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Opposing the so-called "CyberSafety" constituency

  • To: cyber-safety-petition@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Opposing the so-called "CyberSafety" constituency
  • From: Brian E Carpenter <brian.e.carpenter@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2009 12:59:37 +1300

This proposal is faulty at so many levels that it is hard to know where
to start.

Firstly, it appears to be rooted in a particular stream of religious
thought based in the USA. The Internet, and ICANN, is truly international
and should not endorse religious or national constituencies on global

Secondly, it appears to be based on confused thinking about "safety".
Exposure to unwanted information of any kind is not in general an issue
of safety. Of course, certain information can be bad for personal or
public safety, but as a matter of simple logic, no sort of blanket
solution can avoid this, except at the cost of suppressing free speech.
In any case, suppression of pornography cannot be called a matter of
safety without gross, Orwellian, distortion of the meaning of English
words. There is no issue of human safety here. The confected word
"CyberSafety" is indeed Orwellian in the extreme. It's a one-word
polemic, and could easily have been coined by Orwell's Ministry of Love.
The name should not be allowed to stand.

Thirdly, it's pretty clear that this effort is yet another attack on
free speech on the Internet. In this respect, the US Constitution is
relevant of course, but the main point is that ICANN has a clear role
as one of the defenders of free speech on a global basis. There are
enough restrictions on free speech in various regions of the Internet
without ICANN hosting a group arguing for more of them.

Fourthly, as I  understand the technical "solution" described
at http://www.cp80.org/solutions/technology, it is doomed to failure
as surely as the .xxx TLD. Firstly, there is a simplistic assertion that
"port 80, the HTTP port... is the equivalent of all television programs
being forced onto a single television channel." What naive nonsense.
This shows a failure to understand the layered structure of Internet

It is certainly true that, if there was a large supply of well-known port
numbers, HTTP content could be served over a variety of them. As it happens,
the supply of well-known port numbers is technically limited to 1024,
and they are therefore a precious and severely limited resource.
That's why port 80 is mainly used for insecure HTTP, and port 443 is used
for secure HTTP. A number of other ports have been assigned for specific uses
of HTTP, but it is highly unlikely that a special-interest group could be
assigned a supply of ports for a contentious purpose.

Actually, this doesn't matter, given the above-mentioned layered structure
of Internet protocols. There would be no particular difficulty in adding
some sort of multiplexing mechanism above the TCP and HTTP layers, to
achieve the same effect. As a matter of fact, we have one, which is already
universally deployed. It's the DNS, and in particular the TLD component
of DNS names. We could, for example, put all the content that the CP80
people dislike into a TLD called .NOTCP80. It would be trivial to configure
browsers, proxies, etc. to ignore this domain.

But we know that this type of solution has no noticeable impact on
pornographers, or other purveyors of undesired content, regardless of
where it's done in the protocol stack. If they discover that the most
popular port is 80, that's where they'll put their content, just as
they choose .com today. Any attempt to confine undesirable content to
specific "channels", *whatever* the technology used to separate the
"channels, will simply fail. This entire class of "solutions" is doomed.

As a result, the entire approach behind the proposed constituency
is pointless.

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