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,
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.
Excuse the shouting, but:
CIPA FORCES LIBRARIES TO ADOPT BLACKLISTS OF UNKNOWN CONTENT,
COMPILED BY UNSKILLED CENSORS, USING AN UNREVEALED METHODOLOGY.
February 5, 2001--
Censorware.net 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
Who we are
The Censorware Project, previously located at www.censorware.org, presently
consists of the following individuals who work together collegially
without titles or hierarchy:
Bennett Haselton firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamie McCarthy email@example.com
Jim Tyre firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Wallace email@example.com
Please send press inquiries to
firstname.lastname@example.org, 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, email@example.com,
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,
firstname.lastname@example.org, angry at a perceived slight from one of us, shut down
www.censorware.org. 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 censorware.org 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.