There was a time when Internet service providers would not touch the idea of blocking or filtering content, particularly after the Stratton Oakmont decision in the U.S., which intimated that ISPs that got into the content monitoring business would face potential liability for legal issues arising from such content. No longer. Over the past two years, there has been growing concern about net neutrality issues including content blocking (Telus), application discrimination (Shaw on VoIP), traffic shaping (Rogers), and content delivery tariffs (Videotron).
Today's LA Times reports that AT&T is prepared to take the next step – full scale content filtering on behalf of Hollywood interests. AT&T says that it is working with Hollywood studios and record companies to develop technologies to keep infringing content off their networks. AT&T has moved into pay television services and says "its interests are more closely aligned with Hollywood."
Not only does this sound like a DRM-style pipe dream – content filtering replacing DRM as the mistaken "solution" to copyright concerns – but it raises enormous concerns about false positives that filter out legitimate content and privacy implications for customer monitoring. Moreover, by moving down this path, AT&T faces the prospect of demands to monitor other content, aggressive legislative requirements to do so, and potential liability when things go wrong. Rather than working on ways to respond to consumer demands, this is yet another step toward annoying the public and opening a pandora's box of legal concerns.