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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
very informative.

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
             last month. 

             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
             (ISP), Geocites. 

             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
                                 registration procedure. 

                                 "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
                                 abusive sites. 

             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
             relevant information. 

             "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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