Archive for the ‘Network Filter’ category

Feinstein pushes for ISP throttle into rescue package

February 14, 2009


Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) proposed an amendment to President Obama’s stimulus package that would enable American internet service providers (ISPs) to deter child pornography and copyright infringement through “reasonable network management.” Though the amendment was not included in the $787 billion recovery bill Congress passed on Friday, Senator Feinstein is hoping to move the measures through conference committee, a joint House-Senate meeting closed to the public (all but one meeting) where members are able to approve new additions to already passed legislation. After passed by the committee, the bill goes directly to the floor of both houses for a non-amendable vote. According to Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C. based public interest group, “This is the most backdoor of all the backdoor ways of doing things. Conference committees are notorious for being the most opaque of all legislative processes.”

From the proposed amendment:

To clarify that in establishing obligations under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, that the Assistant Secretary shall allow for reasonable net- work management practices such as deterring unlawful activity, including child pornography and copyright infringement.

(Full text of amendment available here:

Under the guise (and seemingly uncontroversial language) of deterring child pornography and copyright infringement, this proposed amendment touches many issues. The most obvious, of course, is the threat this “network management” poses to our right to privacy and free speech. If attached to the stimulus bill, all broadband ISPs recieving funding would have access to every bit of information and utilize filters to block files from their destinations, thus violating net neutrality. This filtering would specifically look for content, essentially allowing one industry to violate the rights of millions of Internet users.

An update:

The bill went into committee conference, and while the conference report has not be released yet, it will go to the floor of both houses within the next few days. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) said this of the conference report:

As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, working with the House and the Obama Administration, I tried my best to craft a compromise legislative package that will put people back to work, invest in critical infrastructure such as roads and schools, prevent cuts to basic services, reduce the tax burden on working families, and then to position our nation for the future in the areas of renewable energy and broadband connectivity that will help enable our economy to thrive once again.

(Senator Inouyue’s website:


My Response:

We will soon see what the conference report details, but the threat of a “network management”system is already too much. As the last truly unrestricted forum for free and open debate, the Internet and its users have operated under the assumption that no one is monitoring their activity. The amendment’s proposed measures would drastically change this assumption, making every file’s content and destination susceptible to ISPs. Though the goals of deterring child pornography and copyright infringement are laudable, the amendment is not the answer. Just like any other device looking for illegal activity, the network filter would violate Constititional rights  of innocents in the process.

Is it worth it?