It Was Twenty(-odd) Years Ago Today When The Internet Looked Much Different Than It Does Now

from the time-machine dept

Last week, Mike and I were at a conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Reno v. ACLU, a seminal case that declared that the First Amendment applied online. What makes the case so worth a conference celebrating it is not just what it meant as a legal matter – it's a significant step forward in First Amendment jurisprudence – but also what it meant as a practical matter. This decision was hugely important in allowing the internet to develop into what it is today, and that evolution may not be something we adequately appreciate. It's easy to forget and pretend the internet we know today was always a ubiquitous presence, but that wasn't always so, and it wasn't so back then. Indeed, it's quite striking just how much has changed in just two decades.

So this seemed like a good occasion to look back at how things were then. The attached paper is a re-publication of the honors thesis I wrote in 1996 as a senior at the University of California at Berkeley. As the title indicates, it was designed to study internet adoption among my fellow students, who had not yet all started using it. Even those who had were largely dependent on the University to provide them their access, and that access had only recently started to be offered on any significant a campus-wide basis. And not all of the people who had started using the internet found it to be something their lives necessarily needed. (For instance, when asked if they would continue to use the internet after the University no longer provided their access, a notable number of people said no.) This study tried to look at what influences or reasons the decision to use, or not use, the internet pivoted upon.

I do of course have some pause, now a few decades further into my career, calling attention to work I did as a stressed-out undergraduate. However, I still decided to dig it up and publish it, because there aren't many snapshots documenting internet usage from that time. And that's a problem, because it's important to understand how the internet transitioned from being an esoteric technology used only by some into a much more pervasive one seemingly used by nearly everyone, and why that change happened, especially if we want to understand how it will continue to change, and how we might want to shape that change. All too often it seems tech policy is made with too little serious consideration of the sociology behind how people use the internet – the human decisions internet usage represents – and it really needs to be part of the conversation more. Hopefully studies like this one can help with that.


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    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:06pm

    NOW, if you could just understand how and why CDA Section 230 exemption is bad!

    NOW, if you could just understand how and why CDA Section 230 exemption is bad!

    First: GET A LIFE. Attending celebration for a (apparently minor) court decision? Going out of your way to do so? And I think I'M dull. Sheesh.

    Anyhoo, it's clear that Section 230 was bought and paid for by corporations to carve out exemptions to common law, from which they unduly, and to detriment of society, profit. The goal is to break civil society every way can.

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      Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:06pm

      Re: NOW, if you could just understand how and why CDA Section 230 exemption is bad!

      Key point: corporations do NOT have ANY "First Amendment Right". -- Just show me corporations in the Constitution. Can't. Corporations are just legal fictions made by lawyers, by which The Rich can skim in public markets yet evade common law liability.

      The public has little protection from focused money interests. But the country was founded precisely by throwing off old moneyed interests, which should be done frequently, with steep income tax rates and by putting time limit on corporations, for instance. And so on, all of which is anathema to corporatism, you.

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        Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:07pm

        Re: Re: NOW, if you could just understand how and why CDA Section 230 exemption is bad!

        YOU CORPORATISTS are much of what's wrong with the USA now. -- Corporatism is EXACTLY what took over Germany. It's same goals here and now, making a Fourth Reich, just more subtle, and this time, built to last with all the weak points firmed up. -- Section 230 is part of that goal, period.

        Oh, I know: anything that disturbs your propaganda bubble (with your friend Google) is crazy. But if you could undo the last ten years of corporatism, would you not?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: NOW, if you could just understand how and why CDA Section 230 exemption is bad!

          You're unhappy that there is a law that keeps companies from being sued because of content they didn't write but was instead put up by a user...

          If that's your idea of justice, I hope you will never work in any government job.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: NOW, if you could just understand how and why CDA Section 230 exemption is bad!

          YOU CORPORATISTS are much of what's wrong with the USA now. -- Corporatism is EXACTLY what took over Germany. It's same goals here and now, making a Fourth Reich, just more subtle, and this time, built to last with all the weak points firmed up.

          Most of the laws getting pushed like SESTA are the work of corporations, dumbass. Except that because they're the ones you support like the MPAA, you think they get a free pass.

          And what's with the "here in Germany"? Didn't you say you were in the midwest? (Not to say I believed you; any rational person doesn't believe the ramblings of a lunatic.)

