2005-07-16 How Comcast Censors Political Content

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Date: 2005-07-16
Link: http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0716-20.htm
Author: David Swanson (writingscat)
Source: AfterDowningStreet.org (articlescat)
Topics: Comcast Symantec US censorship accountability war on the internet spam
Categories: Comcast Symantec US censorship accountability war on the internet spam


How Comcast Censors Political Content

longer text

We didn't know it, but for the past week, anyone using Comcast has been unable to receive any Email with "www.afterdowningstreet.org" in the body of the Email. That has included every Email from me, since that was in my signature at the bottom of every Email I sent. And it included any Email linking people to any information about the upcoming events.

From the flood this evening of Emails saying "Oh, so that's why I haven't heard anything from you guys lately," it seems clear that we would have significantly more events organized by now for the 23rd if not for this block by Comcast. <p>Disturbingly, Comcast did not notify us of this block. It took us a number of days to nail down Comcast as the cause of the problems, and then more days, working with Comcast's abuse department to identify exactly what was going on. We'd reached that point by Thursday, but Comcast was slow to fix the problem.

During the day on Friday we escalated our threats to flood Comcast's executives with phone calls and cancellations, and we gave them deadlines. Friday evening, Comcast passed the buck to Symantec. Comcast said that Symantec's Bright Mail filter was blocking the Emails, and that Symantec refused to lift the block, because they had supposedly received 46,000 complaints about Emails with our URL in them. Forty-six thousand! Of course, Symantec was working for Comcast, and Comcast could insist that they shape up, or drop them. But Comcast wasn't interested in doing that.

Could we see two or three, or even one, of those 46,000 complaints? No, and Comcast claimed that Symantec wouldn't share them with Comcast either.

By the time Comcast had passed the buck to the company that it was paying to filter its customers Emails, Brad Blog had posted an article about the situation and urged people to complain to Comcast. http://www.bradblog.com/archives/00001602.htm

Brad quickly added Symantec phone numbers to the story on his website, and we called Symantec's communications department, which fixed the problem in a matter of minutes.

So, why does this matter?

Comcast has a near monopoly on high-speed internet service in much of this country, including much of the Washington, D.C., area. Many members of the media and many people involved in politics rely on it. Three days ago, I almost decided to put a satellite dish on my roof. There's no other way for me to get high-speed internet, unless I use Comcast.

Comcast effectively censors discussion of particular political topics, and impedes the ability of people to associate with each other, with absolutely no compulsion to explain itself. There is no due process. A phrase or web address is tried and convicted in absentia and without the knowledge of those involved.

Now, did Comcast do this because it opposes impeaching the President? I seriously doubt it. Apparently the folks at Symantec did this, and Comcast condoned it. But why?

shorter text

“We didn't know it, but for the past week, anyone using Comcast has been unable to receive any Email with "www.afterdowningstreet.org" in the body of the Email. That has included every Email from me, since that was in my signature at the bottom of every Email I sent. And it included any Email linking people to any information about the upcoming events.”

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Date
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16 July 2005 +