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Exposing the secrets of censorware since 1997
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Our in-depth product analyses:
  • Cyber Patrol
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    Libraries & Lawsuits:
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  • Essays
    by Jamie McCarthy:
  • Computers and Language

    by Jim Tyre:
  • Sex, Lies and Censorware
  • Legal Definition of Obscenity
  • Fax to Sen. McCain re SmartFilter

    by Jonathan Wallace:
  • What Censorware Means To Me
  • The X-Stop Files
  • Cyber Patrol, the Friendly Censor
  • Purchase of Censorware by Public Libraries is Unconstitutional
  • CIPA: Congress' Censorware Boondoggle

    by Seth Finkelstein
    (former member)
  • Comstock in the '90s
  • The X-Stop Files: The Truth Isn't Out There

    by Michael Sims
    (former member)
  • Why Censorware Can't Work (Senate submission)
  • Why Censorware Can't Work (April '98 version)
    Australia Rejects Mandatory Censorware
    posted by Jim Tyre on Saturday December 04, @02:26AM
    from the cost-benefit-analysis dept.
    [ Gov/Politics ]
    Australia has rejected mandatory use of censorware in an effort to stop child pornography. Sayeth Communications Minister Helen Coonan:

    "The biggest issue is not so much the money but such an expensive scheme would not necessarily solve the problem and small to medium ISPs (internet service providers) would be driven out of business for little or no benefit," Senator Coonan said. "What does work is greater information and parental supervision and that is the kind of program that the government is promoting."

    ( Read More... )

    MSN Spaces and its Silly Word-Blocking
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Friday December 03, @08:56AM
    from the space-between-the-ears dept.
    [ Blocked! ]
    BoingBoing has a story today on how Microsoft's new blogging tool, MSN Spaces, does word-based blocking of your blog entries. Sad and funny. I saw two stories in the blogosphere today on MSN Spaces -- one a video demo of how to post to it, which I yawned past, and this censorship story, which I'm, well, blogging myself.

    ( Read More... | 1 comment )

    Pentagon Admits Censoring Casualty Sites
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Friday September 17, @12:40PM
    from the memoryhole dept.
    [ Gov/Politics ]
    As reported by Eric Umansky:

    Two Army spokespeople have now explained to me that it is indeed the Army�s intention to purposely block service-members from viewing non-Pentagon casualty sites. (Other services apparently have similar policies and do use filtering software.)

    ( Read More... | 1 comment )

    COPA Sent Back To Lower Court By SCOTUS, 5-4
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Tuesday June 29, @09:35AM
    from the here-we-go-again dept.
    [ Gov/Politics ]
    Details are sketchy so far, but it seems the Supreme Court has decided 5-4 that "a lower court was correct to block [the Child Online Protection Act] from taking effect, because it likely violates the First Amendment." I wonder if there will be a reason in the near future for researchers to demonstrate the quality of censorware's "important technological advances" since 1998.

    Here's CNN's story.

    Here's the Syllabus and the Opinion.

    ( Read More... | 485 words in story )

    Slimming the Net, Open-Source Style
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Thursday May 27, @12:00PM
    from the much-ado dept.
    [ Gov/Politics ]
    NewsForge has an article today on how U.S. and Open Source Censorship Slims the Net. Interesting quotes from censorware providers (it's better than governmental censorship, doncha know) and some discussion of whether open-source censorware is better than closed blacklists.

    ( Read More... )

    Back to 1996, Part II: the U.S. Government
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Monday May 03, @12:07PM
    from the deja-vu dept.
    [ News ]
    The U.S. government, eager to show oppressed nations how we allow free speech, is blocking the people of China and Iran from accessing our embassies, drug education, email, and gay sites.

    Technology used by the IBB, which puts out the Voice of America broadcasts, prevents them from visiting Web addresses that include a peculiar list of verboten keywords. The list includes "ass" (which inadvertently bans, "breast" (, "hot" ( and, "pic" ( and "teen" (

    The official naughty-keyword list displays a conservative bias that labels any Web address with "gay" in them as verboten--a decision that affects thousands of Web sites that deal with gay and lesbian issues, as well as, a Roman Catholic site.

