House bill calls for ISPs to block some fake financial sites

Internet Service Providers cry foul when they discover language in a bill moving through the House of Representatives that forces them to identify and block specific fraudulent financial sites.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

I came across a pretty interesting read on CNET's Politics and Law blog about an investor's protection bill working its way through the House of Representatives.

On the surface, the bill is supposed to be about "reforming the regulatory structure of the U.S. financial services industry." But Declan McCullagh, who writes the blog, highlights one easy-to-overlook part of the bill. language that essentially forces Internet Service Providers to play traffic cop on their networks.

The bill calls for ISPs to block Internet bad guys who pose as legitimate brokerage firms that are members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), a "government-linked entity that aids investors when funds are missing from their accounts, up to a limit of $500,000 for stocks, bonds, and mutual funds."

That's an awfully tall order, asking ISPs to not only differentiate the authentic sites from the fraudulent sites but also to identify which are posing as SIPC members. It's a good thing that the bill's author - Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania - is open to altering the language to address concerns. It turns out that the specific part of the bill was part of a similar bill introduced earlier this year by another Congressman.

Hopefully, the issue becomes a non-issue quickly. CNET, however, says the SIPC may have asked for that specific language to be in the bill.- but was unable to confirm because the SIPC president was unavailable. We'll have to wait and see how it develops.

That aside, I couldn't help but think, as I read the CNET post, how this was all somewhat hypocritical of Washington. One one hand, the net neutrality proposals coming out of the FCC basically prevent ISPs from playing traffic cop and differentiating from the different types of content moving over its pipelines. Let's keep it free and open - or so the chant goes.

Then you have this sort of language slipping into a bill on Capitol Hill. On one hand, ISPs aren't supposed to differentiate one type of content from another. But on the other hand, they would not only have to identify the bad guys but also block the ones who are posing as members of a government-backed group.

Can Washington have it both ways?

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