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Censorship Your Rights Online

SmartFilter: Way Too Extreme 184

Another report on SmartFilter by Seth Finkelstein (here was last month's). He's written some software to decrypt the software's blacklist of forbidden sites, and has analyzed what he found. The list of blocked newsgroups is fascinating: sci.archaeology as occult, and as criminal, for example. He's found "extreme or obscene" sites like ("extreme sports" rollerblading on "naked metal"), (custom-built computers for the "extreme gamer," unfortunately at a domain name with both "sex" and "extreme" in it) and (same deal). Their music-critic skills need work too, as they block,, Marilyn Manson, and even Chumbawamba's Web site. Every one of these and many more are blocked as "Extreme," which puts them in the same category as photos of mutilated dead bodies, bizarre hard-core pornography and child pornography.

His discussion of the legal risks of decrypting these blacklists is fascinating too, and (as he likes to say) "a topic in itself." He would like to open up the source to his SmartFilter-decryption tool but feels the legal risk is too high. How sad is that?

Here's Secure Computing's definition of the "extreme" category, and the examples they give ("Pixman's Vault of Porn Pix", "Bizarre & Maximum Perversion").

You can confirm Seth's findings using Secure Computing's own SmartFilterWhere. It asks for your name and phone number; you have my permission to make some up. As of December 7, at 9:45 PM EST, that CGI operates with a Control List updated on December 5 and confirms all of Seth's results that I tried. By the time you read this, they may have quickly fixed all the errors he published, loaded in an up-to-the-minute Control List, and proudly announced that their software is now perfect.

Until the next report.

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    it's great that they have all these sites linked in the story, but where are the links to the kidde porn and mutilated dead bodies?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I never understood why the filter blacklists are so wrong. Most of the people I know would be delighted to be payed to search the Internet for forbidden, naked, obscene, porn, sex, bizarre, hard-core, perverted and extreme stuff. If staffing isn't a problem, then what is the problem? I don't get it.
  • Well, I think the problem with these unpublished blacklists comes down to a "who watches the watchers problem." I think the lists are likely to block "fundamentalist" materials depending on who the people are that make up the lists.

    The thing to remember is that just about any particular person is likely to be offended by just about anything. And that's why these lists need to published (whether you agree with the filters or not) just to make sure that someone has put a bunch of wacky stuff in there that simply doesn't make sense, like blocking the sun-worshipping dog launchers website.

  • I mean, this software literally can't tell the Mona Lisa apart from the guy. It's just another tool of the bookburners.

    But that said, I know of two things which are quite perfect for filtering Internet access and keeping kids away from inappropriate sites. Any revisions of Mom 1.0 and Dad 1.0 are shown to be 100% effective, when properly deployed. When they must be taken offline for short periods, Sitter 1.0 and Teacher 1.0 also work; they aren't quite as effective (in particular, Teacher 1.0 is designed for groups, and generally isn't as good at each individual child as a result) but should suffice for short periods of time.

    The major problems with Mom 1.0 and Dad 1.0 is a bug in the built-in Sentience(tm) system. This causes some versions of these programs to trigger a mode which has been dubbed "lazy mode" (or alternately "selfish"), in which they refuse to fulfill their primary function (educating and raising children), and as a result lose all effectiveness. This is a problem that needs to be worked out, though the exact method of how to do this is up to debate.
  • That's because there's no such word as "Bizaree", and probably no such website. Have you tried "Bizarre"?
  • I think you should get it through your thick skull that much of the outrage about overly restrictive filters isn't about home use, but use by companies, libraries, schools, and so forth. Do you think the principal, sysadmin, librarian, or whatever has the time to evaluate and unblock sites on a case-by-case basis? What if the institutions are required by law to run blocking software and the staff isn't legally authorized to unblock sites?
  • You 'tard.

    In case you've missed the last 20 or 30 years of popular music culture, I'm here to tell you that Marilyn Manson is about as hard-core as Britney Spears or The Backstreet Boys. It's mass-market pop music!!

    You want to hear something extreme? Fire up napster and grab some Anal Cunt tracks... classic.


  • If you don't have censorship people then have to think for themselves! Calm down, I know it's scary...

    Maybe someone on cnn will tell us what to think about this later.

    MSNBC isn't biased to GE, just because they own it. Don't think censor software will try to block censor reviews...

    heh ;)


    From my original post...

    Lets assume that I'm a conscientious parent with home computer set up in the full view of everyone.
    There are still times when I'm not going to be able to be there while my kids are surfing, or at a mates place with decidedly less supervision. Even good kids do stupid things.

    Being a good parent is earning enough money to buy a nice house in a nice neighborhood and send your kids to a decent school. Good parenting is letting your kids know right from wrong and steering them away from the wrong crowd. As a good parent, you don't live next door to a drug pusher... you have that option. You don't have that option on the Internet.... that's my FUCKING POINT.

    You can be the best parent in the world, and you still cannot be secure in the knowledge that your kids are getting into some serious shit on the 'net.

    Lets not joke around here... there is some seriously fucked up, sadistic shit on the 'net.