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 5:19pm

      Re: NOW, if you could just understand how and why CDA Section 230 exemption is bad!

      You got a real pretty mouth on you...

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    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:37pm

    The internet was a hopeful place before companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Cloudflare started massively centralizing it to the cheers of outlets like tech"dirt".

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2017 @ 5:19pm

      Re:

      I want your link to this alternate techdirt.

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

    • icon
      Rapnel (profile), 12 Dec 2017 @ 5:27pm

      Re:

      I really wish people would stop trying to equate services with infrastructure. Barring ignorance this "point of view" is only a refuge of idiots and thieves whose only purpose is to obfuscate, deceive and exert power and control over something that is not theirs.

      The dickheads on the edge of land like to believe and behave as if they control the water.

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    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 12:52am

      Re:

      Cloudflare centralises the internet? Cloudflare, the service that ensures that you can access sites as quickly as possible from anywhere you are on the planet? That Cloudflare?

      Are you completely opposed to the very idea of a CDN, completely ignorant of what they do and just opposed to them because you see them mentioned a lot by people who know what they're talking about, or just a raving moron? I think we know...

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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:53pm

    Are We Living In A Feudal World?

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    MyNameHere (profile), 12 Dec 2017 @ 4:56pm

    Nice story

    Nice story, and it points out how incredibly well the internet has done and how much it has grown and become a part of everyday life. All this without a stitch of NN regulation.

    Section 230 has been a big part of that, for better or worse. However, some will always seek to take advantage of laws and regulation to further questionable business models, and it's really in everyone's interest to assure that those business models don't destroy the good parts of section 230.

    Enjoy your celebration, and then come back down to earth for a reality check.

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      PaulT (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 12:56am

      Re: Nice story

      Still ignorant of what NN actually is, huh?

      "it's really in everyone's interest to assure that those business models don't destroy the good parts of section 230."

      So, if you recognise this, why do you, without fail, always shill for the businesses that are trying to do just that?

      "Enjoy your celebration, and then come back down to earth for a reality check."

      We keep telling you - whatever planet you keep referring to, that's not Earth and it's not reality. Whatever your prescription is, it needs changing again, the hallucinations have returned...

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        MyNameHere (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 1:55am

        Re: Re: Nice story

        "Still ignorant of what NN actually is, huh?"

        No, I understand it exactly, and as a result, I know why it's not all most people think it is.

        "So, if you recognise this, why do you, without fail, always shill for the businesses that are trying to do just that?"

        I don't shill. Stop insulting me.

        I am against companies that use section 230 to do online what they could not legally do offline I think it's unfair and represents the over-reach of section 230.

        "We keep telling you - whatever planet you keep referring to, that's not Earth and it's not reality. Whatever your prescription is, it needs changing again, the hallucinations have returned..."

        Do you have nothing better to do than be personally insulting? You are nothing if you are not predictable.

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          PaulT (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 2:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice story

          "No, I understand it exactly, and as a result, I know why it's not all most people think it is."

          To quote Wikipedia (many other cites are available if you don't like this one, it's just the clearest description I've found recently):

          "Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication."

          I agree with that, but it doesn't jibe with the rubbish you've been typing. Can you provide details as to why that description is wrong?

          "I don't shill. Stop insulting me."

          Calling it as I see it. You *always* take the side of the corporations who are trying to remove section 230 and other protections from platforms and consumers. Without. Fail. If you're not being paid to shill, then you naturally take their position, which is probably worse as that means you have as much to lose from the actions you support as everyone else.

          "I am against companies that use section 230 to do online what they could not legally do offline"

          Do you have any example of this, or are you just making up ridiculous ideas to try and pretend you're saying anything worthwhile. Go on, provide one example of this happening.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2017 @ 3:29am

          Re: Re: Re: Nice story

          I am against companies that use section 230 to do online what they could not legally do offline

          You keep ignoring that offline companies decide what content to publish, or which magazines to put on their shelves, while online companies offer a service where the users decide what to publish online. All section 230 does is say that companies are not responsible for what their users publish.

          I think you hate section 230, because it frees people from the control of corporate overloads who would take a selection of what people create, and publish for them while making most of the profit from the content.

