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Pennsylvania orders ISPs to censor the Net

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Child-protective mania has given State of Pennsylvania a pretext to indulge in Internet censorship. The legislature has passed a law requiring ISPs to block access to child porn websites. Under the scheme, PA residents will have to be prevented from accessing the sites, which will be identified by the state attorney general's office.

The law is backed up with penalties ranging from $5,000 for a first offense to fines of $30,000 and seven years' imprisonment for a third offense. The PA legislature doesn't offer any guidance as to how the blocking is to be accomplished.

The legislative measure was brought to our attention by Richard M. Smith of ComputerBytesMan.com. "ISPs are going to have to filter by URLs. I think this is a hard technical problem. I'm not even sure what kind of software can deal with ISP traffic volumes," he noted during an email exchange.

Add to this the fact that active KP URLs often change on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, and you see that PA is going to be issuing constantly out-of-date URL lists to ISPs throughout the nation and expecting them to dutifully filter them for its residents.

So, will this reduce the amount of KP circulating on the Web? Will it protect children from exploitation by pornographers? Obviously, it will do neither. It's pure self-congratulatory legislation with no appreciation of the practicalities, and no hope of accomplishing anything worthwhile.

It will, of course, accomplish Internet censorship for PA residents, which may later be expanded once the necessary tools are in place; it will tax the resources of ISPs struggling to comply with impossible demands; and it will impress the uninformed with Pennsylvania's devotion to child protection.

But it will not make the slightest dent in the trafficking of this filth.

No online KP haven is going to be put out of business merely because it can no longer accommodate the diseased sexual desires of Pennsylvania's perverts. No pornographers will be prosecuted -- only ISPs will be. No KP sites will be disabled; and no online archives will be erased. Trading via IRC, ICQ and AIM will go on unimpeded.

Business will be burdened with extravavant requirements and Draconian penalties; and the public will be burdened with censorship, all for no good reason. The Pennsylvania legislature has pulled a terrific fast one here. It's granted censorship rights to the state on the pretext of child protection. It's created a superficial image of concern over KP, while laying responsibility for it as far from the source, and from itself, as humanly possible. And it's got away with it. Governor Mark Schweiker signed the bill into law last month. It takes effect in April. ®

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