In an article unambiguously titles “WiFi Turns Internet Into Hideout for Criminals” the good ol’ Washington Post gives a pretty nasty blow to all open wi-fi initiatives. I don’t know what got into Washington Post writer Jamie Stockwell. (But it sure wasn’t decent journalism, or research for that matter.) Using the old – and mostly completely, horribly suggestive, false terror-inducing – rhetorical club of child porn, the article finds open wi-fi networks to be the new black of online crime. Wi-fi, the piece suggests, is what makes horrible crimes like child porn possible in the first place. (Remember the olden days, when the blame was still on The Internet? Before that, it probably was VHS or something…)
(It’s quite funny to see, by the way: In the U.S, child porn seems to be the most effective argument. In Germany, it’s mostly the combo of child porn and neo-nazi hate speech.)
So back to the article, briefly: After going on about an elderly woman who’s flat got searched for evidence of child porn trade (none found), it turned out one of the neighbors must have committed said crime via her non-secured wireless network. Oh boy.
Open wireless signals are akin to leaving your front door wide open all day â€” and returning home to find that someone has stolen your belongings and left a mess that needs cleaning.
Uh-huh. Rrrright. Says Dan Gillmor in response:
Oh, really? A password-protected network using, for example, WEP â€œsecurityâ€ is little better than an open one. It may be worse, because it can create a false sense of personal safety.
So the article suggests a good clean solution for the problem: Increase surveillance, cripple free access:
One way to combat it is for people to secure their wireless networks by making them password-protected. But, authorities said, businesses and cities that offer free connections need some way to track the users, such as filtering measures that could scan to see who is accessing the network.
Now that’d quite obviously kill the very idea of an open network: Free, open, unlimited access to the web, for good or bad. But anyway.
What freaks me out is how badly researched the article is. Not a single counterstatement, or alternative point of view to be found. Is this the same Washington Post that’s been around for ages and is well-known for good journalist practice??
I’m so sick of journalists buying one-sidedly into conservative policy rhetorics as far as technology is involved.
Is there crime via wireless online activities? Sure is. But it’s not the kind of connection that should be blamed. Also, it’s not the tech, nor anything even related. Tech is just one of many, many means of committing crimes. Why don’t you guys just go ahead and blame the people who produce said movies? So once and for all: Neither the web, nor wireless networks are responsible for child porn or hate speech in the first place. Don’t blame the messenger.
First and foremost, open wi-fi networks mean open access to the web. Which mostly, I’m convinced, is used for productive/ harmless/ positive things, namely communication. Cutting or filtering access to networks means more harm than good, for all involved.