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            MyNameHere (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 3:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

            No, I dislike section 230 because it creates a void of responsibility. The service neither has responsibility for what is posted, nor do they even have to be able to identify who did, nor can they be easily compelled to provide it for legal process. If you want to sue a user/publisher you may as well just flush money down the toilet, you have no chance of finding them before your funds are exhausted. You won't even get to file against them, you will spend all of your time in court with that protected service provider.

            For criminal, it's about the same. They dodge, they wiggle, and they avoid both having to know who their customer is, and the avoid liability for what is on their site.

            It's not about control of the corporate overlords, it's about personal responsibility.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2017 @ 4:56pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

              >The service neither has responsibility for what is posted, nor do they even have to be able to identify who did,

              Anonymous speech is like that, but it's an authoritarians wet dream to end that state.

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              dawangai ore dere, 13 Dec 2017 @ 5:08pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

              My question to you is: How exactly is repealing sec 230 a better idea than leaving it (and all its benefits) in place, while crafting regulations that target the abuse you speak of?

              I can't imagine that there wouldn't be consensus on allowing intentional criminal/tortious activity to go on in secret.

              But that can be achieved *far short* of making Reddit responsible for the content of millions of messages per day.

              The discontinuity is that your reason (valid, sure) doesn't actually address why we need to lose the other benefits of sec 230.

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                MyNameHere (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 5:46pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                "My question to you is: How exactly is repealing sec 230 a better idea than leaving it (and all its benefits) in place, while crafting regulations that target the abuse you speak of?"

                First off, Section 230 is not being repealed. It will continue to apply to everything except the narrowly defined group of people working to promote sex trafficking.

                Nobody will make Reddit responsible for all of their messages every day.

                It will, however, make Reddit responsible if they run a group called "paedo paid dating" or "hookers for hire".

                See, they wouldn't be responsible for individual messages, rather they would be responsible for supporting sex trafficking.

                "I can't imagine that there wouldn't be consensus on allowing intentional criminal/tortious activity to go on in secret."

                It's not an either / or choice. The crimes happen today, right now, as I type, in secret. Prostitution is the worlds oldest profession, and forcing girls into that and profiting from it is probably the second. Removing it from the internet (or making it "go dark" won't stop it. That isn't the point. The point is removing easy access to it.

                It's the difference (relatively) between getting something at every corner store versus having to go to an abandoned warehouse to the edge of town at the end of a dark alley way. Getting it out of the corner store will most certainly keep casual buyers from the product, and reduce the income for those who sell it.

                "The discontinuity is that your reason (valid, sure) doesn't actually address why we need to lose the other benefits of sec 230."

                Section 230 is poorly written because it creates a black hole of liability and responsibility. Without a major re-write to address this sort of thing, more and more situations will come up like this, and the congress will move to impose limits on it. This time it's really VERY narrow in scope. The next time could be more general. Unless section 230 by itself is fixed, other laws will "fix it to death". So think of this as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The time is now to deal with the situation before it chokes you off entirely.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2017 @ 6:57pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                  Sex trafficking is already illegal under the law, actually there are several laws against it at the federal level and more at the state level. We don't need another law making it illegal to support sex trafficking because it already is.

                  Section 230 doesn't create safe harbors for any site that knowingly aids or supports sex trafficking. Where in blazes did you get that idea? There are already laws on the books that can be used to prosecute websites that willfully support and aid sex trafficking.

                  What Section 230 does is protect websites from being sued for the actions of their users. For instance, if someone posted a comment on any open comment site or forum advertising illegal sex services, that site isn't responsible for it because they didn't post it, their user did. It's like trying to sue Apple for causing driving accidents because the idiot behind the wheel decided to pay more attention to his phone than the road.

                  What this new law will do is make websites liable for the actions and posts of their users, whether they knew about it or not. So yes, it will make Reddit liable for all of the millions/billions/trillions of comments of their users.

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                  PaulT (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 12:49am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                  So, on top of reality, we can see that you don't know how Reddit works, but you support any removal of rights so long as they use the "for the children" excuse to take them from you.

                  "Unless section 230 by itself is fixed"

                  What needs to be fixed? You haven't addressed this, other than try to demand that innocent platforms get made responsible for the actions of their users because it's too hard to go after the people who actually committed the crime. In your addled mind, that somehow makes sense, but again you're addressing fantasies.

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                    MyNameHere (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 4:04am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                    I am going to try this with short words.

