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FTC Shuts Down 'Pop-Up Trapping' Sites 442

Posted by timothy
from the and-good-riddance dept.
Masem writes: "The FTC today ordered the shutdown of 5,500 sites owned by John Zuccarini, all of them the so-called 'typo' sites that common mis-entered URLs for popular sites (such as Annakurnikova.com); when the user visits these sites, their back button behavior in most popular browsers is modified as to open multiple pop-ups featuring ads for adult entertainment and gambling sites when pressed, and uses other technology to basically 'trap' the browser until the entire application has to be closed. While some sites are still operating, the FTC is going to take this matter to court, which may decide exactly how much control a web site can take over the end browser using JavaScript and ActiveX. CNet has the full story." Le Marteau contributes a link to the same story at the Washington Post.
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FTC Shuts Down 'Pop-Up Trapping' Sites

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  • Thank God! (Score:4, Funny)

    by SpanishInquisition (127269) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:30PM (#2375450) Homepage Journal
    I can know go back to browsing porn at work without the fear of getting caught.
    • by tbmaddux (145207) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:47PM (#2375579) Homepage Journal
      You don't even have to worry if you are "caught" visiting porno sites. Just claim that you were "trapped!" From the original article: "The scheme is especially harmful to children or employees who may put their jobs at risk when they inadvertently call up pornographic or gambling-related material, the FTC said." (bold emphasis added)

      But seriously, I for one am glad the federal government is on top of this case. Just think of all the shoppers out there who were innocently looking to buy cupcakes online [ftc.gov] and got drawn into this insidious web of browser betrayal.

      Now, could they do something about my problem? Every time I buy a new car, the trunk turns out to be mysteriously stuffed with black 30-gallon trash bags full of child pornography, gambling tokens, and a substantial fraction of body parts that somebody must be missing...

  • by taniwha (70410) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:30PM (#2375452) Homepage Journal
    'nuf said
    • Bleagh. timothy has silently edited/corrected both the story title and masem's submitted text, without even providing a sentence notifying readers that he's done so?

      Welcome to the ephemeral web, I guess. I wish the editor would at least *tell* us that he is changing history, otherwise taniwha's post makes little sense.
  • hmmm.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by jonfromspace (179394)
    What about all the Porn sites that do this... I sure could use the FCC's help there :)

    Well, it is a start I guess...
  • Uh huh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:32PM (#2375462)
    What gets me is not that someone registered those names and cybersquatted (I'm all for that), but that this kind of annoyance (popup Spam) is actually clicked through and these Casinos, fake/genuine Viagra, etc. sites make any money at all.

    Are you the one clicking on them?

    Blah blah blah... "IE sucks cuz I can turn off popups in Moz..."
  • Finally, a practical use for the FCC...Thank God. This is one of the few times where a little government intervention wouldn't hurt.

    Try explaining to your boss why the firewall detected all these adult site alerts when all you were trying to do was look for Dana Bourgouis guitars...

    Or your wife/girlfriend for that matter.

    RB
    • i doubt my wife will be figuring out how to read the firewall logs any time soon.

      not that she's incapable, but as far as she cares, the server room is 'the place where if i go in, the internet stops working!'.

      -sam
  • Wow! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Red Aardvark House (523181) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:32PM (#2375472)
    And I thought X-10 was bad!

    This type of advertising only frustrates users and creates animosity between advertiser and potential customer. This is an obvious and sometimes extreme nuisance, having to shut down your broweser at times!

    Alienating your audience is not a good business practice.
    • Re:Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by edhall (10025) <slashdot@weirdnoise.com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:44PM (#2375553) Homepage

      The guy was only exploiting a system that pays money based on "impressions" or "exposures." He set up traps that generated as many ad exposures as possible, but it made no difference to him whether the ads made a possitive impression on anyone.

      This is why most of the ads were for porn, since he needed advertisers who didn't check what the presentation of their ads would look like or the nature of the site itself. Outside of porn, few advertisers are that lax any more. I'm sure that, given a choice, even porn advertisers would want a "friendlier" presentation than this guy gave them. But they don't care enough to even check. In the mean time, this guy was raking in a hundred or more ad exposures per victim.

      -Ed
      • Re:Wow! (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by jesser (77961)
        Not all porn sites pay per impression. Gamma Entertainment, a company that runs several large porn sites, will pay you [gammacash.com] either $25 per sign-up (through text, banner, or pop-up links) or five cents per banner click. If your pop-up ad is annoying, nobody will intentionally click on it and sign up, and you won't get paid. They won't pay you for banner impressions at all, probably because they recieved a large number of complaints that webmasters were claiming pop-up ads as impressions.

        I'm sorry this sounds like an ad. I don't work for them and if I was trying to make money from this post, I'd have created a referral-kickback link.
    • Re:Wow! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dragons_flight (515217) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:22PM (#2375644) Homepage
      According to this US News report [usnews.com], X10.com had the 14th highest traffic of any domain in the month of august. Pretty impressive for a site that sells something almost no one wants.

