Anarchy Online: Net Crime and Net Sex, the Truth Behind the Hype


Enter the front lines of both sides &nbspin the war to control the Net.

The U.S. Justice Department, the Christian Coalition and the Guardian Angels want to clean up the Net. ACLU attorneys, college activists and a raging band of rebels are trying to stop them. Who will win this epic battle, and what will the consequences be?

From Charles Platt, one of the original online renegades and a contributing editor of Wired magazine, comes these ...

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Enter the front lines of both sides &nbspin the war to control the Net.

The U.S. Justice Department, the Christian Coalition and the Guardian Angels want to clean up the Net. ACLU attorneys, college activists and a raging band of rebels are trying to stop them. Who will win this epic battle, and what will the consequences be?

From Charles Platt, one of the original online renegades and a contributing editor of Wired magazine, comes these two distinct "guides" —each with its own front cover — to address both sides of these modern issues in one book. This authoritative look begins with the origins of Usenet and ends in a nightmarish future where the war on netporn has become as expensive and futile as the war on drugs. Along the way we meet dozens of other colorful personalities fighting to control the greatest mass medium since the printing press.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061009907
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/20/1997
  • Pages: 367
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Platt writes frequently about internet issues in journals such as Wired and the Los Angeles Times . Anarchy Online is a supremely irreverent, superbly readable portrait of the outlaws, activists and legislators who are molding the future of online communications.

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Interviews & Essays

On Sunday, June 1, welcomed Charles Platt, author of ANARCHY ONLINE.

Moderator: Hello and welcome to's Live Events Auditorium! Tonight we welcome Charles Platt, author of ANARCHY ONLINE. Mr. Platt has now joined us in the auditorium. Submit your questions, and enjoy the chat...

Warren from Flushing Meadows: How do you like doing online interviews?

Charles Platt: I'm happy to do online interviews. It's an interesting way to hear from people I wouldn't get a chance to talk to otherwise.

Frank from Michigan: How do we protect our net-savvy children from online indecencies? As a parent I have set boundaries, but I feel as if the internet doesn't support my right to maintain those boundaries and keep my kids out of online situations that are not age-appropriate. What are your ideas?

Charles Platt: I have a daughter myself, now aged 19. She's been online for the past four years. Right from the start, I realized there were 'places' she could go which I would not necessarily know about unless I was very restrictive via filtering software. But those 'places' were so much less dangerous than 'places' in the real world . . . and ultimately more educational.

Jeff from Vermont: Why do you suppose people are so keen on really maximizing the anonymity factor of being online? It's virtually the only venue where folks can ask one another what they're wearing, and they'll get a truthful response. What does this say for the subversive nature of the American culture?

Charles Platt: Some people like to be anonymous online, some don't. I've done some things anonymously, most things under my own name. That's one of the fun aspects of the online world. I think it's wonderful. I have no idea why anonymity is such a hot issue.

Yves from LA: What do you see as the long term effect of the online Information Age? Are you optimistic? Or are we just opening the door to criminals and the like?

Charles Platt: I have few concerns about 'criminals' online so long as I am allowed to protect myself, for instance with properly encrypted financial transactions. I am much more worried about the government fed and state interfering with my liberties online. I have felt the effects of this, already, far more than the supposedly 'lawlessness,' which is mostly a media invention anyway.

Kelly from Utah: What was your first computer, and do you recall the first time you ever used the internet/e-mail? Do you ever long for the good old days or does the information age charge you up?

Charles Platt: My first computer was an Ohio Scientific c4p in 1978, with a big 48 K of RAM! No, I don't miss anything about the early days of computing. I just wish the field could progress FASTER. I want proper artificial intelligence and a much better operating system . . . which DOES NOT CRASH.

Jonno from New York: In your estimation, what is the next step in online communications. It feels like we're pioneers, travelling west, but sooner or later we're going to hit the Pacific, no?

Charles Platt: The next step online will be MONEY. Right now, there are relatively few services that people want to pay for, either because the service isn't interesting enough or the method of payment isn't secure enough. But online gambling and secure encryption of small payments will change all that!

Harold from Greenlawn: If you had to name three positive and three negative effects the Internet and specifically the web will have on society, what would they be?

Charles Platt: positives and three negatives? Too many to answer! Positive the net enables me to do my work AND maintain a social life, more cheaply and easily and interestingly than ever before. Negative I dunno. Can't think of negatives.

Brian Hack from Hoboken: Will people really be getting sick from too much time spent in front of the computer? Did you feel it, after researching this book?

Charles Platt: I sold my Encyclopedia Britannica when I found that I could get better information, faster, and free, via the Web in most cases. When I run into a topic where I really need proper coverage, I order a book online. But a lot of my research still has to be done by phone calling experts and asking questions. The Web enables me to figure out what questions to ask, though. I have not felt any ill effects from using a computer for long periods. A typewriter was worse!

Anne from Jersey City: You're book is terrific! How do you like the design of it? I've never seen two books in one like yours.

Charles Platt: Thanks for kind words about my book. The design was my idea, half one way up, half the other way up. It evolved from an argument that I had with my editor he wanted a book about crime, I wanted to do a book about free speech. It takes me about two months to write a novel, six months to write a nonfiction book.

Eric from D.C.: What's the status on the case with that kid in Michigan and the sadistic letters?

Charles Platt: Some asked about Jake Baker, who wrote sadistic fantasies online, featuring the name of a fellow student. He is mentioned in my book. I think he was found not guilty during the government's appeal to a higher court, and the case is now closed.

