Articles by Thomas Pearson


And taxpayers foot the bill.

John Borland over at CNET laments the fact that telecommunications providers and “golf-themed” community developers in the suburban Houston area are tapping into $2.2 billion in federal giveaways designed to fund rural broadband deployment. The Houston developments receiving the sweet, sweet subsidies also happen to be in Tom DeLay’s district.

The article also bemoans the fact that very few rural communities are ponying up to the Bush broadband trough to fund broadband investment in rural and “underserved” areas. One telling sentence near the end frets: “This is money that could literally save rural towns from extinction.”

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Techdirt has a blurb on the inevitability of RFID technology and another on why that’s a good thing, making the point, as Declan McCullagh does here, that a precautionary approach to technological innovation can deprive consumers, and society in general, of tremendous benefits. In other words, the mere possibility of some harm resulting from the development or widespread use of a technology should not preclude that development or use. Rather, a comparison of potential costs and benefits is required. As Declan points out, the potential benefits of RFID are tremendous while the costs, though not completely negligible, are easily managed through technological safeguards and consumer-driven accountability.

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A couple of days ago, the Post had an article detailing the strategy shift that politicians are using to “reach out” to voters. Rather than the old, and very expensive, method of sending voters junk mail, politicians are now buying very detailed e-mail lists in order to spam registered voters in targeted ways. This trend should be of no surprise to anyone. When CAN SPAM passed last year, it only “banned” commercial e-mail. Apparently, political messages are so vital that spamming voters with them is ok.

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I, Spambot

by on August 27, 2004 · 2 comments

There’s a very interesting article over at ZDNet about the unintended benefits of the continuing spam wars. The author makes the point that the war between spammers and filter designers has sparked new interest and innovation in the field of AI (artificial intelligence). In order to distinguish between spam and legitimate e-mail, filters must become increasingly “intelligent” as spammers continually find new ways to slip by them. The ongoing adaptation of these machines may one day make them sophisticated enough to pass a Turing test, where a human interviewer blindly interviews two subjects (one human, one computer) and is unable to tell the difference between the two. As the author concludes, “If the evil of spam leads to a renaissance of well-funded research into fundamental knowledge systems–nothing else will do–it could be the final kick we need to create truly intelligent machines.”

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I’d have sworn this was an Onion article if I hadn’t seen it in the Washington Post. According to the article, the Chinese government is going to get rid of all Internet pornography in the country by October 1st, in what it’s calling a “people’s war against electronic pornography.” As if the futility of that wasn’t funny enough, the name of the man tasked with leading the porno crusade, China’s Information Industry Minister, is Wang Xudong. (Yes, I’m still in fifth grade.)

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The BBC reports on a new effort by ISPs in Great Britain to rid their networks of spam: pull the plug on the sites using spam to advertise, or “spamvertise”. Though this policy may result in some collateral damage and is unlikely to stop spam from sites outside of the UK, it shows that private, self-help measures are possible and may prove to be quite effective. If successful, it will be interesting to see if ISPs in other countries follow suit.

Via /.