The Internet Doesn’t Work Like That

Here’s a piece of legislation which is completely oblivious to how technology works: California is going to try to ensure that minors can delete things they said off the Internet.

This is utterly naïve. The people pushing for this really should have sought to consult with some people who know about networks and large scale site design. But perhaps they did. Would they have listened? Is this just moral crusaders pushing forward to protect their poor children from a world they themselves don’t even begin to understand?

The way sites—let’s say Facebook—work is that anything you post goes to THOUSANDS of servers simultaneously. Facebook is global. It’s not just some dude in his study running a single webserver off his ADSL. The thing you post gets pushed to thousands of caching servers all over the planet. I’ve talked about these in other posts, but they’re called CDNs, or Content Delivery Networks. Youtube use them to push videos around the planet, Facebook use them to push your posts around, Twitter does the same, you name it, that one message you post gets copied to thousands of servers. This is so that people from around the world can view the content as if it were local. This speeds things up, it saves Internet Providers money, and it spreads the load around the world.

And those thousands of servers are just the ones that are part of that service. Google and other search engines run around collecting info and caching that too, so that your search queries are fast and relevant. So add another few thousand servers that are out of the original site’s control.

And then consider bots, which are more prevalent on the likes of Twitter, that replicate content. Or even just those that read and filter content like RSS feeds (think news sites, but almost every website and many social networks can be collected and read in RSS-like ways). Everyone who subscribes to an RSS-like feed potentially stores copies of that on their own machines. And you can’t delete those.

Even if you could identify every single location something was posted or copied to, the child won’t have accounts on all those services. Some aren’t even services people log into. Some places will run you through legal hoops proving your identity before they take down content. This bill is just completely, utterly naïve. This will never work because the people behind it have a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the Internet works. Which, I suspect, is why they even drafted the bill in the first place.

So how about instead of being lazy, ineffectual meatsacks, why don’t you try being PARENTS? Educate your children. Don’t just try and hide the world from them. Before they post on the Net, you need to educate them from an early age on the do’s and don’ts.

This is your fault, not the Internet’s. Try taking responsibility for your own actions for a change. If you can’t, then please, for the sake of humanity, stop breeding.