Just say no to Ma Bell-era Net neutrality regulation

Editors' note: This is a guest column. See the bios of Berin Szoka and Adam Thierer below.

The announcement this week of Google and Verizon's proposed compromise framework for Net neutrality regulation seems to spell an end for the old "hands off the Net" consensus. But is such Internet regulation really needed?

Hard-core Net neutralists like the group Free Press insist that this deal isn't sweeping enough to protect the "free and open Internet." But in fact, the Net continues to do just fine without heavy-handed regulation. As Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president for global public policy, explains, … Read more

Web watchdog spots unusual congressional gaffe

It was supposed to be some routine election-year largesse from Democrats: a $26 billion spending measure to aid two of the party's core constituencies, labor unions, and government workers.

But a watchdog Web site on Sunday evening spotted an unusual feature of the legislation, which the Senate approved by a 61-to-39 vote last week.

It doesn't actually have a name. Congress' official Web site calls it the "______Act of____" (PDF). Elsewhere, it's referred to as the "XXXXXX Act of XXXX."

Whatever the name, or no name, associated with the legislation, it may be … Read more

Report: NSA, Pentagon officials linked to child porn

Dozens of National Security Agency, DARPA, and other Pentagon officials purchased and downloaded child pornography over the Internet, according to a report in The Boston Globe on Friday.

The newspaper said it obtained more than 50 pages of documents revealing that the government workers identified in an internal probe included NSA contractors with top secret clearances, one of whom has fled the country and is believed to be hiding in Libya.

Another involved a person working at the supersecret National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the military's spy satellites, who was transferred to a field office and has not been … Read more

Facebook investigating removal of Sarah Palin post

A controversial, religiously charged post on conservative political figurehead Sarah Palin's official Facebook page has disappeared--and a grassroots campaign to have it pulled from the social network may be responsible.

Palin, the former governor of Alaska and a possible contender for a 2012 presidential nomination, used her Facebook page as the outlet for a "note" in which she came out forcefully against plans for a mosque to be built in New York just a few blocks away from the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which were carried out by Muslim extremists. "To build … Read more

Man with Hitler speech ringtone faces jail

People's enthusiasm for technology can sometimes overpower their enthusiasm for common sense.

According to the Telegraph, a 54-year-old man was seated on a train in Hamburg, Germany, when his Nokia cell phone rang.

Its tune disturbed many in the carriage because instead of a cheery Europop ditty, it was a speech given by Adolf Hitler in which he pledged "the destruction of world Jewry."

What possessed this man to be so spectacularly mindless as to display his Naziness for all to hear might be beyond all psychology. However, when police arrested him, he reportedly not only possessed … Read more

Will NY law crack down on Craigslist sublets?

The New York state legislature is set to vote this week on a bill that would ban apartment sublets that last less than a month, which if passed would have a significant impact on online vacation rental services like AirBnB, Roomorama, HomeAway, and even classifieds behemoth Craigslist.

In recent years, there's been a surge in popularity for short-term apartment rentals and housing exchange services that let users offer anything from luxury lofts to pull-out couches--especially in states like New York, whose eponymous island metropolis is known for housing prices so exorbitant that many tourists seek alternatives to hotels and … Read more

Cheezburger Network to Whitman campaign: FAIL!

Graphics in a political attack ad for California gubernatorial candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman that imitated popular humor blog FailBlog aren't going over too well with Cheezburger Network, the amalgam of blogs that owns FailBlog.

"We are talking to our attorneys on this," Cheezburger Network founder and CEO Ben Huh told CNET via e-mail. "We haven't decided on a course of action, if any. The law is a complex beast."

Huh's comment followed a post he wrote Friday on FailBlog, in which he addressed the fact that a recent video campaign … Read more

Senate committee: Look out, 'scam marketers'

The U.S. Senate is moving to put an end to one of the biggest scandals ever to shake online retail.

Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced a bill on Wednesday designed to prevent post-transaction marketers from duping consumers into enrolling into monthly memberships.

Rockefeller's committee has said marketers Webloyalty, Affinion, and Vertrue were responsible for mysterious credit card charges that millions of Americans, including elderly citizens and wounded Iraqi veterans, have complained about for years. Rockefeller's bill, called "Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act," is the result of a yearlong investigation … Read more

News site spies naughty pics on lawmaker's laptop

And here we'd thought that politicians were finally getting used to the ubiquitous presence of video cameras and YouTube in their lives: a Florida news and politics site called Sunshine State News has posted a video online in which a state senator in a Senate hearing definitely has something open on his laptop that involves partially unclothed women.

Now, we realize that Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has made it acceptable for the words "senator" and "unclothed" to be used in the same sentence, but looking at risque pictures on the Senate floor is still a … Read more

Supreme Court voids law on animal cruelty videos

A Web site promoting graphic videos of pit bulls fighting in Japan and hunting wild boar is shielded by the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

In a strongly worded 8-1 opinion, the court tossed out the criminal conviction of Robert Stevens, a documentary filmmaker in rural Virginia who sold books, videos, and equipment related to raising pit bulls through the now-defunct site.

A 1999 federal law that Stevens was prosecuted under is "substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote … Read more