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[ NNSquad ] Re: Mall's Wi-Fi blocks "adult" content

Sorry guys, I agree with the mall, they don't want to accumulate pervs
who are sitting on benches in their mall, downloading porn in plain view
of their customers and any kids that walk by.

This kind of loaded comment loses sight of the difference between legal and illegal acts. People who act illegally in the mall run the risk of arrest or other legal action; and if what people do isn't illegal, who are you to say they shouldn't do it? (Incidentally, is there any evidence to support your fear? Such as reliable reports of people who've been successfully tried for illegal Internet activities in places with open wifi? How many?)

If what people are doing is legal, even if it's distasteful to someone else, they may do it: that's how we, in our society, are supposed to distinguish between what we permit and what we don't. Some other societies don't make that distinction; we call them autocratic. If you want to limit free expression and access to legal services, do that frankly: don't muddy the waters with excuses about "pervs in the mall".

That's the slippery slope: approving limitations on behavior because you also chance to fear that distasteful -- if quite legal -- things might happen. Each little step leads downhill to another, and you end up with frankly, repulsively, repressive measures. History, including very recent history, abounds with examples.

If a provider of open wifi acts as an arbiter of legal use, why not take the next step: no Fox at this mall, only MSNBC and Al-Jazeera? Or the full Monty: DPI, no anti-abortion websites, no Skype, no Google, injected ads for the mall on every web page? All map site references resolve to a floor plan of the mall? After all, the free wifi user hasn't paid for access, so obviously has no complaint about its outcome!

That might all be perfectly legal within the mall, but it's still the slippery slope, and we shouldn't suffer it gladly. On the contrary.


[ Here's a thought experiment. If a mall offered free telephone
service for their patrons around the mall, through handsets
placed at various locations, would similar restrictions be
acceptable? If a customer tried to call a local abortion clinic
or an "adult toys" store from one of those phones, would it be
reasonable for the system to cut in and say, "I'm sorry, we will
not complete your call as dialed, since we consider the business
you are calling to not meet our ethical standards -- CLUNK." ?
Is this fundamentally different from the Wi-Fi situation? Even
more to the point, what if you were trying to call a store in the mall itself when this happened?

         -- Lauren Weinstein
            NNSquad Moderator ]