The tasteless joke that sparked the first internet censorship (and left its mark on the web forever)


It is the story of a war waged from the birth of the Internet. And what was at stake was crucial: who owned this new world, who set the rules and what would they be.

In the 1980s, before the invention of the Internet, there was a nascent thing called Usenet. It was a collection of message boards for the small number of people in academic and technological institutions who knew of its existence.

People like Brad Templeton, who until then had only used computers for playing games and doing spreadsheets.

“Usenet was an eye opener for me. I understood that the real goal, the most important use of computers was to talk with other people“Brad remembers.

There were pages on Usenet devoted to conversations about atheism or sex or winemaking or technology.

“It was like a town square. Every night your computer would call other computers and exchange anything new with them, then you could chat with people all over the world.

Brad accessed Usenet through the University of Waterloo, Canada, where he studied, because it wasn’t something anyone could log into from home.

Usually it was necessary a computer in a laboratory, in an IT company or university.

“So the audience was highly educated, generally well-off, probably not as ethnically diverse and tech-savvy. An elite.

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