                    Do it in the real world, you get arrested.

                    Do it online, you get a pass because of section 230.

                    Why?

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                      PaulT (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 5:00am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                      "Do it in the real world, you get arrested."

                      We're asking you to define "it", you disingenuous fool. Which specific action are you referring to?

                      Section 230 protects people whose platform is used by other people to commit illegal acts. You're saying that people whose property is used to commit illegal acts without their knowledge or power to prevent will get arrested instead of the actual perpetrators in the physical world? Because that's what you're calling to happen here.

                      Again, I find myself glad I live in the real world, rather than the dystopian horror you're living in.

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              PaulT (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 12:46am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

              "The service neither has responsibility for what is posted"

              Exactly. They don't have responsibility for things they did not do! Why is that such a problem for you?

              "If you want to sue a user/publisher you may as well just flush money down the toilet, you have no chance of finding them before your funds are exhausted"

              Absolute, verifiable bullshit. Yet again, you don't get a simply thing like reality get in the way of your arguments.

              "It's not about control of the corporate overlords, it's about personal responsibility."

              Yes. So, why are you demanding that platforms get made responsible for things that other people did? Your crap makes no sense even in its own internal logic.

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                MyNameHere (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 4:23am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                "Exactly. They don't have responsibility for things they did not do! Why is that such a problem for you?"

                They are still part of the process of publishing and distributing it. The website is, even in the extreme, the equivalent of the van delivering the newspapers. While you might not be responsible for every word in the paper, you would be responsible if it was the "paedo Dating weekly".

                Why does an online distribution company get a pass when the real world one would not?

                For that matter, in the real world you would never widely distribute something given to you anonymously every week. You would want to know where it comes from, who is sending it, and the like. You might have to file an W8 or whatever with them to justify taxable income.

                Why would you be able to do it online when you cannot do it in the real world?

                "Yes. So, why are you demanding that platforms get made responsible for things that other people did? "

                In part because they are doing it together. It's symbiotic. Youtube without videos would be as useful as videos without youtube. I don't want them to be liable for what other people do - I just want them to be liable for their part of the process. Is it too much to ask them to "know their customer"?

                "Absolute, verifiable bullshit. Yet again, you don't get a simply thing like reality get in the way of your arguments."

                Really? If I want to sue someone writing on a hosted blog at wordpress, I have to go through significant extra steps in order to even bring the suit. I have to first ask wordpress for customer info. They will of course decline, until I file suit. So I will have to get a lawyer and file a "doe" suit and once filed, I will have to petition the court to force Wordpress to produce their customer information. They will potentially fight it, and I may have to go through the entire process of proving the libel / slander / what have you in order for the court to finally force them to produce.

                When they do, they will produce a name, an email address, and possibly the IP address that was used to sign up.

                The name? Junk. The email address? Ahh, let's go chase your tail again. Now I have to go back to the court and petition so that hotmail will produce records related to the customer who controls that address. However, since all they have is another email address (gmail) I am back in court again for another petition. On and on it goes. At the end of the process, all I have in hand is a series of dead end email addresses and a list of TOR exit nodes.

                So I made any number of motions to the court, I have had to potentitally make and re-make the case for each step along the way if each company decides to fight the information request. At the end, I have nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

                The one company (the free host) that publishes everything on their domain is free and clear because of section 230. As an offended party, I would have absolutely no recourse.

                So now you can explain why it's bullshit. Explain to me carefully the magic that somehow manages to get you the name, address, and other personal information of someone writing a free hosted blog.

                (this should be entertaining)

                I am guessing your answer will be "but it's anonymous", which is true. If the distributor cannot produce the writer, should they not be liable for it at some point? Is there any real proof that it's not the distributor themselves that wrote it?

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                  PaulT (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 5:08am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                  The basic, fundamental concepts are still beyond you, aren't they?

                  "Why does an online distribution company get a pass when the real world one would not?"

                  Why would the distribution company be held responsible rather than the creator of the magazine?

                  Plus, one of the very simple concepts you remain wilfully ignorant of is very simple - a physical publication has an editorial staff who choose which content goes into the paper, leading to a final product which is approved by said staff. An online platform does not. They may have moderation after the fact, but that still leaves inevitable times when there is objectionable content in place, without any approval or control by staff.