      Has anyone else noticed that their special deals are always about to expire in the next day or two, and yet the offer itself doesn't change for weeks on end. Maybe someone should get them on deceptive advertising?
      • A source in the NYS Attorney-General's office tells me that that type of thing is illegal but generally not considered harmful enough to go after (gov't lawyers generally being overworked).

        I asked because I saw the same type of fraud on store.apple.com.
      • If X10 wants their ads to get out there, maybe those of us with some spare time on our systems hands can devote it to a script that constantly downloads their advertisements. With enough people doing it, their bandwidth costs may finally outstrip their sales enough that they have to pull the web ads.
        Not a DoS or anything. Just pulling the ads repeatedly to drive up their bandwidth. Maybe we can take them from 14th place to first for a bit without giving them a dime to cover it.
      • Re:Wow! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by K8Fan (37875) on Monday October 01, 2001 @08:17PM (#2376376) Journal

        I complained to the people manning the X-10 booth at CEDIA (Custom Electronics Design & Installation Asssociation - home theater and whole house electronics) convention. I tried telling the booth weasle how hated their ads are, and the smug jerkwad just kept repeating how many million "page views" they kept getting. I told them they could just as effectively get their logo tattooed on frat boys ass cheeks and pay them to drive around mooning people. Or use a soldering iron to burn the logo into a 2" by 4" and run around wacking people in the face with it.

        Unclear on the concept does not seem to even come close to describing these morons. We have to do something more.

    • by 4of12 (97621)

      And I thought X-10 was bad!

      So did I.

      But then I thought: while you and I hate them for their annoying advertising barrage, we have been satisfactorily indoctrinated that:

      X10 ~ web cameras
      as well as dozens of the usual time-proven suggestions that if you get $PRODUCT that sexy attractive young women will find you irresitably sexy and attractive.

      If the message was delivered, then despite your protests, you can expect more of the same annoyance.

    • This type of advertising only frustrates users and creates animosity between advertiser and potential customer.

      I've heard that some people pay to be abused, humiliated and embarassed. What better way to get all of that than to have your six year old daughter open one of these sites in front of your wife who never thought well of that internet thingy?

      It's a joke. I hate spam, porn and this Zuchinni loser.

      Still, for reasons posted above, I worry about this shutdown. Should the govenment shutdown web sites that simply take advantage of a crummy browser on a single crappy OS, and thus give official government protection to those products?

    • Consider how they might defend this under the 1st amendment:
      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
      exercise thereof,
      >or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the
      people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


      The defendents argument might be taken from the same precedent which allows "freedom of speech" to include the invasiveness of phone solicitation, granted the phone solicitation doesn't automatically cause your phone to ring over and over until you listen to the message all the way through (a la Homer's Happy Dude scam in the Simpsons), but constitutionally, where does is the line drawn between the right of someone to make a sales pitch to someone who breaks into your house and harrangues you until feign death?

      • by chromatic (9471) on Monday October 01, 2001 @07:06PM (#2376135) Homepage
        Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or to view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit. . . We therefore categorically reject the argument that a vendor has the right under the Constitution or otherwise to send unwanted material into the home of another. . . We repeat, the right of a mailer stops at the outer boundary of every person's domain.

        -- United States Supreme Court, Rowan vs. U.S. Post Office, 1970
  • FTC, not FCC (Score:2, Redundant)

    by GrenDel Fuego (2558)
    This was the federal trade commission, not the Federal Communication Commission.

    I was curious when they became involved with net traffic.
  • by Cheetahfeathers (93473) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:34PM (#2375478)
    As much as I hate popups like that, government regulation of such is even worse. Also, what can they do about overseas sites? Are they going to try and put it under the same controls as overseas TV broadcasts?

    The proper way to fix this is to fix the browsers so they don't allow this to happen.

    FCC, stay the hell out of the net.
  • by Karmageddon (186836) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:34PM (#2375488)
    The district court has ordered Zuccarini to take his sites offline, the FTC said, while the case continues. But as of early Monday afternoon, at least one site registered to Zuccarini, Annakurnikova.com, was still functional.

    Hey, give the guy a break, he's trying. He closes down most of his sites, but whenever he hits the "back" button they all start up again. Those damn javascript-based admin tools...

    • by Ratteau (183242)


      In an ironic twist of fate, when Zuccarini attempted to take down his 5500 sites, 72,296 new sites were instantly spawned. When he tried to remove those, 9,375,012 more were created. The FTC suggests he reinstall brain 1.0

  • by FortKnox (169099) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:34PM (#2375489) Homepage Journal
    Hope this will include the "Neverending popup", where you point to a site that popups a copy of itself, which popups a copy of itself, which popups a copy of itself...

