Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Malkin Favors Disbanding Internet

After all, that's what one could extrapolate from her For the Children rant attacking P2P networks:
    I am all for protecting those "really excellent uses." And I am all for protecting software entrepreneurs and their right to create new products. This blog wouldn't exist without them. But there's a cloud of unreality hanging over the P2P debate. It's not just high-minded geek revolutionaries against Big Media/RIAA/MPAA who are benefiting from P2P. And P2P ain't just about trading your favorite tunes.

    It's also about sickos and smut purveyors who have unprecedented access to an unimaginable volume of child porn--not to mention photos of children made available to child sex predators through indavertent file-sharing.
So technologies and protocols that allow workstations to network in a peer to peer fashion, that is client-to-client are bad and perhaps should be banned? What about server-to-server networks where clients can connect to servers to retrieve information? People who distribute questionable content can use those networks, too, and have for years. Should we ban those technologies and protocols? Well, no, because they're widely used and not under suspicion.

Perhaps the paradigm and the workings of the Internet are too advanced and too much a part of society to start burning now. But since we're in a pitchfork and torch mood, maybe we shoul ban other peer-to-peer communication systems that allow users to disseminate illegal content. Like the United States Post Office. Anyone, for the cost of a stamp, can mail child pornography to someone else!!!! Or the phone system--anyone with a phone can dial another user and can tell them a social security number or plot a crime!

Come to think of it, Malkin's not the first to want to prohibit P2P protocols and technologies. There's a very basic movement afoot to ban another personal communications device used occasionally for illicit means. The gun, and its transmission the bullet, are frequent targets for prohibition because some individuals use them with ill intent. Remove the tool, and you'll remove exercise of the ill intent, right?

I'm all for prosecuting people who commit crimes, but I draw the line at banning multiple use technologies that some individuals will use for ill because human nature leads someone to try to use everything for bad purposes.

Once you start, you have to draw an arbitrary and ever-more-constricting line at how much ill-intention use demands prohibition. Easy identity theft and copyright infringement don't make Malkin demand prohibition of P2P software, but alleged child pornography does. That's a couple people among millions of users, a rather small percentage indeed. What percentage of bar stools and pool sticks must be broken over malcreants in brawls before we ban them?

Ad absurdum or slippery slope? Slippery slope, I fear.

Update: Malkin responds to critics in an update to her post:
    First, nowhere do I call for outlawing P2P or shutting down the Internet. Crikey. Reread what I wrote. It's in plain English: "I don't know what the legislative or regulatory solution is, or whether there is one." What I'm calling for is for users of this technology--especially parents--to take personal responsibility for knowing what they're sharing and what others are sharing on these networks. I also would like to see the P2P Pollyanas acknowledge that this crap is out there and take increased corporate responsibility for doing something about it.
Unfortunately, when concerned citizens sound the alarum and the klaxon blares, those elected officials in the legislature or those unelected regulators will react unpredictably, and often in the most simplistic manner possible so they can get back to the power lunches.

I guess one could find some call for parental responsibility in her original post, but in plain English, it looks more like a call for agitation and political action than a call for private citizens to monitor their childrens' computer use.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."