                  Do you understand yet, or do I need to keep to single syllable words for your thick skull to accept the knowledge?

                  Ads for the rest of your bullshit, you're actually whining that sites like Wordpress won't just hand over your personal information to anyone who asks for it? No wonder you also get so confused in discussions about privacy and the right to due process, you think every details about you should be free to everybody!

                  "Explain to me carefully the magic that somehow manages to get you the name, address, and other personal information of someone writing a free hosted blog."

                  Explain to me the magic that gets it to anyone ho walks off the street into a brick & mortar premises. I doesn't, you need to have to have law enforcement and a warrant at the very least in most circumstances. Depending on where you live, that might even still be breaking data protection rules until certain procedures are followed..

                  You, again, are making shit up and basing your comments on a fever dream.

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                    MyNameHere (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 6:34pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                    "Why would the distribution company be held responsible rather than the creator of the magazine?"

                    It's not either / or. In the real world, the distributor would face criminal responsibility for their part of the process, and the publisher their part.

                    "Plus, one of the very simple concepts you remain wilfully ignorant of is very simple - a physical publication has an editorial staff who choose which content goes into the paper, leading to a final product which is approved by said staff. An online platform does not. "

                    Why not? Seems like an abdication of responsibility.

                    "Do you understand yet, or do I need to keep to single syllable words for your thick skull to accept the knowledge?"

                    I understand you perfectly. You keep saying over and over again "because the internet". Yet you still have failed to explain why the internet distributor should have a different level of liability from one in the real world.

                    "Ads for the rest of your bullshit, you're actually whining that sites like Wordpress won't just hand over your personal information to anyone who asks for it?"

                    Not whining. I am pointing out the legal process. You said it's bullshit that you would go broke just trying to sue someone, and I showed you how it happens. You asked, I answered. No whining.

                    "Explain to me the magic that gets it to anyone ho walks off the street into a brick & mortar premises. I doesn't, you need to have to have law enforcement and a warrant at the very least in most circumstances. Depending on where you live, that might even still be breaking data protection rules until certain procedures are followed.."

                    You are correct, but you magically skipped a whole bunch of things. The business will generally know their customer. They will at least see their face, they might have a video recording. if the person paid with a credit card, that record exists. if they asked for a delivery, and so on.

                    If someone came to you with a business proposal to distribute their magazine in your store, you would ask who they are, you would sign a contract or make an agreement, you would know how you are dealing with. In the case of an illegal act, a warrant could be issued and that information collected. If you had none (ie, cash deal) it would look very bad for you, as it would suggest you knew that you were getting into something illegal.

                    "You, again, are making shit up and basing your comments on a fever dream."

                    I keep answering your questions, and you keep ignoring the answers. I keep asking your the simple question why you think online distributors should have MORE protections than real world ones, and you keep not answering.

                    It's always the same with you. You can't accept that you are wrong.

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                    • icon
                      PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2017 @ 12:22am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                      "It's not either / or. In the real world, the distributor would face criminal responsibility for their part of the process, and the publisher their part."

                      ...and if their part is "nothing", they face no charges. But, you demand that section 230 is removed and service providers get charged for things they did not do.

                      "Why not?"

                      Because the volume of data makes it physically impossible for human moderators to get involved before publication and have things moderated in a timely fashion. The volume of publicly submitted content every second is one of the major things that separates the online world to the pre-online world. Nobody was sending letters to the editor in the way they post on boards like this, for example.

                      "Not whining. I am pointing out the legal process."


                      ...and whining that the legal process includes things like due process and due cause for fishing expeditions rather than every piece of data being handed over the second someone say they want it. Yes, I got you.

                      "You are correct, but you magically skipped a whole bunch of things. The business will generally know their customer. They will at least see their face, they might have a video recording. if the person paid with a credit card, that record exists. if they asked for a delivery, and so on."

                      Absolute bullshit depending on the type of information requested. For example if there's a "letter to the editor" in a newspaper, they will have none of these things. Anonymous comments on a website are the same.

                      Plus, you keep leaving out the fact that the don't just hand these out to people off the street. They will demand a real reason and due process, the things you want stripped from online users.

                      But, despite the fact that you're rambling further and further away from your section 230 rambling that this has nothing to do with, what's your solution? Require credit card and other sensitive information for free accounts, leaving everyone open to more risk from data leakage and identity theft?

