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Seeking the advice and input of ATS members on an important issue...

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posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:42 PM
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The free and independent Internet is at risk, from an unexpected threat positioned as protection of "online privacy," which may end up as no more than giving unfair advantage to major media corporations. U.S. Congressman Rich Boucher (southwestern Virginia) is spearheading legislation couched as privacy protection which may result in the elimination of thousands upon thousands of small independent websites, including AboveTopSecret.com.



Background Summary

Boucher, who is chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet (and who is backed by a long-list of big-media dollars) is proposing legislation that will effectively eliminate third-party ad networks as an option for small to mid-sized websites. Our contacts in the industry fear that, due to his hotly contested re-election efforts, the proposed legislation will reach the house floor before the end of the year.

The essence of his proposal is to require websites such as ATS to first ask your permission before using any third-party cookies. This would mean that sites like us could not display third-party ad networks until you opt-in with your approval. The end result would be a significant, if not complete, drop in the only source of revenue for small independent websites.

While well-intended, the efforts are based on gross paranoia about cookies and personal information. The "behavioral targeting" being used by the third part ad networks does not contain nor collects any personally-identifiable information. Instead, the collected information is used in an attempt to deliver better ads, and reduce the amount of repeat ads you see. While there have been spotty abuses of unscrupulous companies, no one can point to actual problems of privacy or personal information abuse of the ad networks... the fears are all based on worst-case speculation and "what-if" scenarios.



What It Means

Devastation of the free and independent web.

There are thousands... perhaps hundreds-of-thousands... of small independent websites who all rely on modest to significant income from third-party ad networks to pay the bills for their existence. And the ecosystem of support, from hosting companies to professional services vendors, that provide various levels of service to the huge number of independent web publishers would similarly be demolished.

This issue extends far-beyond ATS to small free websites with Google ads and/or banners from the likes of ValueClick that provide just enough income to pay for the hosting. Those free and independent voices, even those who are critical of us, could be silenced... and it's a travesty beyond imagination.



Why It Would Hurt Small Sites

The big media companies have the means to forge direct relationships with advertisers as well as manage their own ad servers... thereby bypassing the issue of "third-party" ad networks and the related concerns of cookies. The proposed legislation would heavily favor these companies as online advertisers would then have no option but to work directly with big-media websites.

On ATS, there are more than 1,200 different companies that advertise here in any given month. Eliminating the option of using a third-party ad network would require us to attempt to engage every potential advertiser directly, and deploy our own ad-serving technology. That would be a task well-beyond our means, and certainly out of the question for smaller sites.



The End Does Not Justify Means

No one will argue with the need to be concerned about the use of the data collected by online ad networks. There are just as many valid reasons for concern as there are gross misrepresentations about the potential danger of cookies from third-parties.

However, in my opinion, this issue has become inappropriately politicized and spun such that legislation posed as privacy protection is nothing more than a serious effort to shut-down the independent web in favor of the Internet efforts of big media. The wrong solution to a (mostly) imagined problem.



What Can We Do?

I have been, and continue to be directly involved with various Internet advertising groups. My efforts are focused on representing the concerns of a highly-viable and massive small business segment. From a commerce and business standpoint, this effort is important.

However, users of websites (YOU) who are concerned about the possible loss of the independent web deserve to be noticed and heard. If we (ATS) were to organize an online petition effort, would you support that?

Such a petition effort would cross the line of our stated principals of limiting advocacy within the borders of ATS, but I think this is a vitally important issue of concern to our members and the thousands of small website on which you find inspiration. As such, before we engage in any petition of Internet users, I thought it logical to bring it up to you for discussion and consideration.

Is this something we should do? If you think it is, I will bring to bear all that I know to ensure your opinions are noticed in an independent effort (not directly related to ATS) all users of the web could embrace.






Background information...

The Government's Plan To Kill Independent Web Sites

House Bill Takes Aim At Web Privacy

A Call to Legislate Internet Privacy

Boucher, Perriello in cross hairs as GOP eyes 2010

Lawmakers, Inching Toward A Privacy Bill, Question 'Data-Mining Reapers'

Optin g out of data collection could drive down value of online ads, panel said

Consumer Privacy: Who Cares? Companies Will Soon Find Out





 

 




Based on the overwhelming support of ATS members on this issue, we've completed and launched an information site, complete with links to a petition and a service that emails our letters to the appropriate congressional representatives.



keepourwebfree.org


The Independent Web Is In Danger

Imagine a web without LOL Cats, Slash Dot, Boing Boing, AlterNet.org, and most of the other popular free web sites that offer a wealth of entertaining and culturally important user-generated and user-directed content. A web where mainstream media and mega-sites dominate and control online content and the opportunities for unconstrained free expression are all but eliminated from digital society. The concept of the "free web," in terms of both free content and free expression, is under attack through proposed legislation disguised as initiatives to "protect online privacy."

If U.S. Congressman Rich Boucher has his way, the independent web will disappear. He is proposing legislation that will all-but eliminate the only source of revenue for small and medium-sized websites, third-party Internet advertising networks. Couched as a "deep concern" for the potential of privacy invasion, the proposed legislation is little more than a methodology by which to strangle the independent web, in favor of the very-large websites from major media corporations.


