EFF Exposing The Back-Room Deals That Allow Corporations And Governments To Control The Web

from the sorry-you-didn't-get-the-memos,-stakeholders dept

The EFF is publishing a series looking at the multitude of ways gatekeepers and governments can make content disappear from the web -- using everything from legislation they helped craft to applying pressure to multiple points between the content they want removed and the person who put it there.

But not every tool used to remove content comes in a form that can be contested by the general public. Some of these tools are the result of private agreements with private entities -- agreements in which users have no say. The EFF calls it "Shadow Regulation."

For example, agreements between copyright holders and Internet companies that give copyright holders the ability to effectively delete users' content from the Internet, and agreements on other topics such as hateful speech and terrorism that can be used to stifle lawful speech. Unlike laws, such agreements (sometimes also called codes, standard, principles, or guidelines) aren't developed with public input or accountability. As a result, users who are affected by them are often completely unaware that they even exist.

Even those who are aware of these agreements have few options for changing them, because users aren't a party to these private deals. They tend to cover multiple companies, so shaming or boycotting a single company isn't an option. And asking regulators to step in might not be possible either, because these agreements often have the active support of government officials who see them as a cheap and easy alternative to regulation.

It may be difficult to battle these agreements, but there's nothing to be lost by exposing their inner workings to those affected by them. The EFF names a few examples: the "six strikes" infringement notification system, Europe's hate speech code of conduct, and the MPAA's "Trusted Notifier" program, which requires domain name registries to disable domains accused of infringement.

But the reach of these private agreements extends much further than this. Pretty much every intermediary between hosted content and those seeking to view it have options at their disposal for disappearing content should they be pressured to do so. The EFF highlights each link in the chain between site visitors and the hosted content, showing how these have been affected by shadow regulation.

ISPs, payment providers, certificate authorities, and search engines all are forms of internet connective tissue that can be severed at any time, and with few recourse options for those whose content has been removed. The private agreements aren't just used by other private entities, like the MPAA and RIAA. They're also exploited by censorious governments to stifle criticism or reporting that's at odds with the official government line.

This is the introduction to a series of posts by the EFF, which will more closely examine each of these "weak links." Just as importantly, the EFF is hoping to provide readers with the information they need to fight back against this unofficial, often-opaque form of speech regulation.

Filed Under: copyright, private agreements, regulations, shadow regulations


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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 5 Oct 2016 @ 8:46am

    No Control

    I'm left to wonder when these agreements will be used for nefarious purposes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2016 @ 8:53am

      Re: No Control

      Well I don't know exactly about the private to private ones... but if you remember, the government was pressuring financial institutions to stop dealing with pornographers and such awhile back. It was, and presumably still is, preventing people from engaging in constitutionally protected speech.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2016 @ 11:23am

        Re: Re: No Control

        Payment providers are also pressuring gun stores. More regulation from the left. They don't like you, they will find ways to shut you up or shut you down even though they have no legal right to do it. They don't believe in dealing in the marketplace of ideas, they want to control the marketplace. Just look at the name calling that starts with about the second word out of their mouth. They figure they can get the right to defend themselves against personal attacks that they won't have to defend their indefensible positions.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 5 Oct 2016 @ 9:18am

      Re: No Control

      Stop wondering. "when" is "now" and "already".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2016 @ 8:58am

    Not just corporations and governments. Activists can take advantage of these weak links, too. And wow have they ever. Mostly to the detriment of Free and Open Internet activists.

    The hidden weak link are the people who run the target platform. If you're on anything smaller than Twitter, key persons who run a given platform are vulnerable to personal attacks to intimidate or coerce them into shutting down the offending speech. I've had the misfortune of witnessing this multiple times over the past several years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever, 5 Oct 2016 @ 9:25am

    Oooooooh! Curse you, Snooooowdeeeeeen!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Oct 2016 @ 9:49am

    This is why we need decentralized systems, badly. The bright side is there are plenty of people working on them. While it seems somewhat stalled I have high hopes for the block chain developments!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2016 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      Fully decentralized systems require 'fixed' ip addresses so that they can be linked by the hosts file. Anything less requires some central server to track dynamic IP addresses, which is what makes torrent users so easily tracked, unless they use TOR or VPN's to hide their IP address.
      A central DNS facility is useful for public web sites, but less so for private communications and private groups using the Internet. Multiply replicated data is also usefule, which is what made Usenet so resident to global censorship.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2016 @ 8:57am

        Re: Re:

        Tor is not spelled "TOR".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 10 Oct 2016 @ 1:08pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Tor" was, originally, an acronym standing for "The Onion Router". The project may not officially style its name as "TOR", but that's correct according to the rules of the English language.

          I'm not going to spell "MacOS" with a lowercase "m" either, dammit. And I still hyphenate "Wal-Mart".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2016 @ 1:45pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Tor is not spelled "TOR".

          Unless you know proper English, that is.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 5 Oct 2016 @ 10:46am

    That's what happens when you give IANA to the UN. </Mr. Gumby>

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mb (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:11am

    Extortion Anyone?

    I would love to see that case where the Entire BoD for Corporation X is brought to bear charges of extortion for damages to someone based upon one of their "guidelines."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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