    I think the troll link "comp-u-geek.com" (DON'T GO THERE!) does that...
  • by nilstar (412094)
    what about all the non-typo sites that exist? Well, how about using the no-popup feature of mozilla/netscape 6.x and dump the ie browser!
    • my site uses popups to provide modeless functionality such as settings, login, info etc... (and no, none of them 'lock' you in, or even contain any advertising). we just did it that way because it makes sense, and it makes the site 'feel' a little more like an application. howevr, if you disable pop-ups or javascript then we're screwed.


      it's a shame that after all this time we finally have a decent set of publishing functionality (dhtml/javascript) that's available and consistent (w3c) across many platforms, but that that same functionality is being killed by idiots like this that just want to make a quick buck. it's a public nuisance and should be outlawed, then maybe the rest of us can go back to doing somthing useful.


      now what was i doing?

  • by Telek (410366) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:35PM (#2375495) Homepage
    er, I mean Zuccarini.

    But seriously. There's a fine line between .. no scratch that, there's a night and day difference between registering typo sites and displaying a pile of non-porn ads, and registering those sites and trapping the user in a net where they can't get out and displaying pornography to them for the sole intent of making a buck. especially when said users could be children or people who find pornography offensive.

    I've seen a few sites who grab a typo site and just use it to promote their own (not indecent) site, but also provide a link on their site to the site that "you might have wanted" instead. I think that's fair enough, no big harm there, but to intentionally trap people. Wow. I never thought I'd be praising government intervention on the internet...
  • by GreyyGuy (91753) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:35PM (#2375496)
    One thing that surprised me is that this slime ball has been sued for this before and lost 57 cases tied to 200 domain names and been fined $800,000 to $1,000,000. And he's still doing it. The only reason he would still be doing this is if it is profitable, above and beyond court costs and fines.

    Who is falling for all this and patronizing the sites that trap you like this?
    • "Who is falling for all this and patronizing the sites that trap you like this?"


      Well, I'm not a big fan of the word addict, but I gotta assume that people with at the least a "problem" with porn and/or gambling are doing the work, wouldn't you think?


      It's hard for normal people like us to imagine, but yeah, I gotta assume there are people out there for whom a porn or gambling pop-up is basically like sitting a needle full of smack in front of a junkie.


      And yes, it's very sad.

    • Pay attention! (Score:3, Informative)

      by drodver (410899)
      He's made $800,000 - $1,000,000 from these sites, which the FTC would like to take away. It does not say he's been fined for that much. Also, he lost 53 of the cases not 57, it doesn't say if he was fined beyond losing the domain names. Check your facts!
    • by tregoweth (13591) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:00PM (#2375847)
      Who is falling for all this and patronizing the sites that trap you like this?

      Horny people who don't type well?
  • by Rashkae (59673) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:38PM (#2375509) Homepage
    Even though I'm sure we all had good intentions (if not complete thoughlessness) when all these cool features were added to JavaScript. But really, isn't it time that this gets fixed at the Browser end? I cannot think of *any* good reason for browsers to allow JavaScript to modify how buttons like Back and Close opperate without confirmation by the user. (it would also be trivial to apply a reasonable limit, like say 3, to pop-up windows). Microsoft and Netscape should both be *really* embarrassed that this issue is being addressed by the governent and potential legislation before they've even had a chance to suggest ways of fixing the situation.
    • by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:46PM (#2375575)
      I think it is especially embarassing that Microsoft/Netscape cannot grandularize the ActiveX or JavaScript functionality. Your choices are "Run All" or "Run None". There needs to be a way to differetiate between normal redirection (which is often used by legit sites)or pop ups (which is of course used in advertising) and those malicious elements such as "On Back" or "On Close" or "Maximize Full Screen with no buttons anywhere". I cannot stand it when I have a button in my taskbar that refuses to respond to a right-click Close command. That kind of control interferes with my GUI and should not be tolerated.

      - JoeShmoe
    • OmniWeb [omnigroup.com] for OSX solves this with a checkbox labeled:

      "Allow Pop-Up Windows Only When Link is Clicked On" (or something similar)

      Which means, it'll only pop up a window if and only if you click on something deliberately.

      Nice. Very, very nice.
    • I've only been using Mozilla for a week or so, but I'm impressed, and imagine this is not a problem. Featurs such as right click, "block this image" to kill add.doubleclick.whatnot are very cool. It looks good and works great. Java is back on and I don't fear it will be able to replace system files. Blocking images is tricky, but I've been seeing fewer adverts and more real content. Bassed on that, I imagine the fix is already in and this is an M$ specific problem.

      That makes the implications worse. Does this mean that anything that makes MSIE do unexpected things can be shut down by the Feds? As M$ careens further and further into it's own little propriatory world, who's to say they won't put up yet more "standards" that make innocent sites look bad to M$ users, who then pull their hair out and curse the site. Is this an old pattern emerging again?!

      I've heard that M$'s crappy software was powerful, but this is too much.