Mark from NYC: With the general public getting online and becoming more comfortable with putting their credit card info on the web, how safe are they from criminals? How much can we trust the firewalls?

Charles Platt: Site security online is a real problem--because the most widely used operating system, Unix, was never designed to be secure. But an even bigger problem is that system administrators simply don't update their knowledge of security measures that CAN be taken. I think as Windows NT displaces Unix, security may improve.

Annie from Anchorage: How do you feel about censorship on the World Wide Web? Do you think it is necessary, if so how will it be implemented?

Charles Platt: Censorship assumes that someone a censor is better able to make decisions about the content that I am allowed to read than I am. I have never been able to accept this. If a censor can experience the 'shocking' text or graphics, why shouldn't I be able to? I really don't believe that text, in particular, can corrupt anyone. from Cyber playgrounds: Charles How do you relax away from the screen? Are you reading any good fiction?

Charles Platt: I tend not to read fiction anymore. I used to read, and write, science fiction, but that field has changed a lot, and does not interest me these days. Currently I am writing a book about cryonics freezing people which requires me to read a huge amount of biology and books about life extension, processes in the human cell, etc . . . When I write articles for Wired, I also have to read a lot of non-fiction. I feel as if I am being paid to finish my college education!

Roberta from Greenpoint, Brooklyn: What do you think of sexually oriented chat rooms? Your book was written, admirably, from a very objective point of view. What is your actual opinion? Arousing? Sickening? Do these things have a place in society?

Charles Platt: I find sexually oriented chat rooms a bit frustrating! Talk is cheap . . .

Willie from Arkansas: What kind of a time frame do you foresee with regards to the net becoming more civilized? Does net-civilization depress you?

Charles Platt: Net civilization does not depress me, so long as there is still room for wacky non-conformists as well. So long as the net is open to everyone as a contributor as well as a consumer, I have no concerns.

Kristin from Bohemia, NY: I'm a teacher in a public school. When do you think internet access will become a true reality for the masses and not merely a luxury tool for either techies or yuppies with high-speed TC/IP lines?

Charles Platt: Net access IS available to the masses -- if they want it. For heaven's sake, it's cheaper than cable! And that has huge penetration. I can get a $500 computer and a $10 a month AOL account. How much cheaper could net access be? I don't understand this point at all.

HotStuff from outhere: Hey Charles! Where did you get those cool grainy pictures of those reluctantly-photographed hackers? Did you meet a lot of them?

Charles Platt: In researching my book, I became acquainted with several hackers in the NY area. Hackers love to get attention, so they were happy to provide photos. To be honest, I made one of them a bit grainier than it was originally, using Photoshop!

Jane from Manhattan: I am particularly irritated by spamming. It drives me nuts. Somehow I find it more offensive than all the junk mail I get in my snail-mail box, because it hits me in more private moments. Do you see any light at the end of this tunnel. How can we punish, yes punish, the creators of these invasive notes?

Charles Platt: The only real answer to spam, so far as I can see, is to make e-mail cost money. This is why we get so much junk e-mail it doesn't cost the sender enough! I think if we had a charge of just one cent per message, that would stop most of the real junk. I would find this more acceptable than legislation which would inevitably suppress other kinds of speech as well as the spam.

Roger from Halifax: Charles -- hello. Enjoyed your book, found it interesting. Tell me, do you consider online criminals and porn participants to be cowards? Remaining so anonymous?

Charles Platt: Being anonymous takes less courage than putting stuff under your own name. But people know this, and therefore they pay less attention to anonymous material.

Teddy from New Mexico: Charles, have you ever had cybersex? I'm willing to admit that I did.

Charles Platt: Cybersex? You mean, by swapping text messages? No. I guess I'm not patient enough! Also many people are rather slow as typists....

Cathy from Larchmont: Do you think there will be a computer age backlash? Maybe a resurgence of paper?

Charles Platt: I don't foresee a computer age backlash, except from writers who see it as a way to make some money by selling books. People who don't use computers will eventually find themselves in a minority, I think, and they will have a harder time earning a living. This concerns me. I feel software developers have a responsibility to make their products easier to use, but most programmers are geeks who don't really understand the concept.

Geraldine from Fort Lee, NJ: What do you hope to accomplish with your book? Thanks --

Charles Platt: My book's intentions are spelled out in the introduction. I wanted to spread a moderate view of the net. Unfortunately publication was delayed by one year, which interfered somewhat with my goals.

Miranda from Boston: What do you see as the main benefit brought to us by the advance of technology and the computer age?

Charles Platt: Computers SHOULD make us more efficient, and SHOULD bring us together as a community. I don't know if they ever will though, on a really large scale.

Marcus from Denver: What are the potential effects of the web on children? Is this a dangerous, R-rated place that I shouldn't let my kids play on?

Charles Platt: The real danger is in the real world. My daughter was much safer online, as a 14 year old, than she would have been in a local mall . . . or even a school yard. She had her first sexual adventures online . . . and did NOT risk getting pregnant!

Amy from Upper East Side: Do you think there will ever be a 12-step program for people suffering from internet withdrawal? Why is this medium so addictive?

Charles Platt: Internet withdrawal? I've heard of it. Is it an online support service?! from NYC: Thanks very much for joining us tonight, Charles Platt!

Charles Platt: Good questions, lots of them, and kind comments about my book. What more could an author ask? Thank You.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2000

    Exellent read

    This book is very well organized and thoughroughly presents the facts of both point of views regarding liberals and conservatives. The author displays an interest in ascertaining the facts and does a well job a doing so. I enjoyed this book very much and recomend it to anyone interested in learning more about the realities and myths of hackers and some federal regulations.

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