More Coerced Censorship

We reported earlier on the New York Attorney General’s successful attempt to coerce ISPs into censoring their content. Later that day, France also coerced its ISPs into censoring child porn and “websites seen to be linked to terrorism or promoting racial hatred.” Apparently inspired by the new success of such “voluntary agreements” (voluntary in the same way as an offer one cannot refuse), California is now getting in the game too. Schwarzenegger asked ISPs to block channels that distribute child porn. The ACLU’s Barry Steinhardt said that blocking channels such as Usenet groups was like “taking a sledgehammer to an ant.” Unfortunately, the government is forcing ISPs to take out their sledgehammers and start pounding away.

It may be that these sorts of government-coerced arrangements are really the biggest threat to net neutrality principles. ISPs will find it harder and harder to resist such pressure, especially when telecos are getting immunity for wrongdoing when they comply with government “requests.”