    • Javascript doesn't actually change the function of back or close; it just traps "windowclose" or "exitframe" (no, I don't know Javascript, but I do know there are events which handle these things). The JS traps this and launches a new window where the author wants you to be.

      FWIW, the only time I've seen this implemented to a fully irritating degree was the home page of Rev Don Kool (a notorious web troll on comp.unix.*).

      Oh, and as has been pointed out, several browsers have options to limit this behaviour, such as Konquerer. I'm sure someone could get a comprehensive list together of which browser do and don't have some support for disabling openWindow()

  • This is a client-side browser issue. If we had a competative browser market, someone might find it useful to "innovate" a feature into the browser to disable popups, or cue up the popups and let the user decide whether to let them fire.

    Was it Konquerer that put a similar feature into their browser? If so, big huge kudos to them.

    Regardless, I don't see Microsoft champing at the bit to reduce end-user annoyance over this, and I'm surprised, because I can't imagine how the IE team can browse the web without getting fed up with that crap and saying "fsck (or maybe chkdsk) it! I'm going to "innovate" a way to stop this!".

    - StaticLimit
    • Lets face it. Konquerer does it, they're lauded. Had Microsoft done it, people would have complained about how they were ignoring standards and dictating standards.
      • Had Microsoft done it, people would have complained about how they were ignoring standards and dictating standards.

        I doubt it. The W3C pays very little attention to privacy and security in most of their recommendations. The fact that web sites aren't allowed to look into an <iframe src="http://www.amazon.com"> and pull out your name from the "welcome" message is not standardized anywhere, and in fact each browser has slightly different rules about what things you can pull out of and push into frames whose content is from another web site.

        The W3C's ignoring security has also led to some holes that affect multiple browsers, such as web sites being able to find out [mozilla.org] whether a link is marked as visited using CSS. Yes, your boss could point you to a web site that creates invisible links to the last 200 slashdot stories, quietly counts the number that are marked as visited, and reports back to your boss how much /. you've been reading at work lately.
      • Possibly, but those bashing MS in that case would be wrong. In the end, the browser is the one responsible for rendering the content, and providing an option to limit the extent of the display is not ignoring or dictating standards in any way.
    • This is a client-side browser issue.

      Arguing this is like arguing what Code Red/Nimba is just an IIS issue. Sure IIS should be more secure, but there's still a malicious intent. The same for this. Sure, the "don't close from JavaScript" feature shouldn't be on by default, but there's always going to be a hole somewhere in all browsers. This kind of behaviour should not be allowed.
    • Why does the govenment regulates cleaning your dog poop from the street? Can't we have Dupont invent a tarmac that disolves it?

      Why does the government regulate noise? Can't you invest in better insulation for your home?

      The reason is simple. It is cheaper to have a cop fine one thousand offenders than to have one billion consumers invest is an expensive technological solution.

      The issue here is not innovation but nuisance. What is bad about nuisance, by definition, is that it forces you to chose between suffering it and paying something to get rid of it. An innovation that removes a nuisance does not improve your quality of life. It merely restores it. Thus having a free arm race between nuisance makers and anti-nuisance solution makers is a waste of intelligence and money that are better spent on something that actually makes life better. That is something every town council understands, and that is why nuisance is regulated.

      The only difference here is that the internet allows people to be a nuisance from a greater distance. That makes it apropriate for federal rather than local regulation.

    • This is sort of like saying that someone hits you over the head, it's because of a failure on your part to grow a protective carapace.
  • this shouldnt' fall under the jurisdiction of the fcc?
    I thought the FCC was there to regulate certain things... like radio, and television (as it's broadcast, and involves many public concessions to work, right-of-way, etc).

    How can they dicatate what a website can do? Sheesh.
  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:41PM (#2375524) Homepage Journal
    Wheres he hosting all these sites?
    Where is he buying his domains from?
    What OS is he using?

    Sounds like alot of work for popup sites, he must be making damn good money after lawsuits.

  • That this is Bad and Wrong, that the Free Market should decide, and freedom should be for all. Well, aside from the fact that those people can bugger off, you could argue this two ways:
    • The "Free Market" wasn't free, that it had been kidnapped by a pack of Ogres, and that if it hadn't been liberated by the FTC, it would have been turned into Market Burgers.
    • The "Free Market" =DID= decide. It told the FTC that it was the watchdog, and should bloody well watch!


    Bitching aside, this decision is a Good Thing. It forces people who deliberately break something to think again. This might not be terribly popular, but who cares. This decision will do more to stop terrorism on the Internet than all the marketroid sponsored carp ever will. It will genuinely have a positive impact on how the Internet is seen and used. And that may be the best thing that has happened in a VERY long time.

  • I'm happy, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaSyonic (238637) <DaSyonicNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:43PM (#2375546) Homepage
    I can't say this is good. Noone likes those popup ads that lock you in, and do other unethical things. However, I dont think it's good for the government, or anyone, to say it's illegal/disallowed.

