Impact of Zoning the Internet
A must read article - "Times Withholds Web Article in Britain". NY Times is patting itself on the back for censoring itself in Britain by applying ad technology.
They are introducing the concept of self-censorship to filter the news product by legal jurisdictions - so that the news fits the legal system of the country you are reading it in. Can this benefit the Times, or is it a costly trap? Read more.
Back when the Internet started, it was like the "wild west" - nobody really knew what you could or couldn't do. Which laws governed a transaction - where it was viewed, or where it was served, or both.
I myself did a legal paper on the subject - "Jurisdiction and the Information Superhighway", which examined a porn case that overreached accross the US. At the time, the argument against self-censorship like the NY Times has chosen to do was that there would be a great cost in negotiating the rules for each readers jurisdiction, so by default the serving jurisdiction should be the only one that mattered.
Thus, a reader was defacto using the Internet as a transport vehicle, reading in the serving jurisdiction, and returning, just as if they'd caught a jet to the Big Apple to read the NY Times.
But for the NY Times this isn't enough. Since they print in Britain and the US, the problem is the extension of publishing onto the Internet - does it run by British or American rules? The answer they've arrived at is that it depends on where the reader is. And advertising tracking information tells them where the reader is.
In the short run this is great for the NY Times, since it doesn't have to fight costly battles with British or American administrations, because it just knuckles under from the start. Savvy readers on the Internet will just be annoyed, because they'll have to track down other news sources elsewhere in the world to read what's been censored, so the NY Times brand will sustain a small hit for its veracity. No matter, a Jason Blair here or there gets ignored.
But here's the big gorilla. Now publishing (as well as other businesses) potentially can be compelled by a judge to use the same technology to require that local jurisdictions all be treated the same, in place of the serving jurisdiction. All it takes is a follow-on case where this technique is used to rewrite recent case law, and then suddenly everyone has to track and deal with local jurisdictions!
Can you see it? All the Chinese needed to be filtered from pro-democracy and anti-PROC stories. Islamic countries not wishing to see cartoons or Britney Spears or anything jewish.
But it would get even bigger. Imagine the boycotts of goods over the internet not allowed to be sold, the additional terms and conditions of sales. Or the clever way local businesses would attempt to pass laws to make it impossible for non-local competitors to horn in on territory.
Truely, the NY Times has pioneered a masterpiece of regulation, and discovered new ways of limiting the use of the Internet. So much for the past, when the rules were fewer and more easy to comprehend.