Control & Sensorship - 2
May 15, 1999 04:41 PM
by M K Ramadoss
Continuing on the issue of how Internet is moving like a juggernaut in
breaking down the traditional walls and methods used to
control/edit/distort/sensor/ information -- all kinds, political,
religious, spiritual, business etc. -- here is another writeup which is
The anonymity that Internet provides is another twist to the whole issue of
who is behind the information dissemination. Not only anyone using a made
up name can setup a website in minutes and no one will know who the real
person behind the name is. The same thing is possible even in newsgroups
and maillists. You do not know whom you are dealing with. In a theosophical
newsgroup or a maillist, it is possible for some fundamentalist pretending
to be a theosophist can be discussing issues the motive being not to help
theosophy or rather work against it. There are many browser based free
e-mail address providers and in minutes on can set up an address with a
made up name.
It would be interesting to watch the onward move of the Juggernaut Internet
radically changing the information communication and dissemination
environment. As I have always felt, we have not seen anything yet about the
impact of Internet. I
Easy to publish, 'almost
impossible' to remove
Uploading a Website onto a new ISP can take just minutes
The UK Government has been playing cyber catch-up
with renegade spy Richard Tomlinson since the end of
As soon as they shut down the former MI6 man's
Swiss-based Website - because he was believed to have
revealed the identities of other spies in it - he merely
uploaded the site onto another internet service provider
Even though Geocites soon became aware of the
injunction taken against the Swiss-based site, and
promptly evicted Mr Tomlinson from its cyberspace,
theoretically it could only be a matter of time before he
sets up again with another ISP.
"It is incredibly easy to set up a Website, especially with
free ISPs," said Nicholas Ispanayis, of Freedom2Surf.
"Free ISPs can allow you to
have your site up and running
within minutes - and it can be
very difficult to know who has
set up the Website if they
have registered online. You
could very easily give false
personal details in the
"Basically, anyone can log
on to a free ISP, provide any
kind of identity, and set up a
site. If that site contains
illegal information, it may be
shut down, but then it is very quick and easy to upload
all the code onto another ISP."
ISPs are only too aware of the problem. The vast
majority of the Internet's bad press comes from the
relatively small amount of illegal information which is
published on it.
Nicholas Lansman, General Secretary of the Internet
Service Providers Association, says the industry is
making great strides in the area of self-regulation.
He said: "The Internet Watch Foundation has a reporting
system which it acts very quickly upon.
"There is a hotline, and if users come across sites which
they think contain illegal or unsuitable material, then
they report it and it is investigated.
"Wherever necessary, a site will be removed, and if
illegal activity - maybe racism or child pornography - is
suspected, we will inform the police.
"In a case such as the Richard Tomlinson site, if the
police provided the correct warrants, then they would be
given all the information they required. We cannot and
will not just hand out information without breaching the
Data Protection Act."
"ISPs do not want to be the
police of the Internet. But
with the reporting procedure,
and with the cooperation
which is given to the police,
crime on the Internet is
There are also moves being
made to create tools which
will allow users to filter out all
the types of sites they do not
wish to have access to, such
as pornographic or racially
Peter Shipley, of the Association of Chief Police
Officers, which has a Computer Crime Group, said it was
impossible to stop anyone creating and publishing a
website, but that the police made every effort to track
down people who published illegal information and
"It is impossible to stop someone setting up a Website
in the first instance, that is humanly and technologically
"But we are having consultations with the ISPs and other
people in the industry to come up with policy which will
enable us to act against illegal information which is
published on the Internet.
"For example, the Government is about to publish the
e-commerce bill, which will provide guidelines which
should enable the authorities to clamp down on
fraudulent activities on the Internet.
"But we are faced with a technology that is growing and
developing so rapidly, and we are having to develop ways
of tackling the problems that are associated with it.
"What you have to remember is that the Internet is not
an intrinsically bad thing because some people chose to
publish illegal information on it."
The ISPA's Mr Lansman agrees. He said: "A lot of the
information you can get on the Internet is to be found in
all big libraries. If you wanted to make a bomb, there
would be a library somewhere which would have the
"The ISPs cannot be held responsible for what is
published. That is a nonsense.
"The vast, vast majority of information published on the
Internet is informative, or of leisure value, to the people
who use it."
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