    Namely, You are connecting to THEIR machine.
    Mail server administrators block spam because they are using their resources, why can't these people claim the same? After all, you're using THEIR resources, shouldnt they have the right to send any data on a connection that YOU initiated? (Though I realize you might not have intentionally made that connection; they can be sneaky, but the point remains.)

    I just don't like regulation, If it's bad and wrong, it's the clients job to work with the received data. But noone's blaming Microsoft, Netscape, Mozilla, or Konq (and you really can't blame the last 2, they're implementing things to take care of this junk).

    Target a solution, rather than the cause and punishment.
    That's just my view.

    • Re:I'm happy, but... (Score:4, Informative)

      by jesser (77961) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:32PM (#2375697) Homepage Journal
      But noone's blaming Microsoft, Netscape, Mozilla, or Konq

      Really? [google.com]

      (and you really can't blame the last 2, they're implementing things to take care of this junk).

      I don't know about Konq, because its authors chose not to release a version that runs on my platform of choice, but Mozilla doesn't yet ship to block pop-up advertisements (or even "hydras", the most annoying type) by default. It has a hidden pref [google.com] to disable the window.open() function while a page is loading or unloading, which should become a visible pref once bugs are worked out. I hope the pref is eventually turned on by default, at least for the case of hydras.
    • No. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dsanfte (443781)
      Namely, You are connecting to THEIR machine.
      Mail server administrators block spam because they are using their resources, why can't these people claim the same? After all, you're using THEIR resources, shouldnt they have the right to send any data on a connection that YOU initiated?


      No.

      If I open cnn.com, I know what to expect when I get there, news. If my little sister tries to open up Britney Spears' webpage for info on Britney Spears, and lands in this guy's javascript porn-ad trap, not only is it a federal crime (she's 8 years old), but my little sister did not initiate the connection expecting the deluge of porn advertisements.

      By the same token, Microsoft doesn't have the right to wipe my linux partition every time I visit their update site to patch winME.

  • by Sorklin (88002) on Monday October 01, 2001 @04:44PM (#2375555)
    I wonder if this would be considered as terrorism in Ashcroft's proposed law?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So people use scripting for imaginative ways that nobody had expected. Then people start complaining. Hello!!!! New and unexpected uses are what scripting are all about. To be programmable means that things will be asked that you hadn't anticipated. (Otherwise, there is no need to program them.) Therefore you have to expect abuses when you introduce such a technology. Scripting engines do not belong in browsers, mail clients, news clients, and so on. It was plain irresponsibility for Microsoft, Netscape, and the others to do this to their products. Years ago I saw the coming security nightmare that we live in today. It arose from the "browser wars" between IE and Netscape. This functionality wasn't about making websites better, it was about trying to have a gimmick feature that the other didn't have. This gold-plating not only lead to shoddy implementations, but bloated browsers, bloated websites, and immeasureable amounts of wasted bandwidth.

    Now that Netscape is dead, the problems unfortunately remain. Browsers shouldn't have scripting embedded in them, period. If you like scripting, then you have to expect and put up with this crap. There's no way to legislate people to stop doing things like this.

    The only way to stop them is to disable scripting on your browser. The more flexibility a program has, the less secure it is. Scripting adds almost no value to websites, and is now just a tool of marketers, used more against you than for you. They track you with it. They take over your web experience with it. They keep tabs on what you're doing... and sometimes even take over your machine when flaws are discovered and exploited. I have serious problems with other people running their code on my machine, and therefore disable all scripting.

    Consequantly, I don't every seem to have any problems with pop-up windows, pop-under windows, "trapped" browsers, infinite-loop "back" buttons, etc.

    Turn off scripting. Encourage websites to stop using it. The web is full of more than enough bloated crap already. While you're at it, get rid of flash, and all the rest of the plugins.
    • *sigh* I'll bite this one...

      Scripting adds almost no value to websites, and is now just a tool of marketers, used more against you than for you.
      Not quite. I use Javascript religiously and responsibly. It provides form validation, interactive elements, and menu selections you can't do any other way (save going to the server for form validation).

      And yes, I use pop-up windows. I use them for useful purposes. To build web applications, not just fun toys to show pictures of my cat. Some of us want this functionality, use it responsibly, and understand the risks involved.

      However, I agree with you to a point. Compromise. Don't be afraid to shut off scripting, but don't remove it completely. If you don't like it, then don't use it, but allow those of us who do like it and use it the ability to enjoy our web experience and use it for productive purposes other than just hitting refresh on Slashdot every 5 minutes.

  • by ClarkEvans (102211) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:14PM (#2375600) Homepage
    My aunt is furious about when her 6 year old child accidently does a typo and porn sites pop up everywhere. Perhaps if this stops, it will lessen the demand for filtering software. Filtering software, IMHO, is very bad; definately the worse of two evils. At least shutting down a web site could possibly have a court process attached to it...

