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September 14, 2016

No More Porn At NYC Wi-fi Kiosks

NEW YORK CITY—Hey, remember how, last June, lots and lots of people were worried that The Homeless and others would be using the city's new free wi-fi kiosks, located in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, which at that time had replaced 180 phone booths, not to make phone calls, check email, city maps or the weather, or charge their electronic devices via USB ports, but rather to watch porn? "I used to come here in the ’70s, and I remember thinking Times Square was as skeezy as you could get, but I was wrong," former New Yorker Richard Herzberg told the New York Post. "This is as skeezy as Times Square could get. I mean, in the old days there was plenty of porn, but you could only see it behind closed doors. So at least there was that level of modesty." Yep, sure enough, "The kiosks, particularly those along Eighth Avenue in the West 30s, became havens for denizens of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and its surrounding streets, as well as patients at local methadone clinics, nearly as soon as they were converted for Web use," the Post heard from police officials, who reportedly even arrested one guy for "masturbating in open view of the public" at one site, as evidenced by the photos taken by a passerby and posted on Facebook. The kiosks, put into place by city contractor LinkNYC, did have filtering software added to them almost immediately, but apparently, that wasn't good enough, and now the company has disabled Web browsing on all 400 existing kiosks, and will implement the same measures for future kiosk installations, which could number as high as 7,500. "The [no browsing] switch is an admission that in some neighborhoods, particularly in Midtown Manhattan, the kiosks have created more problems than benefits," wrote The New York Times' Patrick McGeehan. Elected officials have demanded changes in the system, saying they were overwhelmed with complaints from residents and businesses about people spending hours entertaining themselves. ... Users were expected to make short stops at the kiosks. But they quickly attracted the homeless and other idle people who took full advantage of the unlimited access to the internet to watch movies and play music for hours." Mayor Bill de Blasio's office was quick to make hay out of this "protect the citizenry" move, noting that upwards of 475,000 people have already made use of the available services, "and they have used it more than 21 million times. We’ve heard from New Yorkers who use the links to save data on their mobile plans, call relatives across the country, and get a much-needed quick charge," LinkNYC added. Also happy with the change is Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who stated, "We’ve heard a great deal of concern from all corners of the city about the misuse of these kiosks for lewd and nefarious purposes, and today’s announcement that web browsing services will be disabled on LinkNYC kiosks is a step in the right direction. These kiosks and the connectivity they provide are key to bridging the digital divide in our city, and we must ensure that a handful of less-than-wholesome users do not threaten the success of the entire enterprise. Disabling web browsing will prevent the most objectionable uses of these kiosks and make our streets safer, while also preserving the best parts of the LinkNYC service." Pictured: A LinkNYC Wi-fi kiosk, front and back; photos by Jim Henderson and accessed on Wikimedia Commons.

 
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