                      "I keep answering your questions"

                      No, you keep making ridiculous assertions and arguing against questions nobody asked, while addressing things nobody asked. Your grasp on what section 230 actually is is misguided, and you seem obsessed with the idea that due process and privacy rights should be null and void.

                      "I keep asking your the simple question why you think online distributors should have MORE protections than real world ones, and you keep not answering."

                      No, I answer you with the reality that nobody is demanding that and you keep lying about what they're saying. It's pathetic.

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                        The Wanderer (profile), 15 Dec 2017 @ 5:59am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                        "Why not?"

                        Because the volume of data makes it physically impossible for human moderators to get involved before publication and have things moderated in a timely fashion.

                        As I believe has been gone over before in other threads, I think his position is that this just indicates that the sites which depend on this level of volume have a business-model problem, with the implication that if they can't make their business model work with the same level of content vetting an offline publication does then that's their problem and they should indeed get shut down.

                        Which is so fundamentally opposed to the things which make the Internet as we know it (including comment fora like this one) possible, there's no real space for engaging in a meaningful discussion on the subject.

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                          PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2017 @ 6:42am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                          Yeah, it's one of the dumber things he's said recently (a closely run competition, it must be said), but I'm trying to get him to admit that it's what he's really saying.

                          He seems completely ignorant of what section 230 actually says and seems to be conflating it with privacy protections (whose strength is why some people would rather sue the nearest convenient innocent party instead of the perpetrator - hence, I believe his confusion).

                          The fact is - section 230 is what makes user generate content possible. If sites had to be liable for user-generated content, then sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc simply could not exist, while many other sites such as Amazon or even Techdirt would become far less valuable. Even with the best AI farms in the world, with their volume of traffic something would be missed. They would have to shut down user generated content or be shut down completely.

                          In his ignorance, he believes he's calling for people to be unable to hide behind anonymity. In fact, he's calling for the end of user-generated content and communication on the internet and for everything to have to be pre-vetted before any site can publish anything. As with his NN comments and other falsehoods spouted here on a regular basis, he thinks he's making one argument, is actually making another one, and gets angry when people address the real one.

                          The sad irony of things like this is that there people who rail against government, against net neutrality, against user submissions, against anonymity don't seem to realise that we're only able to read their comments because of those things.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2017 @ 5:48am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                  I just want them to be liable for their part of the process. Is it too much to ask them to "know their customer"?

                  As if identity theft is not possible, and anonymous speech is banned.

                  Also, services like YouTube are like the roads and pavements, no identity needs to be shown to use them.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2017 @ 3:13am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

              nor do they even have to be able to identify who did,

              That's a bit rich coming from someone posting via an anonymous account.

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

              • icon
                MyNameHere (profile), 14 Dec 2017 @ 10:03pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                Posts here are not anonymous. Techdirt (and their various partners) log IP addresses and other information with every visit and every post. That information is used to assign you your special snow flake next to your posts. As an example, I know you made this post and the one above it (same snowflake). In a truly anonymous system, there would be no way to know that.

                I also feel confident that, if someone tried to go after my posts via Techdirt that Mike and all of his legal friends would scream "section 230!" and block every attempt possible to reveal any information about me, because that is how they roll (or at least, how they expect everyone else to roll!).

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

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2017 @ 12:33am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                  "That information is used to assign you your special snow flake next to your posts"

                  Still struggling with the basics. Sigh...

                  The snowflake is random, and is based on the IP address. It only indicates that a different IP has been used - the snowflake itself might
                  change between refreshes, it's only there to try and help us work out which AC is arguing with who. By the way, this is how all websites work - they keep logs on who's accessed every element and which accounts have logged in from where. That doesn't mean they need to hand them over to anyone who asks without a warrant.

                  On top of that - the IP does NOT identify the user. It merely identifies the piece of network equipment that acted as the endpoint to the public internet (assuming it's not been spoofed). That is, even if the service provider violates the rights of their user by handing over all information to you without due cause or a warrant, authorities still have to do their damn job and locate the individual human being involved. Sorry about that, it doesn't work like your fantasy of a totalitarian nation where all data is given up the moment a badge asks for it and they don't have to work too hard.

                  "if someone tried to go after my posts via Techdirt that Mike and all of his legal friends would scream "section 230!" and block every attempt possible to reveal any information about me"

                  Sigh...