    • by alexjohns (53323) <almuric@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:04PM (#2375879) Journal
      Sorry, but there is no way that filtering software is evil when used by a 6 year old. No way. I have a 3 year old. He'll have filtering software on his machine until he's at least thirteen or until he figures out how to disable it. If he's savvy enough to outgeek his dad who's been geeking for over 20 years more than him, then he deserves his porn.

      People who are rabidly anti-filtering forget that for some purposes it is useful. Alcohol, cigarettes, guns, porn - all things that an age-filter is useful for. I can't watch my son every moment he's online. This prevents inadvertent finger presses more than deliberate ones, at least until they get to a certain age. When my son gets to that age, he and I'll talk.

    • Filtering software is good.
      Mandatory filtering software is bad.

      If you (as an adult, fully capable of making your own choices in life) are not allowed to access something, be it filterred or shut down by law, then it is a restriction of your freedom. (If that's important to you.)

      If you (as an adult/parent) choose for you and your dependants to not access something, that is a use of your freedom. (If that's important to you.)
  • by bigdavex (155746)
    I find it pretty amazing that some people, after having their browser assaulted with annoying pop-ups, go on to actually buy things from these merchants. I guess spammers and phone salesman make money too, but I find this equally strange. I would hope this sort of thing would fix itself through consumer pressure.
  • by tester13 (186772) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:20PM (#2375628) Homepage
    This is a great thing. The FTC protects people from fraud and other illegal business practices. That is what they are doing in this instance. The FCC regulates the airwaves, television, and so forth.

    The government isn't "getting involved in the internet" in any new creative way. They are just protecting consumers (us) from fraudulent illegal business practices

    Next time get the FCC FTC thing correct before you post, it completely changes the context of the article.
  • I can get a warning when I enter or leave an ssl session if I want it.

    I can get a warning when I accept cookies if I want it.

    I can even get a warning when I submit a form if I want it.

    All of these are fairly trivial run-of-the-mill type web actions, but something as annoying & intrusive as creating pop-ups and altering my browsers history list cannot be disabled. When oh when are we going to see the ability to disable pop-ups & other intrusive/obnoxious script actions like this?
  • by rpeppe (198035) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:22PM (#2375642)
    this issue is interesting: a colleague at work was today
    looking for a bug in some Javascript (we maintain
    our own web browser), and after delving down
    through the deliberately obfuscated javascript
    code, it became obvious what it was trying to do:


    it went through all links in the document, attaching
    a javascript "front-end" to each link that did an http GET request
    informing the remote site what had been clicked on,
    before actually following the link. the technique
    used seemed fairly dodgy (the request was purporting
    to be for a non-displayed image), but it's interesting
    to see what a fairly reputable site is prepared
    to do in order to get as much information off you as possible (without your knowledge).


    how reasonable is that? i don't like it, but is that sort
    of subterfuge the kind of thing we'd like to stop too?


    [PS. apologies if this appears twice - it looked like /.
    had rejected the previous ones; and then the whole
    server seemed to crash: what was going on there then?]

  • I noticed in the article that the guy had 'at least 63' trademark infringement lawsuits filed against him last year, 53 of which he lost.

    Maybe if he's lucky Canter & Siegel will represent him. :->
  • I wonder if I can sue a website operator for changing my homepage without my knowledge while visiting the operators site?
  • Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zpengo (99887) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:30PM (#2375684) Homepage
    The real question is, is this a violation of the owner's civil liberties, or a victory against spammers?

    This topic should clarify a lot of the hypocrisy among the /. crowd; What's *your* opinion on this issue? And how does that opinion compare to, say, what you would feel about the court shutting down your anti-Microsoft site?

    • The real question is, is this a violation of the owner's civil liberties...

      No. Your right to swing your javascript stops where my browser's chrome starts.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

      by benedict (9959)
      Bah.

      Fraud and criticism are different types of activities and they receive correspondingly different levels of First Amendment protection.

      That's not hypocrisy, it's common sense.
  • Great News! (Score:2, Funny)

    by sirgoran (221190)
    For me this is wonderful news.

    Since there are some days when I can't even spell my own name correctly this will help me out a lot. I know you've been there too. Too much alcohol, not enough sleep, and the caffine is taking its sweet time to kick in.

    Now if they'd only come out with spell-check for the location bar in my browser I'd be set!

    Goran
  • by jesser (77961) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:42PM (#2375749) Homepage Journal
    A spam message wastes some of my bandwidth and a few seconds of my time. A "hydra" pop-up ad wastes some of my bandwidth and more than a few seconds of my time. The fact that I posted my e-mail address on my web site does not give you permission to use my resources to market to me. Clicking a link at a TGP (list of porn galleries) must imply a little more consent, because I obviously put up with banner ads, but I don't see why it should imply any more consent than "you may display things in this browser window". Not "you may open new browser windows or otherwise make it difficult for me to leave your site".

