Interview with AT&T’s “Filter the Internet” Exec

Thomas Mennecke’s interview with AT&T’s Jim Cicconi, Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs (yikes!), A.K.A. “The guy who brought up the ‘filtering the internet’ mess at CES,” is too full of enlightening peeks the mind of AT&T for me to simple pluck a single, authoritative quote. So here’s a couple, sans context. In short, the AT&T position seems to be We want to filter the internet to please the content cartels, but we don’t want to have any legal culpability for doing so.

“We’re not taking on a legal enforcement role,” Jim Cicconi, told Slyck.com. “We’ve been clear. We don’t feel we have a legal responsibility. We’re not doing that in a legal sense. We do recognize it’s a real problem. There are property rights involved with copyrighted content. Simply saying there’s no legal responsibility doesn’t mean we have no responsibility. We also have responsibility to our customers. [A lot] of pirated material is used to transfer viruses, malware, and things of that nature.”

Not it! Not it!

There are a lot of people defending copyrighted sharing, but how many would say it’s legal and right? Cooler heads need to come together and discuss whether the internet is a zone where there are no morals or standards of content.”

1. This isn’t about defending the violation of copyright—it’s about a government-subsidized utility snooping; 2. It is not the role of a corporation to enforce morality.

“Defending the internet doesn’t mean defending all conduct that occurs on the internet. Do we want the internet to be a civil place…or the wild west where you need to protect yourself. We have a lot of bad content [on the network]. Should we find ways to find and stop it? It’s an identical question to other illegal content.”

Wild West seems to be working just fine, Jim. Unless you’re saying that once AT&T starts filtering the backbone traffic we won’t have to use virus scanners anymore. And if we do get a virus, we can sue AT&T for not filtering them out properly?

AT&T, P2P Filtering, and the Consumer [Slyck.com]

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9 Responses to Interview with AT&T’s “Filter the Internet” Exec

  1. silpol says:

    well, one can’t expect _anything_ else from large telco silo – we will do crap on your view, but we are not responsible…

    there is only one way to deal with them: vote by money, leave them.

  2. RussNelson says:

    I’d also note that the “Wild West” wasn’t as wild as people make it sound. Of course, people talk about gunfights and shootouts. They’re interesting! But they’re also not typical. See the book The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier by Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill

  3. Lou3000 says:

    @Adam

    I was also wondering how this affects AT&T’s DMCA Safe Harbor. This stuff was two semesters ago in law school, but where the DMCA requires take down after notification, doesn’t it change if they are checking the information? Then they already know of the infringing material.

    This is similar to the some early safe harbor cases where the ISP had immunity because it didn’t contribute to the content. This changes the definition of ISP.

  4. noen says:

    Does this mean they would also eliminate spam? Somehow I think not. “We don’t feel we have a legal responsibility.” That pretty much sums corporate ideas about “morality”. I claim all of the rights but accept none of the responsibility is not a plan for a healthy society.

  5. funeralpudding says:

    SITE ADMIN:

    Maybe my eyes are just deceiving me, but I can’t seem to find the link to the story, or the story itself on Boing Boing Gadgets about the Boing Boing staffer who went onto the AT&T-sponsored show and took them to task for this invasion of privacy. Has it been taken down? Were you told to take it down? Surely this would be worth a story itself, unless again I just looked right past it twice, through the haze of smoke around my computer.

  6. Lou3000 says:

    I’m almost glad to see AT&T taking such an open stance on copyright filtering. With this getting news and Comcast possibly facing some sort of inquiry on its Bittorrent throttling, it gives a smaller company the ability to promote a “private” internet experience. This wouldn’t necessarily be unanimously popular, but in larger areas, with more tech savvy people, it could catch on.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A couple of years ago I attended an information security symposium in NYC. One of the presenters was the Chief Security Officer of AT&T. I don’t recall the exact subject; something about carrier-assisted dDoS protection. But he made a few side comments that made it clear that AT&T was even at that time already looking at our data, such as “you don’t want to see some of the stuff people are doing on the Internet”.

  8. Anonymous says:

    BAH
    utterly asinine.
    this is the equivalent of sitting there listening to every effing word you say on the phone.
    furthermore;; if they even so much as pass this ludacris bill, yeah dunno how to spell ludacris exactly, but FUCK. i will cancel ALL of my at&t services, tv, phone, and internet, and call their company in india and make damn sure they know why i did.
    this is simply, not right.
    does anyone not remember Ma Bell?(Google it if you have no idea what it means)
    well in my opinion shes floating back out of her grave held down by all of those anti trust lawsuits.
    this is bad, simply bad. i for one REFUSE, to sit back and take this.
    at&t is such a big monopoly. and they lobbyy in congress so they get to sit there on their goldmine.
    utterly, completely, retarded.
    fuck you at&t. you can take your 20 dollar a month internet and shove it for all i care.
    ill switch to a provider who doesn’t stick their nose where it belongs.

  9. adam says:

    This post doesn’t point it out, but others have: AT&T gets a safe harbor from various federal (and likely state) laws because it acts as a neutral carrier without treating some information carried differently because of what it says. By actually inspecting and exercising some control over content, it is possible or likely that they’ve sailed out of the safe harbor (IANAL). At the very least, whether the ship is still in the harbor or not, they’ve opened themselves up to debate (um, court) as to whether the various safe harbors apply.

    Somewhere there was a big battle between AT&T lawyers-concerned-with-liability and AT&T-lawyers-involved-in-content-licensing…

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