June 2, 1998 Jeff Schult
While much of the uproar over filtering and blocking programs for Internet content hashad to do with a right-wing bias attributed to some of the products, censorship apparentlycan work both ways. CyberPatrol has blocked the Internet site of the American FamilyAssociation (www.afa.net) for intolerance of gays. The AFA supports a boycott of Disneyfor its "pro-gay" employment policies, and opposes the "homosexualagenda" in America.
One of the biggest success stories on the Internet in the last 18 months is Mirabilisof Israel, which came out of nowhere to become a leading player in the "instantmessage" game with the ubiquitous ICQ. While corporate America was dreaming of the"killer app," three 20-somethings and one of their fathers were developing it.And, 11.5 million downloads later, America Online wants ICQ and is going to pay $300million for it, according to Israel's Business Corner. AOL is the Great Satan in thisdeal, in the eyes of the 'Net community, and angry users are passing around petitions andvowing boycotts - as though that might stop a deal. AOL already claims the largestpopulation of Instant Messagers around, and the acquisition of Mirabilis would, on paper,give it an entirely dominant position over challengers such as Yahoo. If AOL alienates theICQ user base, though, that giant sucking sound you'll hear will be the rush of AOL'ssquandered dollars fueling the Israeli high-tech machine.
Opponents of spam legislation passed by the U.S. Senate recently are hoping a plan topaint the web the color of the much-maligned Hormel meat product will alert the public tothe weaknesses of the bill. "The Great American Pink-Out" begins officially onMonday and will last until June 13. However, some participants have already turned theirsites pink and plan to keep them that way until the amendment is defeated or the anti-spamSmith Bill is passed. Also known as the Netizen's Protection Act of 1997, the Smith Billis modeled on the 1991 law that made junk faxes illegal. The bill passed by the Senaterequires spammers to identify themselves and honor requests to take users off theirmailing lists. Critics say the so-called Murkowski bill will be ineffectual since if even1 percent of the 20 million small businesses in America chose to send out unsolicited bulkemail each individual would have to request removal from 200,000 mailing lists."Personally, I think the color is hideous," said Mickey Chandler, a Texanparalegal and president of the Forum for Responsible and Ethical Email (FREE), which issponsoring the Pink Pages Project. "But we want people to be shocked by that color,and be curious enough to learn more about this bill and what it allows. At least onevehement anti-spammer dismisses the plan as "ridiculous." Ron Schwarz, asoftware developer and author, has announced his own, "more pro-active" plan toprotest the legislation. In the event of the amendment's passage, Schwarz vows to releasea software program called the "Pandora Project" as freeware. The program willallow recipients of spam to automatically bounce emails back at all known employees andofficers of the company that sent the original unwanted advertisement. Given a choicebetween vigilante justice for spammers and pink pages on the web, which do you thinkAmericans are going to choose? If you want to see how bad the color is, head over tohttp://www.ybecker.net/pink/.
Bavaria convicted Felix Somm, 34, the former general manager of CompuServe Germany ofdisseminating pornography and other bad stuff (Nazi reading material is illegal inGermany.) Of course, Somm did no such thing personally -- he just happened to be in chargeof CompuServe Germany at the wrong time. German geeks are aghast, and insisting it was anaberrant decision by a nutso judge in the most conservative part of the country. Still,German Internet Service Providers have to be looking over their shoulder a bit more.CompuServe had at one time sworn to fight the case with all its resources. Of course, AOLbought CompuServe. Somm, who faced up to five years in jail, got off with two years ofprobation.
Surprise, surprise, surprise. CNet, The Village Voice and the rest of the worlddiscovered again last week that giving personal information to AOL is akin to publishingit in Hacker's Quarterly. It's pathetic, but America has voted with its greenbacks. Forthe best ongoing summary of the suckering of America, head over to www.aolwatch.org, whereDavid Cassel chronicles the company's misdeeds.
As our listeners might imagine, I've been hearing for some time about the INCREDIBLEdeals available on the Internet and how my life will be better in every way if I willsimply get on board the e-commerce train and ride along. Easier said than done. For monthsI have been listening to a friend tout the virtues of buying computer stuff by auction,and I was impressed. I, too, wanted access to the world of $10 20-inch monitors, $99Pentium II systems and almost-free everything else. I'm abashed to report that I have nowtried three separate times, on two different computers using three different browsers, toget www.surplusauction.com to take my credit card and accept me as a bidder. Tech supporthas apparently given up on me as a loser, or they just don't need any more customers. TheMOST annoying thing, other than the suspicion that they just don't want my kind, is theerror message I get every time I fill out the form (and believe me, I've tried everynuance of filling out forms - upper case, lower case, no punctuation, spaces, no spaces,etc.)
-- Error Message
Bidder.AddBidder() Failed: Function argument value, type, or count is invalid.
What the heck is that?
Whatever the advantages of shopping online, I've never gotten anything that crypticfrom a store clerk. So let me know when they've got the bugs out
The Livermore (Calif.) Public Library has been sued for allegedly failing to protectchildren from pornography. The complaint, filed by a parent with the assistance of thePacific Justice Institute , says that a minor accessed sexually explicit websites usingthe library's computers, downloaded images harmful to minors to a floppy disk, and thenprinted them out at a relative's house. The complaint asks for an "injunction againstthe City of Livermore preventing it or its agents, servants, and employees from spendingany public funds on the acquisition, use, and/or maintenance of any computer systemconnect to the Internet or World Wide Web for which it allows any person to access,display, and/or print obscene material or for which it allows minors to access, display,and/or print sexual material harmful to minors."