    Its not enough to just be a good parent... I'm talking about 6-14 year olds here BTW - kids who don't need to be sitting in a #pokemon chat room with Mr. Stinky posing as another kid.


  • I _love_ when websites, stores (radio shack), etc. ask for a phone number. I always give them 250.828.3000 which used to be my local police station. For you Americans out there how about 202.456.1414 or 202.324.3000 which are the whitehouse and the FBI.
  • Stupid Opera can't seem to deal with the concept of logging in to slashdot. Didn't mean to post AC.

  • If you're reading this forum, you're probably already open-minded enough (OK, maybe with a few exceptions) for that conversation not to be a problem. Now imagine the same conversation occurring in rural Kansas, or in Utah... (no offense to the many non-homophobic Kansans and Utahians (?) reading, but you have to admit you don't live in the most cosmopolitan areas of the country).

  • so chumbawumba are out are they?
    oh well Anarchy and politics are as bad as hard core porn is it. Funny that isnt it...
  • If you were real evil you'd use
  • I checked a couple of the sites:

    are no longer listed. So at least they take action quickly... is this such a bad thing?
  • Actually this is from the University of Cape Town [], a South African university.

    With the limited bandwidth they have (~2-4 Mbps last count), and the limited space in the various labs, it doesn't take much porn-surfing and mp3-downloading for everything to start working pretty slowly. Some of the labs already had time-limited access for non-UCT sites (ie no access during work hours). Of course, not all of the labs have 24hr access.

    Specifically filtering the site because it is a porn site seems a bit rash, especially given that other sites can chew up much more bandwidth (mp3s, mpgs/DivX, etc). And there is the issue of UCT now having taken it upon themselves to filter the network content: They could now be responsible if any illegal content is found (this argument has been put forward on /. before).

    There is more information available at the URL mentioned [] above.

    Of course, there is also the whole definition of "public universities". Attending UCT is not free. They do, however, receive certain government funding. I do not if this could force them to suspend the filtering. They do classify the traffic according to academic relevance, sorta.

    - Al

  • Why not bring this to Dick Smith Electronics and get them to sue the filtering company into oblivion?
  • So am I, url and email to the contrary.

    I try to speak and write in a manner that's compatible ("7th of December" and "7 Dec" are unambiguous).

    Amazing how many Americanisms have turned into peeves in the 18 months I've been away from the US.

    When I talk to my brother on the phone, he sounds so... stereotypically American, even though we're from Massachusetts. (R becomes the most impoRtant letteR in the alphabet.) At least my parents don't sound talk with that othewise nonexistant Midwestsouthern accent that politicians use.

    I blame it on his going to college in DC (my parents still speak normally), and still being a Republican -- although I'm pretty confident he'll grow out of that within a year or two -- I did when I was about his age.

    But really, who am I kidding? It's not the Midwestsouthern accents that really bother me -- it's the people who speak using them.

  • Re your signature: Oh my god, I've been bitch slapped by Slashdot, You Bastard!
    -Working to get his karma back since 12-7-00

    Is that the 12th of July or the 7th of December?

  • Safeweb [], AskJesus [], Babelfish [], etc.

    These are all examples of a fairly simple web application that pretty much destroy all hopes of this filtering methodology every flying. Are all these applications to be blacklisted as "obcene", "occult", or "too useful"?

    Just like the porn, they'll never get em all.

    The resolution: Just have a coke and a smile and shut the fuck up.

  • Instead of filtering, parents can monitor their children's web surfing using a software package like Disk Tracy. []

    This package logs every website visited, and (claims) the log can't be tampered with.

  • tupac is dead good, stop dissing him
  • They currently don't block votenader, but the do block (listed as Politics/Religion). I think that they really just don't want any views at all.
  • Maybe they dress to the left. But how gay-friendly do you really think the censorware companies are? They only gay employees they are likely to have are closeted and self-loathing.

    Like you, you nasty little troll.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • Actually, I just figured that the fellow who blocked sci.archaeology as "occult" had seen too many Indiana Jones movies. Or possibly watched "Poltergeist: the Legacy". Amazing what passes for literacy these days...
  • but (understandably) he's reluctant to distribute it, allowing for a more full analysis of SmartFilter's flaws, because there is no similar exemption for distribution of anti-circumvention tools.

    I think you meant "circumvention tools", not "anti-circumvention tools." Nits aside though, do you think that the lack of an explicit exemption for distribution of these legally created tools was by design or by oversight? How tough would it be to get Congress to correct such a flaw in the law? (actually I think the DMCA itself was one big flaw, but fixing it a piece at a time is better than leaving it intact as is)

  • So any parents who aren't perfect are lazy and selfish?

    No. Not parents who aren't perfect. Parents who don't make the effort. Because you can do the things I was talking about. No exceptions; it is always possible. It's not always easy; in some cases it may involve making sacrifices. But that is not important, because doing this kind of thing is a parent's primary responsibility, more important than anything else. And it is always possible; if you make an honest effort, you will succeed.
  • You know the only reason they are asking is to either try to sell you something or sell your phone number to somebody else trying to sell you something.

