If there's one thing that scares the bejabbers out of me, it's when organized religion — either directly or via proxies — attempts to nose its way into technology policy issues.
It appears that such a scenario is unfolding currently, with a concerted new effort to fundamentally remake the Internet in a manner befitting the sensibilities of top-down religious hierarchies. An Internet Pope? The Spanish Inquisition? Not exactly — that's the incorrect religion for this particular case.
The Register connects the dots of a rather sordid sequence of events in an article posted today.
Executive summary: It appears that mainly Utah-based Mormon anti-porn crusaders, in league with Ralph J. Yarro III (SCO Group chairman) have combined forces to petition ICANN toward the creation of a new "Cybersafety Constituency" — and are now reportedly using form letters to dominate the brief period of time available for comments.
To better understand how this all comes together and what such a Cybersafety Constituency might be after, one must be aware that Cheryl Preston, a key player for CP80 (headed by Yarro) is spearheading this effort.
CP80, which has been around for a number of years, has been pushing a radical and impractical (decorum prevents me from saying "loony" at this juncture) plan for fundamental restructuring of Internet architecture, along with associated new laws, to "channelize" the Internet into the censorship advocates' dream machine. These are hard-core Internet content control zealots we're talking about, at least judging from their own materials.
CP80 says that a whole slew of big name corporations, including Apple, Toshiba, Wal-Mart, Sony, PetSmart, Office Depot, and on and on, are "contribution partners" to their effort — seeming to imply support for the CP80 agenda. In reality, it appears likely to me that these are merely purchase affiliation links, and I wonder how many of these firms are aware of the manner in which CP80 is using their names and logos.
While it's difficult to visualize CP80's radical agenda gaining much traction in the short term, their entanglement with the new ICANN petition and what appears to be a well orchestrated Mormon pressure campaign certainly rate a "yellow shading toward orange" alert.
To be exceptionally clear about this, the key issue here isn't the particular religion involved. I'd say exactly the same thing about any other organized religion that appeared to be involving itself — in my view — inappropriately in technology policy matters.
Unfortunately, history teaches us that organized religion (a concept that I've always considered to be utterly orthogonal to truly meaningful questions of God, gods, and spirituality in general) is all too often an instrument for societal control rather than enlightenment.
I consider it crucial that the Internet not be sucked into this particular maelstrom.
(This post was originally published on Lauren Weinstein's blog.)
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