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_Why_ the print media doesn't like Usenet
As many of you know, recent articles and editorials
in the nations main newspapers
(_New_York_Times and the _Chicago_Tribute_ to name just two) have
presented shockingly distorted accounts of the infamous
Canter & Siegel Usenet spam.
Ordinary Usenetters, outraged at the
socking abuse of the internet by Canter & Siegel, were transformed
into "network terrorists" in these editorials.
The attorneys, who have haughtily expressed their determination to repeatedly
inconvenience millions of Usenet readers by flooding Usenet newsgroups
with unsolicited advertisements, were portrayed as the innocent victims
of anti-business "vigilantes" bent on terrorizing the attorneys after their
widespread Usenet spam last year. The articles also included numerous
serious technological inexactitudes which supported the distorted conclusions
of the articles.
The articles called for increased government regulation of the internet
in order to thwart the alleged abuses.
Determined efforts by Usenetters to educate the print media into presenting
a more balanced (and, I might add, less dis-ingenuous point of view) have
been in vein.
It seems reasonable to point out the following facts:
1. It has not been unknown for powerful individuals in newspapers (such
as editors and owners) to manipulate articles for political purposes.
2. Usenet has often been highly critical of the print media, especially
editorials which disagreed with strongly held Usenet views and articles
which contained erroneous information. This criticism may have been
seen by the print media as damaging.
3. From time to time articles published in newspapers have been posted
(sometimes anonymously) to various newsgroups. This has denied
the print media of revenue since readers only had to turn to
Usenet to read especially sensationalist articles.
4. In the past, the print media has held a monopoly on detailed news.
Sure, television could bring news stories instantly, but for detail
one had to turn to the newspaper. Usenet and the internet are capable
of providing very detailed information rapidly and on demand, changing
instantly as conditions change. It is a very real competitor.
5. Government regulation would seriously hurt Usenet. Censorship
(like an FCC censor) and regulation of anonymous remailers would
result in increased legal liability on the internet. Holding Usenet posters
and other providers of information liable for the accuracy and tastefulness
of their information would make many people think twice before making
their information available. This would eliminate not only inaccurate
and tasteless information, but it would also greatly hinder the
flow of even accurate information. This would put the print media on
a more even footing.
These facts together suggest that it might be to the advantage of
the print media to call for government regulation. Once this is realized,
the behavior of these newspapers can be better understood, and action
can be taken against them:
1. Misleading information in the print media about Usenet must be
widely disseminated so as to damage the reputations of newspapers
that print inaccurate accounts and encourage them to get their
facts straight the next time around.
2. The print media's self-interest in government regulation of Usenet
must be pointed out, both to the public and to law-makers so
as to reduce the effectiveness of their pleas.
3. Usenet should seek the support the of the media (especially
rivals like TV media that have less to lose from Usenet) to obtain
favorable and anti-regulatory publicity.
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