Usenet Villified In NY Deal With ISPs

    June 11, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office reached agreements with three big broadband providers to pare back access to the newsgroups on Usenet, in the name of fighting child pornography.

Sprint, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will block access to newsgroups, and track down and delete sites hosted on their servers, in an effort to stop the proliferation of child pornography. The three ISPs also plan to pay a collective $1.125 million to Cuomo’s office and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to fund additional kiddie porn-fighting efforts.

Cuomo’s office announced the agreement, which arrived after an undercover probe by New York investigators. They discovered thousands of images distributed through 88 newsgroups; as these newsgroups were in the alt.* hierarchy, subscribers to the three ISPs could in theory access them.

The actions to be taken by the ISPs will vary, as CNET noted. Time Warner Cable will turn off all newsgroup access, while Sprint plans to cut access to the whole alt.* segment. Verizon may follow Sprint’s example.

Blocking all newsgroups does appear to be a broad approach to a problem involving a minority of such groups. As with the Internet in general, not everything in Usenet poses a threat. But no one wants to be tainted with even a suggestion of being soft on child porn, hence the rush to apply censorship with a sweeping axe rather than a skillfully-wielded scalpel.