    ( Read More... )

    Google and Spam-Filtering: Back to 1996
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Saturday April 24, @07:40AM
    from the bad-old-days dept.
    [ News ]
    Remember the bad old days of 1996 when censorware was like CyberPatrol and CyberSitter: utterly atrocious, almost too bad to be worth criticizing? Well, the bad old days are still here. The difference is that, with the kind of censorware we have now, many, many more people are affected.

    CNET brings us the story Google's chastity belt too tight, in which it's revealed that Google's SafeSearch feature blocks,,, and Unbelievable.

    And an EarthWeb column, Is One-Fourth of Your E-Mail Getting Lost?, explains that the overanxious spam filtering provided by ISPs like NetZero, SBC/Yahoo!, and blocks one-quarter or more of requested email (corporate newsletters and the like). The majority of the ISPs they studied in 2003 got worse in the second half of the year, presumably as they adopted stricter anti-spam measures. You can download Return Path's whitepaper here.

    ( Read More... | 1 comment )

    Public Libraries, Disable Your Filters
    posted by Jim Tyre on Thursday April 08, @07:21PM
    from the good-advice-from-an-expert dept.
    [ News ]
    First Monday has a new piece by Mary Minow, a former librarian and currently a lawyer and library law consultant. In the piece, Lawfully Surfing the Net: Disabling Public Library Internet Filters to Avoid More Lawsuits in the United States, Minow argues that, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in the CIPA case, United States v. American Library Association, public libraries may be less at risk of a lawsuit by adopting and following an aggressive policy of disabling censorware.

    Minow defines two types of public libraries:

    Cautious Public Library installs filters and tries to follow the law as written: its policy is to unblock a site when an adult patron asks a librarian to unblock the site for bona fide research. Cautious Public Library will disable the entire filter rarely, if ever.

    Quick Public Library also installs filters, choosing a vendor that offers minimum blocking. Its policy allows patrons to sit at a public terminal, and select FILTERED or FILTER DISABLED access, after clicking that they are at least 17 years of age. No librarian intervention is required.

    Minow contends:

    While I leave the technical issue on how to disable filters to others, I am prepared to write in no uncertain terms that the risk of a lawsuit is, perhaps surprisingly, far greater for the Cautious Public Library than for the Quick Public Library, which in fact bears very little risk of litigation under federal law.

    The piece is well worth reading for libraries still struggling with what to do after CIPA was upheld, and by all who think that everything was lost in the Supreme Court decision.

    ( Read More... )

    Saudi Arabia's Censorware -- An Inside View
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Wednesday January 14, @09:58AM
    from the air-conditioned dept.
    [ News ]
    Robin Miller is in Saudi Arabia right now, and has filed a report on the country's censorware:

    The Saudi Internet filters are easy to defeat. I found at least a dozen anonymous surfing sites that let me view all the porn anyone could want in less than 30 minutes, and I have viewed more online porn while testing the Saudi content filters than I had looked at in my entire life before this experiment. Al-Hejery, too, knows that anyone with much knowledge of the Internet and computers can blow right by the Saudi content filters. He sees the filtering as a way to protect children and other innocents from Internet evils, and not much more than that.

    ... just about any site that portrays Judaism or Israel in a positive light isn't allowed ...

    ( Read More... )

    SurfControl Blocks Blogs
    posted by Jamie McCarthy on Sunday November 16, @06:30AM
    from the unsurprising dept.
    [ Blocked! ]
    The creator of discovered that his blog is blocked by SurfControl. Specifically, SurfControl puts blogs in the same category as Usenet, the category that might as well be named, "too damn big, we give up."

    Hey censorware makers -- yes, we're talking to you -- you really ought to pay more attention to blogs. Don't block them willy-nilly. This is 21st century citizenship, it's the global conversation you'd have us ignore. That's not nice.

    ( Read More... )

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    Older Stuff

    November 13

    · Two New Censorware Pieces of Note (0)

    October 28

    · Censorware Exemption to DMCA Anti-circumvention Provisions In Effect For Another Three Years (0)

    October 15

    · Adieu, Old Fiend (0)

    June 30

    · Excellent Summary of CIPA Decision (0)

    June 23

    · New Study of Internet Blocking in Public Schools (2)
    · CIPA Upheld (0)

    June 20

    · Stay Tuned For CIPA Decision (0)

    June 15

    · New Law Review Article Argues That CIPA is Unconstitutional (0)

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