The Proposed Legislation

In a nut-shell, the proposed legislation would require web site publishers to inform users of the use of third-party ad networks prior to displaying any such ads. It is expected that users will choose to opt-in or out of receiving those ads prior to using the publisher's site. If a user takes no action, the publisher is expected to assume the user wishes not to receive advertising from third-party sources. Since the overwhelming majority of small-to-medium websites have no sales or advertising staff, the only viable source of operational revenue is these very same third-party ad networks. The result will be a severe, if not total, loss of the revenue that pays for servers and technology, and the eventual death of the independent web.


Controlling Third-Party Ad Networks

No-one is arguing the point that we must establish clear rules (and laws if necessary) that restricts the use of the data collected by third-party ad networks for the purpose of targeting Internet advertising. There are valid (if not speculative) concerns over the nature of the collected data and the potential for abuse. However, no solution should result in favoring one segment online publishers, and certainly no solution should harm one of the few growing areas of our fragile economy.


What Can Users Do?

We've set up several methods for you to take action and play a role in having our voices (users of the Independent Web) heard on Capitol Hill.

You can read about our service that enables you to immediately send emails to your representatives, that automatically selects the appropriate targets based on your home address.

Or you can learn about our online petition which we admit may have limited direct effectiveness, but can be an excellent awareness-building vehicle.

You may also link to us to help spread the word about this effort on your own website, or the blogs and discussion boards you visit.



 

 


[edit on 30-11-2009 by SkepticOverlord]




posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:48 PM
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I'd support almost anything that aids in protecting our freedom of expression. This is a great idea, and one I'm sorry has to even be considered.

Count me in.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:49 PM
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Count me in. Freedom of speech/media is about all we have left....and it's fading quickly.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:50 PM
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Of course it's something you should do!! They're trying to gain control over the internet, this is exactly the kind of thing that this website, and all who ride upon her, should be getting directly involved in!!


(that's a "yes" btw, you've got my vote
)



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:51 PM
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Im in as well, our country cannot afford to lose anymore small businesses.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:51 PM
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"They may take our lives, but they will never take... our FREEEEEDOM"

Obviously, count me in!



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:51 PM
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reply to post by SkepticOverlord
 


It’s a control Issue, they do not want us to know what they do not want us to know...

There are only two options vote in candidates, ones from our flock, or a civil war.. Those are the only two options they have left us with.

I would prefer rallying around certain ATS members and getting them elected to congress.

I won’t take the second option off the table.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:51 PM
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I will support it too, withouth ATS I would almost be lost, there is no one else for me to talk to about any alternative topics.

Let alone the wonderful way in which ATS members bring in the news.


Save teh internetz!!11lolz!!!



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:52 PM
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reply to post by SkepticOverlord
 


I love ATS and all the good independant sites that allow people to spread truth. If anybody comes up with a petition then I will sign it.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:52 PM
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I support this, the means of information exchange must remain free or we are an enslaved people.

Find a way to present it hat demonstrates actual harm to the business aspect of a free web, and you'll find the support you seek.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:53 PM
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Hi,

I agree - the internet for all its ills is, in my humble opinion, the one remaining forum for widespread public speech.

Having lived before the internet I realise both the huge benefits (immediate access, communication, learning..) and the dangers it brings. However, I believe the former outweighs the latter.

Peace!



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:53 PM
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reply to post by SkepticOverlord
 



Rich Boucher is toast. His carear as a politician just ended.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:53 PM
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I'm in. What ever needs done. (Sorry for one liner)



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:53 PM
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If i understand correctly, a petition wont have much effect. The so called "elites" want to control everything, even the internet. We just need to recall the speech Rockfeller gave not long ago about the internet.
Writing to our elected officials, in whatever country we're in, is a better solution IMO. But we would need to do it on a very large scale.
There is also the fact that Internet 2 is on the way, and that internet will be policed like nothing we've ever seen. Internet will be reserved for big corporations and whoever has good connections. Their plan is to remove our freedom of expression, that is why they are attempting to introduce new laws that would restrict our usage of the www.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:53 PM
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If you think we need an online petition, I will fully support it and I appreciate your informing us on the matter.

Thank you!



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:54 PM
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I'd sign it.
Too many of our freedoms are at risk these days as it is.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:54 PM
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I don't see the justification for this proposed legislation other than to take more control of what small sites can or cannot do. I'm against it. Small sites deserve to use revenue and deserve to advertise to make money. I also see the end here- which is the elimination of many small websites and independent websites. I don't think that freedom of speech should be abridged and this would abridge on that free speech.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:55 PM
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Count me in, but if we have learned only one thing of the way congress behaves, it is that lobby groups will sway congress away from the will of the people.

We should prepare now to make our own networks, have our own sites, off the grid. We should cache sites like wikipedia to be used on smaller networks.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:55 PM
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I will support you in this issue as much as i can.
We are the site that should be leading the way on freedom of information.



posted on Nov, 25 2009 @ 12:55 PM
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This bill is very worrying indeed. I personally believe that it is well calculated, it is a bullyish move so they can swallow all the smaller independants sites and take over a huge portion of the content on the internet.
I believe there are some solutions for ATS and others if this bill is passed: force users to accept ads to continue using the service! As long as the site offers quality content, then there should be no major problems, except a bit less revenues.
I really do hope everyone writes to their congressman to protect the diversity of the internet we love.





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