    We deal with spam by first by black-holing rogue networks, then through government regulation, and perhaps occasionally through international pressure. Why are we skipping straight to government regulation for pop-up ads, rather than trying the black-hole approach first?
  • by consumer (9588) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:45PM (#2375762)
    While on the surface this sounds entirely good, it leaves some things open to interpretation. What's the feature that makes these sites illegal? Is it the fact that their URLs were close to the URLs of popular sites that young people might visit? That was true for etoy.com. Is it that the sites in question had offensive material on them? The etoy.com site had a picture of the bombed Oklahoma building with the caption "Such work requires careful training" and pictures of women in S&M garb.

    It's difficult to draw the distinction without getting into questions of intent, and that's dangerous territory. In short, be careful what you ask for when talking about typo sites.

  • This is an action by the Federal Trade Commission [ftc.gov], which enforces laws regarding false advertising and shuts down various forms of scams. The legal theory is that this is a form of deceptive advertising, and it's hard to argue otherwise.

    It's good to see that the FTC isn't totally out to lunch under the Bush administration. Usually, the FTC takes wimpy actions like asking somebody to cease and desist what they're doing. This is an unusually aggressive response.

  • How much control should a web site have over the user's browser? As much as the user gives it, of course! Now, even in brain-dead browsers like IE there are zones, where you can simply say "If i don't know this domain, don't give it full control." The default of giving away user control is admittedly unfortunate... but it is the user, by choosing the software, that is giving the site, explicitly, this freedom.
    Yes, explicitly. I have installed a piece of software which has no purpose other than to let a web site control my browser... and now controlling my browser is illegal? Huh? If I didn't want to do it, I wouldn't have installed the software...
    • The only reason I have a window is to allow me to see what is outside. Does it give you permission to stand in front of my window and make lewed or threatening gestures? Stores allow customers to come inside and handle their wares. Does this make shoplifting legal?

      The implicit contract between web-user and web-server operator is that the latter takes control of the browser for the purpose of showing the former something that he or she may conceivably want to see. Ignoring this contract is an abuse. What is wrong in a government agency tracking and prosecuting abuse?

      • There is no such contract. You speak of a illusion, a ghost, if you will.

        You give all control that is technically possible to anyone whose site you visit. Any type of control that your browser is technically able to yield is considered forfeit.

        Let me ask you a question: can you point me to a legislation or congressionally voted upon act that grants the FTC the ability to shut down websites it says are "abusive"?

        Code is speech. Just like DeCSS. Javascript is code. If you dont want to hear or be exposed to certain types of speech, block it using technological means. I never surf to any websites with Javascript enabled. Period. End of story. If they are reputable site that doenst wish to hijack my browser session, than I added to my trusted list of Javascript friendly sites.

        You ask what is wrong with government preventing abuse? Two things, first: it is a slipperly slope. I dont like to see goatse.cx posts, should slashdot be shut down? I mean, what I saw one? Second: GOVERNMENT REGULATION DOESNT WORK. This isnt a perfect world, and sooner or later that FTC will shut down a site a majority of people doesnt think is "abusive" and everyone will wonder 'why does the FTC have this power?'. The fact is that even if we declare "War on Annyoing Javascript" it is not going to stop the problem, nor prevent it in the future. Government regulation doesn't work.

  • by weave (48069) on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:57PM (#2375832) Journal
    Just do the "work offline" option in your browser.

    When you backclick or close, the next site(s) will attempt to pop up, but no further code will be loaded and hence the hell will eventually end.

    I always click "work offline" before trying to exit or back out of any of these questionable sites now BEFORE the cascading crap starts...

  • New Browser Windows (Score:5, Informative)

    by leinerj (115797) <leinerj@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:03PM (#2375866) Homepage
    Okay - I'll probally get flammed for this. But if you are using Internet Explorer you can start up IE with the -new command and have each browser open in a seperate process. That way, your main browser won't lock up or be forced to 'end task' if your popup windows get out of control.
  • The only detail I'm curious to know about this whole thing is... why the fsck did Netscrape and Mafiasoft put these alleged "features" into their defective browsers in the first place?! A back button should do what it says, namely, go BACK, not open 6.02x10^28 pr0n windows!

    Shameless plug: I just use Opera. It costs money, which I gladly paid, because it actually WORKS unlike the previously mentioned excuses for browsers! Version 5.12 is great, as nearly all sites work the same as on the defective browsers--this includes online banking and bill-paying that didn't previously work with version 4.

    And even if you don't use Opera... Friends don't let friends use Mafiasoft products!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    iCab has given users amazing control over JS for ages (and of course from the GUI. If you don't want a web site to:

    access the referer
    open new windows
    move windows
    touch the toolbar
    write in the status line
    create cookies
    ask for cookies
    access history
    etc

    You can prevent them from doing it with the click of a button. You can apply the settings to all web pages and choose sites where the filters won't be applied.

