A blog about a possible internet filtering solution for libraries

Library Internet Filtering

Frankly, I think the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Children's Internet Protection Act case was wrong.
It is virtually always wrong to censor information, especially in a library. But that is how the law in the United States stands at the moment and if a library accepts federal funding it must install internet filtering technology on all of its internet enabled computers.

This website is about a particular internet filtering product IF 2K and its application to libraries.

This product is flexible, publishes its block list, is reasonably priced and it can be configured to meet library's particular requirements.

It is not a perfect solution but it is inexpensive and, with librarians' input, the least obnoxious filtering solution on the market.

Jay Currie

Thursday, May 26, 2005

One Ringy Dingy

United American Technologies, a "Christian-based phone carrier" based in Oklahoma, has a pretty good sales pitch. According to a story by John Avlon in today's New York Sun, the company describes itself as "the only carrier that is taking an active stand against same sex marriages and hardcore child pornography." Here, we pick up a taped telemarketing call after one potential customer asks if AT&T sponsors child pornography:

United American Technologies: No. No, that's MCI.

Mr. Mirman: MCI has hardcore child pornography?

United American Technologies: Yes, they are. They have a pedophile Web site for men who love boys. It's a Montréal based Web site....

Mr. Mirman: And so MCI basically has a child pornography ring?

United American Technologies: That's correct.

Mr. Mirman: What about the others? What does Verizon do?

United American Technologies: Okay. Verizon, what they do is they train their employees to accept the gay and lesbian lifestyle.

With 2000 customers reportedly switching to United American Technologies each month, Christian-based lying and phone homophobia is a lucrative business.
While this telco has a perfect right to conduct its business along Christian principles this is the sort of filtering sales pitch which sickens thinking people.

Part of the push to filter the internet in libraries and schools is driven by this sort of homophobia and it is brilliant of librarians to refuse to put up with it.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Informative sites are snubbed, too. The best porn blockers were heavy-handed against sites about health issues, sex education, civil rights, and politics. For example, seven products blocked KeepAndBearArms.com, a site advocating gun owners’ rights. Most unwarranted blocking occurred with sites featuring sex education or gender-related issues. Some drug-education sites were blocked. For example, four products blocked the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the federal government’s National Institutes of Health. KidsNet interfered the most with useful sites, blocking 73 percent. All programs except CyberSitter show you why a specific site was blocked and all let adults override the block.
consumer reports
I note that all but Cybersitter have an override. But they are still overblocking and, in most cases the filter companies don't give you access to their blocklists. So how will you know if your children are being denied access to drug education or health sites?

These are problems which some internet filters dealt with years ago...Too bad Consumer Reports ignored those filters.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

South Park Republican Bingo

Much too much fun. You figure out how to play Southpark Republican Bingo do you call BINGO when the Texas legislature bans suggeestive cheerleading...or do you go with the Alabama legislature's banning books written by homosexuals - or people who, Lord knows, looked at a member of their sex with lust in their heart - or, and let's be kind here, the good folks in the Texas legislature who want to make teaching "intelligent design" part of the biology requirement for those lucky Kansas kids...Wonderful!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cheerleaders Surprised

Several of the cheerleaders had been taking photos of the squad along with personal pictures throughout the school year and posting them on the online photo-sharing site Webshots.com, parents and school officials said. The pictures were intended for their friends and other girls on the squad but were publicly accessible, along with more than 134 million others posted by the site's users.

On Nov. 22, Wootton Principal Michael J. Doran said he received an anonymous e-mail that included the personal and team photos of the cheerleaders and alerted him that the pictures were featured on a pornographic Web site.
washington post
This is not an uncommon occurence.

One of the facts about the internet many people are unaware of is that every image posted is available to be copied and reposted. Copyright, terms of service and all manner of other devices cannot prevent people from taking a picture and using it for their own ends.

Part of the driving force behind internet censorship is ignorance as to how the net works and what it can and cannot do. The girls posting their very innocent pics never thought they would find themselves on a porn site....but there they are.

Teaching people to be net aware would go a long way to solving this sort of problem.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Don't translate past N2H2

An illustration of just how badly some filters work is offered by this post from Utah,
From: Guy Durrant

Filtering in Utah is done by a statewide subscription to N2H2/Bess. We
are not required to use N2H2, but I suspect most districts use this as
it is available to them at no additional cost. The state picks up the

The state filters the "Translate this page" option which comes up with
some search results. The reason for this is that students could search
for sites which the N2H2 filter will block, click on Translate this page,
and if the original page was in English, it was "translated" and
displayed, filter notwithstanding. It is unfortunate, because the
translation feature was quite a boon to ESL and foreign language
teachers. The images part of Google http://images.google.com is not
blocked in Utah, but many of the sites it presents are.

Guy Durrant
Technology Director
Here the needs of the filter get in the way of the educational needs of the students. Which makes you wonder where the priorities really lie.

Now, remember kids, just because you can - if you don't live in Utah, bypass N2H2 Bess filtering by using the translate option in, let's say, Google, doesn't mean you should...
via Seth Finklestein

Sunday, December 12, 2004

How Ugly is Sonic Wall

This ugly:
I went to InstaPundit, and, starting at the bottom, clicked on his links and wrote down which ones were blocked by SonicWALL. Here, then, is the list, along with a few more I was able to find by clicking around from other blogs.

