When Muni-WiFi Becomes Vehicle For Muni-Censorship

from the looking-out-for-the-taxpayer dept

Broadband Reports points out a press release which says the Culver City, California, will install filters on its muni-Wifi network — which covers all of one square mile — to weed out porn and P2P traffic. While the city might have the right to do so, these decision seems surrounded in silliness. First, filters don’t work, and as has been shown time and time again, cracking down on certain types of file sharing just means people will find others to use — so installing and maintaining filters is hardly an effective use of city money. But it gets worse: in the press release, a city official says “It was only after we saw an activity report from [the filtering vendor] that we realized there were potential problems,” which sounds like they were sold a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist — which is par for the course in the filtering business. Furthermore, he adds that accessing porn or P2P “is clearly not something tax dollars should be paying for” — what’s next? Banning the use of city streets if you’re driving to a strip club or pursuing otherwise legal, but governmentally determined “undesirable” activities? It’s hardly surprising that Culver City is home to three movie studios, and the MPAA is wetting its pants in delight at the plans. So, if you had designs on going to downtown Culver City and getting you some hot P2P action, think again — it’s an MPAA-approved piracy-free zone. Well, it would be, if filtering actually worked worth a damn. But somehow that seems beside the point, since Dan Glickman still managed to get his name in the press release.


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Comments on “When Muni-WiFi Becomes Vehicle For Muni-Censorship”

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15 Comments
Luke (user link) says:

Filters work in one sense: they filter out legitim

When I worked at a public library several years ago, we had a pretty regular group of porn addicts who would come in to view porn on the library computers. Filters did not work. These people had nothing better to do than to come to the public library to try to find porn — do you really think Googling everything possible until you get to porn is really going to be out of the question for them?

Conversely, I had to explain the reason to a woman doing research on breast cancer why she couldn’t access some sites she needed. Filters irritate, they don’t protect. Technology is not the problem here.

John (user link) says:

Spend the money wisely

How about filtering out adware, and malware that the planets most insecure operating system has created a different multi billion dollar industry for (in addition to porn). The author is right, it’s a waste of taxpayers money to ‘eliminate all we think is evil on the net’ and furthermore ya control freaks. IT WON’T HELP.

Another option is, taking that money and offering ‘net education’ courses for free to the community on ways the internet could be used as a positive force for the community.

I call it focus on the positive, not what you believe is the negative.

my $0.02

John

Paul says:

Filtering P2P

Filtering P2P for muni networks is imperative, and contrary to this techdirt author, not futile by any means.

It is very possible and feasible to tag packets and connections as P2P and block them, regardless of any port hopping the program may do, we do this with the community networks that we provide.

Everyone knows that P2P causes bandwidth problems with large networks; it decimates smaller networks. Even with extreme bandwidth limiting per user it doesnt take many people maxing out to kill a pipe, and P2P is the quickest way to do that.

Trying to filter porn, however, is useless as I don’t think anyone has quite figured out if a jpg contains nudity on a packet based level

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Filtering P2P

It is very possible and feasible to tag packets and connections as P2P and block them, regardless of any port hopping the program may do, we do this with the community networks that we provide.

This kind of filtering works about as well as porn filtering: it doesn’t get it all and it gets a lot it shouldn’t. Especially with encryption.

Everyone knows that P2P causes bandwidth problems with large networks; it decimates smaller networks. Even with extreme bandwidth limiting per user it doesnt take many people maxing out to kill a pipe, and P2P is the quickest way to do that.

No, everyone doesn’t know that. It makes no difference if a packet contains information for a P2P application, video conference, VOIP, FTP, streaming music or whatever: a packet still takes the same amount of bandwidth. It’s silly to think that a P2P packet takes more bandwidth. Your argument sounds more like that made by the providers who engage in the deceptive practice of marketing “unlimited” service that really isn’t.

I wish I had muni wireless says:

Re: Re: Filtering P2P

Can’t you just encrypt your packets to foil content-based filters?

There has been some interesting work in the computer vision community on detecting if an image is primarily composed of a naked person. Primary authors are Forsyth and Fleck, and also other work by James Wang. Google for it… I’m too lazy to look up complete references for you people.

Although a packet of email may contain as much bandwidth as a packet of mp3 or video, there are more packets associated with the latter. But yes, everyone in a city ftp’ing the latest linux distribution will kill a network just as dead as everyone downloading the latest Madonna video. Perhaps the way to address all this is with a daily bandwidth limit per user. Do whatever you want, but don’t exceed 1 Gb per day.

Scott says:

Government internet

Hey, I’ve been saying this for a while. I don’t understand why people who rail about Bush and the Patriot act would ever connect their computers to a government run internet. The internet is the one thing government hates the most, because it can’t control it. Muni wifi is the first wave of an assault on the internet by government. First, free wifi. Then private companies go out of business and it’s all government run. Then government begins filtering out porn, drugs, p2p, illegal, harrassing or offending language and websites. Next government begins watching our internet activiity and monitoring us. Get the m*****f******* government off the m*****f******* internet!

Charles says:

Filtering P2P

Who said all P2P was illegal. Isn’t MGM now using Bittorrent to distribute movies? It is also used to distribute other legal content.

If P2P is eating up the bandwidth has the capacity been properly sized? Again it seems that a technology (P2P) is being vicitimized. As is often stated on this site, efforts should be spent on proposing legal alternatives that consumers would use.

bill daul says:

When Muni-WiFi Becomes Vehicle For Muni-Censorship

Two thoughts:

1. think of it is practice…so when big brother decided you shouldn’t know how your elected officials are or how to contact city departments or read any liberal media…they will be able to do advanced filtering with ease.

2. wait until they filter out Google Earth or Mapquest…because they don’t want terrorists to be able to know where “places” are.

I look forward to the extinction of man so that the dolphins and porpoises can take over…they will probably do a better job of caretaking the planet…too bad man won’t be around to see it…assuming we don’t extinct life in the sea too!

ku says:

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Our system applies P2P Streaming Media Core technology. This technology is a cheap and high efficient streaming media transmitting technology. Under P2P system, not all users will download data from the servers. Users will also share data among each other. Therefore, when number of user increases, the server load and bandwidth usage won’t be sharply increased and this helps to reduce the server and bandwidth requirements.
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