    You can even decide what type of Javascript will be executed by turning on/off:

    JavaScript 1.0
    JavaScript 1.1
    JavaScript 1.2
    JavaScript 1.3
    JavaScript 1.4
    JavaScript 1.5
    JScript

    among many, many other things

    It must be one of the most configurable browsers out there.

    For general browsing it's extremely fast, small and flexible and cannot be beat at saving web archives. One word of warning though. It feels like a finished browser but is still in Preview. Make sure you don't have any duplicated Text encoders on your system.

    For OS X iCab is still being primed. OmniWeb however, will give you enough control over popups.

  • by nagumo76 (522627) on Monday October 01, 2001 @06:51PM (#2376085)
    People should be annoyed by popup trojan links and traps until they download AdShield for IE or use a browser like Konqueror that stops this crap out of the box. Microsoft should have added this to IE 6 but they are a bunch of lazy monopolistic twits. Netscape should have too but they are circling the bowl so I'll cut them some slack. I E is better because it lets you make the menus toolbar, and address bar go on one line at the top and lets you use more screen for viewing the page.
  • Just like DeCSS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ikekrull (59661) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:44PM (#2376567) Homepage
    They don't like what a piece of code does, so they ban it.

    I can't believe people are supporting moves to dictate what you are or are not allowed to express in a piece of code.

    This functionality is, i'm sure, in the W3C standard for Javascript, so criminilizing this is pretty stupid.

    Now, if your browser is engineered so poorly that it allows you no control over this behaviour - i.e. a site author is free to mess up your web browsing experience, shouldn't you ask the manufacturer of that browser to do something about it?

    Don't restrict this guy from publishing anything he wants to on the web. The control over whether to view that content should be in the user's hands.

    I know that M$ etc. would love to turn the web into a heavily regulated, TV-like environment where most content is approved and published by a few mega-corps, with government regulations on what is or is not acceptable, but that idea makes me sick to the stomach.

    i mean, how hard would it be to have a preference setting for 'ask me before allowing javascript to open a new window'? Give the user a choice, don't make it a crime to write this type of application (for which there are many perfectly legitimate uses)

    Making rules for what types of applications you may or may not publish on the web is surely a free speech issue.

    'Sorry, window.open() is now a federal crime.' doesn't cut it with me.

    The problem is with the tools that web browsers expose to site developers. The site developers should be free to put any tags they like up on the web.

    This is why web browsers are free to ignore markup they do not support.

  • two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Archfeld (6757) <treboreel@live.com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:49PM (#2376588) Journal
    POPUP KILLER, sadly afaik win32 only but it works wonders on those annoying pop ups and pop unders
  • Very good... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Picass0 (147474) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:31PM (#2376741) Homepage Journal
    Now I wish the feds would do something to stop the pop up adds that interupt my TV shows every 10 minutes. I hate those.
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:58PM (#2376847) Homepage Journal
    Because a bunch of morons thought that the web had to look like television, they put ActiveX, VBScript, Javascript, Flash and other crap into browsers and plug-ins. This, not surprisingly, lead to many vulnerabilities like the one exploited here. (Who is the genius that decided that the "Back" button should be able to be redefined by any website that the user viewed?) If the web simply displayed pictures and text, we would not have this idiotic problem. Lest you laugh, that's what books and newspapers have done for centuries and they still seem mighty useful and popular.

    We have seen this overcomplexity lead to many problems. Look at Microsoft Outlook: some group of idiots decided that displaying text, or even pictures, was not enough. So they added Visual BASIC scripting to it. And HTML that you can't turn off. Suddenly any nitwit could create an e-mail Trojan horse that emailed itself to every person in the address book. Or Outlook could display some web site in the preview window, play annoying music, or provide confirmation to a spammer that you received and saw his message.

    It's time that we started demanding robust, secure applications even if it means that web sites won't be able to display animated, dancing piglets.
  • Back button (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3@@@phroggy...com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @11:53PM (#2376972) Homepage
    An important technical point: it sounds like the Back button was not actually reprogrammed to perform a different action. Rather, an onUnLoad event handler was specified in the BODY tag to execute a bit of JavaScript code when the window was closed. There are legitimate uses for this that are not annoying, although offhand I can't think of any (probably cleaning up things that were previously set, perhaps on a site that is designed to use multiple small windows for some special purpose).
  • W00t! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by veddermatic (143964) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @01:17AM (#2377089) Homepage
    Me likee.


    Registering typos is a smart, good thing (regradless of what you think =) but "trapping" is just plain WRONG.


    I am pleassed to see this type of thing, assuming it actually gets implemented with some knowledge and thought.


    Imagine surfing pr0n without holding your fingers poised over Alt-F4!


    Oh, and to they guy who (anon) responded to my sig about being dyslexic as "we used to call you idiots who couldn't spell", I think we used to call folks like your mom "Dumb bitches who couldn't afford abortions"

Ma Bell is a mean mother!

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