Across the Atlantic

Justene Adamec

Adragna & Vehrs

The Agitator

Charles Austin

Howard Bashman

Big Arm Woman



Blogs of War

Edward Boyd

Capt. Scott's

Cato the Youngest


John Cole

Crooked Timber


Kim du Toit


The Fat Guy

Dr. Frank

Fraters Libertas

Geek Press

Gut Rumbles

Gweilo Diaries

Andrea Harris

Jim Henley


Iberian Notes


Kathy Kinsley

Alex Knapp


Mudville Gazette

Dawn Olsen

Suman Palit

David Pinto

Right Wing News

Silent Running

Laurence Simon

Roger L. Simon




Jim Treacher

Howard Veit

The Volokh Conspiracy

War Liberal

Oliver Willis

Winds of Change

Matthew Yglesias

Pejman Yousefzadeh

Zogby Blog



Discount Blogger

Croooow Blog

Damnum Absque Injuria

Kin's Kouch

Jennifer's History and Stuff


Robert Prather

Rocket Jones

Snooze Button Dreams



On the Third Hand

Ghost of a flea

If your blog is NOT LISTED above and you are linked by Glenn Reynolds, that means that as of last night, SonicWALL was not blocking you.

I am sure this changes from day to day, depending on what you have posted about. The problem is, dumb software like this does not distinguish between discussion of something and advocacy of it. So, if you merely talk about cults, guns, nudity, racism, gambling, pornography, weapons, or drugs, your blog will be censored.

classical values

Instapundit discovers overblocking

FOR THE RECORD, the "SonicWall Content Filter" used by Panera Bread on its wi-fi sucks like a bilge pump. I just tried to check an article in Arms Control Today and the journal is blocked because it has to do with "weapons." Jeez. Who runs SonicWall?
One of Glenn Reynold's emailers suggests the problem may be over agressive settings on the filter....well, yes. Which is likely to happen regularily in libraries, schools and other enviornments where the network admin is working on the "better safe than sorry, 1st ammendment be damned" principle.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Some might call it spam

In 2003, the numbers of complaints received by the FCC rose to about 240,000.

Now that might seem like a pretty unlikely and massive shift in either the material being aired or the society experiencing those broadcasts. Well, it is unlikely. In fact, it didn't really happen.

If you take Janet Jackson's nipple out of the equation (and god knows we'd all like to at this point), 99.8% of all complaints to the FCC this year have come from a single organization: the Parents Television Council.
There is not much question that the push for CIPA and other filtering iniatives has come from small, tightly organized groups with their own, particular agendas.

Sadly, that is all it takes to force internet filters on public libraries.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

How the First Amendment is supposed to work

A controversial Pennsylvania law forcing ISPs to block access to Web sites accused of hosting child pornography is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Friday, handing a defeat to advocates of stricter online porn regulations.

The law, known as statute 7330, allowed the state to impose criminal charges on Internet service providers for permitting access to Web sites considered inappropriate. Public-interest groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the law a year ago, claiming that it was unconstitutional, since many blocked sites contained no child porn.

"There is little evidence that the act has reduced the production of child pornography or the child sexual abuse associated with its creation," U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois wrote in the 102-page decision. "On the other hand, there is an abundance of evidence that implementation of the Act has resulted in massive suppression of speech protected by the First Amendment."
Technically it is possible to block a particular website; but it can also mean blocking a whole set of websites which share server space with the offending website.

No one wants child pornography on the net; but that is a criminal matter and the use of the criminal law to force ISPs to use DNS blocking,
Groups challenging the law charged that ISPs had gone far beyond the requirements of state law enforcers, blocking more than a million innocent Web sites, along with 400 alleged child porn sites.

According to the complaint, affected service providers used Internet Protocol (IP) and domain name service (DNS) filtering techniques to comply with the law. IP filtering blocks all Web sites related to a single address. The court found that since many Web sites share IP addresses, the technique resulted in significant overblocking.
Even anti-porn crusader David Burt saw the ISP's response as overbroad,
For example, ISPs could have used settings that targeted individual Web pages rather than full domain names, said David Burt, a spokesman for San Jose, Calif.-based Internet-filtering software maker Secure Computing.

"It's much easier to block a domain name, but it's not necessary to do so," he said. "ISPs could target a single page if they wanted to. You can set it up to do it that way."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Internet Filtering Google Style

Internet filtering, to meet even the most basic information ethics, needs to be overt.
Google Inc.'s recently launched news service in China doesn't display results from websites blocked by that country's authorities, raising prickly questions for an on-line search engine that has famously promised to "do no evil."...

"That's a problem because the Chinese people need to know there are alternative opinions from the Chinese government and there are many things being covered up by the government," said Bill Xia, Dynamic's chief executive. "Users expect Google to return anything on the Internet. That's what a search engine does."...

"Google has decided that in order to create the best possible search experience for our mainland China users we will not include sites whose content is not accessible," company spokeswoman Debbie Frost said Friday.
Internet filtering at the search engine level is Orwellian. People's internet access is being filtered without their consent or knowledge.

Google’s Chinese deal leaves Chinese citizens entirely in the dark.

The Chinese government is caught between its Stalinist inclination to censor, shape and edit the news and the reality that the internet is critical to the development and prosperity of China. So it slaps on internet filters on the server side.

“In order to create the best possible search experience for our mainland China users we will not include sites whose content is not accessible” silently eliminates critical information Chinese users may be looking for. Namely, the fact there is a website or a webpage which has information which the Chinese government does not want its people to see. A negative result is often as informative as a positive one. But an internet filter applied at the search engine/news reader level eliminates those results.

By acquiescing to the Chinese demand for seamless censorship at the search engine level Google may be making a smart business decision but it fails any sort of information ethics test – it is “doing evil”. This is the worst sort of internet filter because the user has no idea what the internet filter is eliminating.

Pretending to give full results without actually giving those results is fundamentally misleading. An honest approach would be to provide full results with a note (rather like the “subscription” notice on Google News currently) which indicates “site not available to citizens of the PRC”. At best, the edited Chinese Google search is a half truth, at worst, collaboration in a government sanctioned lie.


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