                  Again you're blathering about people protecting consumer privacy which is NOT section 230. Section 230 just means that whoever's pursuing you can't just sue Techdirt and pretend they did whatever heinous act you committed.

                  "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

                  That's what you're whining about. That whichever thugs are coming after you can't just go "it's too hard to find out who MyNameHere is, let's just sue Techdirt". The rest of the stuff you're whining about falls into the due process stuff you're also against for some reason, but it's not section 230.

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

                  • icon
                    The Wanderer (profile), 15 Dec 2017 @ 5:54am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                    I'm not convinced it's limited purely to "one IP address, one avatar", either.

                    In comment-thread arguments spanning multiple days, I fairly frequently see the "snowflake" avatar for one or more of the ACs involved change after two-or-so days, even in cases where there's no sign of that AC being one of our IP-address-hopping probable-TOR-user trolls.

                    I suspect that the generated avatar (and the mapping of same to IP address) has a finite and relatively brief storage lifetime, and that when that expires, the next post attempt from that IP address gets a new avatar generated regardless.

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

                    • icon
                      PaulT (profile), 15 Dec 2017 @ 6:31am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                      My understanding is that they only differentiate IPs on a specific thread, and can change and not be carried over to other threads. So, for example, AC1 is red on thread 1 and AC2 is blue. When AC1 comments on thread 2, their snowflake might be green, while refreshing thread 1 might give him the blue snowflake. But, all of AC1's comments will be the same colour within the thread. That's all it means - if you see the same snowflake within a thread, those comments were submitted by the same IP.

                      It's just a concession to allow the rest of us to see which is which within a thread, without compromising anonymity or demanding a login. To address our resident idiot's point - the existence of these differentiators does not reduce anonymity, they're merely an indicator that multiple people are involved in the conversation. It's identical information that gathered by every web site you visit. If you feel that gathering of IP addresses is somehow an invasion of privacy or a violation of anonymity, you need to get off the internet because those things don't exist here by your standards...

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

                      • icon
                        The Wanderer (profile), 16 Dec 2017 @ 5:20am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                        I've seen a particular AC's avatar change within the same reply chain in a given comment thread, though - again, with the "no indication that this is someone who's changing IP addresses" thing.

                        Yes, the same generated avatar means the two posts were from the same IP address. The fact that it's two different avatars doesn't seem to mean the posts were from different IP addresses, though - not even within a single comment thread.

                        If I've got it wrong, I'd be glad to learn the truth, but that's the explanation which seems most consistent with what I've observed so far.

                        (None of this is meant to dispute your point; if anything it's meant to support it, in that the original argument was "the fact that I can track you by your generated avatar means they log IP addresses and so you're not anonymous!" and the less such trackability there is the weaker that argument is.)

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2017 @ 7:41am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Nice story

                  Did you provide Techdirt with a real name and address, and proof of your identity when you created the account? If not, you are still anonymous, and can hide bhind TOR or VPNs.

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

  • identicon
    Obfuscating one, 12 Dec 2017 @ 10:18pm

    1996? I was playing pong on my TRS 80 in 1982

    "Other studies have suggested that women tend to be at a disadvantage in using computer technology".
    My daughter has a picture of 100,000.00 high school girls taking selfies on their 128gb Iphones which may contradict this information.
    "2017 note:today these breakdowns appear crude and inaccurate"
    I beg to differ...they show the bigger picture. After all, you had no doubt in your mind the Internet would succeed. Contrast that to me thinking how "fast" my new TRS 80 was.
    It's all relative.
    Thank you for sharing.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 1:48am

    lol the trolling has been strong lately. Anti-NN folks are getting desperate because they know Ajit Pai is gonna be stopped at the courts I guess.

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

  • icon
    publicdebate (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 2:08am

    Exactly!trolling is all on peek. Internet is our gods today

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

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 13 Dec 2017 @ 8:19am

    I remember in the early '90s using a lot of faxback services to get technical documents. (...Except from Western Digital. I'd call them up and ask them to leave it at the front desk for pickup. But I digress.)

    If you don't know, faxback is a mechanism by which you could call an automated number, punch in the correct series of digits (including your fax number), and the company would automatically fax you the documents you requested. It was quite an innovation.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2017 @ 11:23am

    It's time for a new Internet.

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


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