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OPPOSED to the current Cybersafety Constituency Petition and Charter

  • To: cyber-safety-petition@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: OPPOSED to the current Cybersafety Constituency Petition and Charter
  • From: George Sadowsky <george.sadowsky@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2009 15:33:14 -0400

It's difficult to be against the concept of cyber safety, and I am not. However, the words cyber safety mean different things to different people, and opinions regarding the implementation of rules and/or mechanisms to enhance cyber safety differ very substantially. In particular the approach taken by the group submitting the position and their association with another organization conflict strongly with my sense of what is appropriate for ICANN, and to some extent for the world in general.

I would first like to support Milton Mueller's comments regarding the inappropriateness of this approach. The NCSG charter that has evolved as the result of substantial deliberation has the support, I believe, of all groups except the group wanting to establish this constituency. It is the rough consensus position, and this group should consider abiding by it.

Second, I note from the comments filed to date that many of them are so similar that I believe they are the result of a publicity campaign by a few very specific groups to try to show major overall support for the initiative. The Board should not be fooled by the number of messages of positive support, but rather take them as evidence of a committed campaign among a small but vociferous minority of believers in this cause who are acting as a pressure group. there's nothing wrong with this behavior, but what they arguing for is in effect the beginning of content filtering that could destroy the Internet as we know it.

In this context, I support strongly the comments of Elliot Noss. His most important point is the issue of defining what content is "good" and what content is "bad," an issue about which there is considerable legal and personal debate. Any attempt to categorize content personally will subject all users on the Internet to the judgement of one or a few individuals. Any attempt to categorize content automatically will result in gross errors that will be harmful to the Internet as a whole.

Then there is the matter of implementation, which, by association, seems to be the most faulty of all. If you look at http://www.CP80.org, an organization with which Ms. Preston has a strong association, you will see that their method of dealing with objectionable material is to shift it to use port 81, instead of port 80 which is used for usual web traffic. Not only would this require a rather fundamental revision of the way in which some pieces of the World Wide Web operate, but it would have to be accompanied by some mechanisms, voluntary and/or coercive, to label all content and make it port specific.

Furthermore, there is a very steep and slippery slope here. If objectionable material such as pornography is moved to port 81, and web tools are made port-dynamic and restrictable, what prevents the government of Where-is-it-stan from requiring that national and local web pages be put on port 82, and any requests for content labeled for port 80 to be filtered out and discarded. We have *lots* of ports, enough for all governments and special interest groups to argue for or choose a special port number that could lead to the restriction of content for people in a certain domain, such as a religion, a government, a political party or parties an organization, or any other special interest with enough power to force the labeling or filtering of content. Port numbers are used for technical purposes and should not be used as content classification devices.

Finally, it is clear to me that ICANN is and should not be in the content regulation business. Nothing in its bylaws or values supports such activities. The security and stability of the Internet is not threatened by the availability of content; indeed, a free and open Internet may be the best policy for its security and stability.

In summary, while the concept of cyber safety and related issues is an important one, if a group supporting it is to be a part of the GSNO (which is in itself doubtful, as pointed out in Noss's comments on single interest constituencies) it should abide by the emerging consensus of the NCSG and it should not be oriented to content control on the Internet, which it is by association. The current proposal meets neither of these requirements and should be firmly rejected.

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