Utah - Smartfilter

February 21, 2001--

The Censorware Project writes to new FCC Chairman Michael Powell, asking him to oppose the Children's Internet Protection Act.

February 16, 2001--

The FCC's period for receipt of public commments on the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), mandating the use of censorware by schools and libraries receiving federal E-Rate funding, closed this week. Though the FCC had asked for only technical comments (what form to use when certifying compliance with the act, and that kind of thing) many of those responding warned the FCC that censorware will fail to achieve CIPA's goals of blocking images which are obscene or "harmful to minors". One of the best responses was from the New Jersey Library Association, which said:

Currently there are no standards for commercial Internet blocking and filtering software being marketed to libraries. Obviously, libraries wanting to fulfill the requirements of the new law will be purchasing comercial software to meet this requirement. Without standards or guidelines many libraries may unfortunately purchase software which will not assist them in fulfilling the intended purposes of the act.

The NJLA pointed out that CIPA proceeds backwards by ordering the use of censorware and then requiring a study within 18 months afterwards to see if the technology accomplishes CIPA's purposes or not. Libraries may purchase the software, only to have to unplug it and throw it away when it is proven ineffective.

Consumer Reports published an evaluation of censorware this week. This was of particular interest to us, because, though we are opposed to censorware on First Amendment grounds, a secondary showing of our reports has been that these products just do not work. Even where there are no First Amendment implications-- for example, a parent deciding to install censorware on a home computer-- anyone thinking of buying a censorware product should take a close look at how ineffective these products really are.

Consumer Reports, which has no First Amendment axe to grind, confirmed our results. They found that most of the censorware products they studied let through at least twenty percent of explicit sexual sites, and that at least two of the products blocked twenty percent of sites containing ""serious content on controversial subjects".

Michael Powell, an FCC commissioner, has just been promoted to run the agency. Powell, unlike most FCC employees, believes the agency should have a limited role. In a recent interview with The New York Times (February 7, 2001, "New FCC Chief Would Curb Agency Reach"), Powell said: "I don't believe that government should be your nanny." In an October, 1999 speech, he elucidated the theme:

Benevolent or not, we did not sign away to a Philosopher-King the responsibility to determine for us, like a caring parent, what messages we should and should not hear.

Now Powell has a chance to put his money where his mouth is. As the new head of the agency charged with overseeing CIPA compliance, let him tell the President and Congress that CIPA was a boondoggle.

Here is our analysis of the new law. The Censorware Project is committed to fighting CIPA, on the grounds that it is a violation of the First Amendment, and imposes on schools and libraries technology which we have shown many times over simply does not work.


February 5, 2001--

We're back! is the new home of The Censorware Project, a group dedicated to exposing the phenomenon of censorware:

software which is designed to prevent another person from sending or receiving information, usually on the web.

Censorware products (aka blocking or filtering software) include Cybersitter, Surfwatch, X-Stop, Bess, Websense and Smartfilter.


The Censorware Project opposes the use of censorware products in public institutions such as schools and libraries because they blacklist substantial numbers of innocuous and socially useful sites. Therefore, use of censorware in a public institution is a violation of the First Amendment, as Judge Leonie Brinkema held in the case of Mainstream Loudoun v. Board of Trustees (use of X-Stop by Loudoun County library system was unconstitutional).

Our studies of censorware products reveal that none of these products work as advertised. They also let through substantial amounts of hard core material--an inevitability, given the size of the web and the impossibility of reviewing all the material on it, either by human or technical means.

Who we are

The Censorware Project, previously located at, presently consists of the following individuals who work together collegially without titles or hierarchy:

Bennett Haselton

Jamie McCarthy

Jim Tyre

Jonathan Wallace

Please send press inquiries to, which reaches all of us and is the best way to get a rapid response.

Sign up for our mailing list to receive occasional bulletins about our activities and news pertaining to the censorware battle.

We are grateful to a former member, Seth Finkelstein,, for his crucial contributions to our earlier reports and to the Censorware Project "knowledge-base" of wrongly blacklisted sites.

Why were we down? Another former member, Michael Sims,, angry at a perceived slight from one of us, shut down Since the domain had been registered in Sims' name, there was nothing we could do except obtain a new domain, and put the site back up. Previous to flipping out on us, Sims had made a major contribution to the group, notably acting as webmaster and site designer, and obtaining logs and records pertaining to the use of the Smartfilter software from Utah via the Freedom of Information Act. Mike, now that the site is back up, we are renewing our request that you transfer us the domain. You're not using it for anything, and it will continue to confuse people and divert traffic away from this, the rightful Censorware Project site.

Due to the large amount of material amassed by the Censorware Project over its three years of existence, and the CIPA-induced urgency of getting the site up and running, here is a limited version of the Censorware Project site containing our reports on various censorware products--our most important content. In the days to come, we will upgrade the site regularly to restore the other resources previously found here as well. Until the site has been fully restored, certain interior menu choices may not work. We apologize for any inconvenience.

- The Censorware Project

Copyright © 2001 by the Censorware Project.
Redistribute freely in appropriate forums for non-profit uses only.