court ruling in Pennsylvania today sets a dangerous precedent. Thanks to a Pennsylvania state law, Worldcom has to block all access to five sites accused of child pornography. Worldcom has no association whatsoever with the sites, but the legal ruling says that the ISP needs to block access to the sites for everyone in Pennsylvania. Since there’s no effective way to determine where people are coming from, Worldcom will now block the sites from anyone coming via their network. In other words, according to this ruling, if a single state doesn’t like the content of a particular site… then they can force the backbone providers of the internet to block the sites. I’m sure the music industry is paying close attention because this is the same sort of thing they tried to get ISPs to do on their behalf. A few years back, the ISPs fought long and hard not to have any liability for things that happen online that they had no part in. Apparently, all those agreements are getting tossed out the window.


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Comments on “Worldcom Forced To Block Sites”

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3 Comments
Bill (user link) says:

Just a technical correction

People often make the mistake of saying that it’s impossible to block traffic from __________. That’s simply not true as your own thread on China blocking users from accessing the Google website has demonstrated. While there is no foolproof, 100% accurate way to do this they could simply traceroute the requesting IP address and refuse to pass along packets for that website to IP addresses that originate from addresses too few hops away from switches in their Pennsylvania facilities.

I don’t agree with the ruling but it’s funny how when people want to do something we don’t like (like blocking websites) we claim it’s impossible. Currently there are companies that do geographic profiling for fraud prevention purposes. They have created maps of what domains and IP addresses originate where. Sure it has to be constantly updated but it is “possible.”

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Just a technical correction

Ah, yes. Good point. I should clarify, my point was that Worldcom says they’ll now block it from everyone because it would be impossible to just block Pennsylvania visitors. So, I was just repeating their argument.

The case of China is a little different since they control the few pipes in and out of the country and can thus easily set up control over everything that travels over those pipes. Clearly, Pennsylvania is different.

Furthermore, the fact that even your method is not 100% accurate would mean that at some point they would end up violating the law – and someone with way too much time on their hands would catch them on it, and they’d get sued.

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