A number of Internet Service Providers have been dropping the alt.* hierarchy from their Usenet servers at the behest of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who has been crusading against child pornography. The alt.* newsgroups are particularly vulnerable to attacks like this one as the vast majority of them are completely uncensored and unmoderated. The ISPs also have a huge incentive as alt.binaries.* newsgroups which reside underneath the alt.* heirarchy use up an enormous amount of bandwidth in the form of pictures, music, and video—much of which is copyrighted and this infuriates copyright cops like the RIAA and MPAA. As a result when a politician made a big stink about pornography, the ISPs have buckled quite quickly.
Reading Cuomo's press release, you'd think that Usenet newsgroups exist entirely to distribute kiddie porn. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Usenet groups exist to discuss an almost endless variety of topics from technical topics like computer programming to television to computer games to sex—yes there are perverts who talk about sex and even distribute porn on Usenet. But Usenet is so much more. There is no pornography—child or otherwise—on alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer, alt.tv.tech.hdtv, or alt.comp.freeware but all of these groups are among the thousands of useful and entertaining discussion forums which will be banned in the name of the children.
Usenet is a decentralized, uncensored place where people can go to discuss any topic and this is a precious thing on the Internet. Blogs and specialty websites are many and varied and can be hard to find. Usenet is always there with everything you want in one place. And best of all, you can choose your software for accessing Usenet which allows you to control every aspect of your online discussions from the look and feel of your messages to the ability to kill-file online jerks.
Years ago, unhappy with AT&T's poor Usenet service, I began using a third-party Usenet provider which is independent of my ISP. Stories like these will likely cause more people to move to these third party providers and once people see what Usenet looks like when someone who actually knows and cares about newsgroup discussion is serving up newsgroups—less spam, more content, more newsgroups—they'll use it more. And now instead of hosting Usenet on their own servers, ISPs will instead be serving it up to a third party server which will serve it back to the ISP which will serve it their own users. In other words Usenet, which was already using up tons of bandwidth, will begin to use up more. But at least the ISPs will be protecting the children.
I've always believed and no, I don't have a cite for that belief, that the typical "Internet Predator" is by far the stupidist and laziest pervert of them all. Sure, it may be cool to watch Chris Hansen busting a pedophile who showed up to hook up with an undercover cop who pretended to be a twelve year old girl on the Internet; but let's face it, how many times do you have to watch a show like To Catch a Predator to realize that the average horny teen on the Internet is really an undercover cop trying to bust perverts? I'm guessing not many. The real predators, if they exist, aren't on the Internet trolling for kids. They are in the same places where they've always been around kids either as abusive teachers or priests or in some other job that allows them easy access to helpless children with neglectful parents. Many of these perverts are parents or uncles or cousins themselves. And no amount of censorship is going to stop them from hurting kids.