    Actually, there is another reason. Your phone number is fairly strong unique identifier for a person. A given phone number is likely to remain valid for at least a year. If you only move a short distance (apartment hopping) you can often keep the same number. Any given (private) phone number will generally map to no more than a handful of people. With a reverse lookup directory, you can easily determine where someone works from a work number. A phone number provides a relatively accuration location (with the area code and the next three digits, usually within a few miles). Lastly, it's a number almost everyone has and you can legally ask for (there are limitations on using a Social Security Number).

    It's by no means a perfect tool, but it's better than nothing. This is one of the reasons that many businesses demand your phone number on your checks. It's yet another tool for tracking you down if you bounce the check. It's another tool for tracking your spending habits.

  • Jamie provided a link to Seth's home page, but not the article itself. Definately give his article, SmartFilter - I've Got A Little List [], a read. His Anticensorware Investigations [] has links to his older work.

  • I attempt to check out SmartFilterWhere [] and get the following message from our proxy:

    ERROR: Site Access Denied

    If you are seeing this message, then you are trying to access a porn site.

    Please read this [] document for clarification on why this site is restricted.

    Access is restricted from 07:00 to 19:00 on weekdays.

    Please contact the helpdesk if you feel the site you are trying to access is needed during these times or is not a porn site, please include the URL of the site in your report.

    UCT Cache Administrator

    Generated Fri, 08 Dec 2000 09:09:40 GMT by (Squid/2.3.STABLE3)

    I nearly fell off my chair I was laughing so hard. The best part is that the list of sites blocked is shared amongst quite a few universities in here. Talk about poetic justice.

    Of course, any filter company would block their rivals' sites.

  • Unless he had someone else check FOR him, there is no way for the person with the censored access to know what they are missing, and whether and what to ask for access to. Anything censored may as well not exist.

    Forgive my apparent ignorance, but isn't the WWW run using a good deal of linked material? For example, couldn't another site about similar subject matter (but with a less unfortunate name string) have a link to this harmless site, that would be locked to all filtered comers?

  • I admit that was a unique denial of service attack using popup windows. I had to power cycle my computer to regain control! :-( Then IE forgot my desktop settings..

    Big middle fingers to the AC!!!
  • > photos of mutilated dead bodies, bizarre
    > hard-core pornography and child pornography

    What were the URLs for those, again? :)


    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...
  • I think you forgot the period.
    "Tupuc is dead. Good."
  • Aaaawwhhh, don't tell me. You're one of the little crybabies that feel threatened when somebody grows enough independence to leave behind the hypocritical cults where everyone must think and dress the same, often known as "scenes".

    If you had guts enough to listen to Chumbawamba after they were branded "sellout" by your local i-know-what's-kosher-punk idiot, you'd noticed that their politics have not changed. And their music hasn't been anything like punk since the eighties, damnit.

    Being on a major label gives them the opportunity to reach far more people than they would otherwise do. To them, I think it is more important to get their message across to as many people as possible, without caring about if their listeners know what labels, clothes and bands you must prefer to be a real punk/revolutionary/anarchist/vegan/whatever.

    As for oi bands wanting to stomp the shit out of Chumbawamba, try Oi Polloi. Crass wouldn't stomp the shit out of anybody, and they're even less likely to reunite, whatever the reason.


  • Oh, don't be ridiculous, and the ad hominem attack is unwarranted. There are *really good* scientific reasons not to believe in evolution - see .htm [], if you're not afraid to deal with the truth, that is...

    I don't believe in evolution simply because the "science" that supports the idea is so apalingly bad, and would be run out of town on a rail if it weren't in opposition to religious claims, which gives it a perverse immunity to rigorous examination.
  • hehe, i feel ya, all unix, tcpip, telephony site etc where marked as "criminal activity".

  • Linux:
    Edit /etc/hosts and put this line in there:

    Go to start, run, and then type "notepad C:\windows\hosts"
    add this line in there:

    Now you don't have to worry about seeing that site. This trick is also good for blocking ads ( or a simple form of filter software for kids since most of them have no idea how it works.
  • "Sure Apu, kids pretty much raise themselves these days, what with the Internet and all..."
  • You just described EVERY e/n site out there, starting with, and going down to,, etc. MIght as well block the string "e/n" since stile has a million copycat sites.

    . Every one of these and many more are blocked as "Extreme," which puts them in the same category as photos of mutilated dead bodies, bizarre hard-core pornography and child pornography.
  • Not my point at all. What I was saying is that there is a reason that the sort of people that feel that SmartFilter needs to be installed on things would feel like Chumbawumba should be on the list. Not that it is right or wrong that they are possibly on the list because of their political beliefs. I was just saying that their selection might not be as arbitrary as it appears to someone who doesn't have the same (perhaps irrational) fears as the sort of people that think that filters are needed. The earlier posts seemed to imply that the selection was arbitrary, and I was trying to point out that it makes sense if you consider the market that the makers of the product are trying to appeal to.

    "Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"
  • I don't really know that anarchism is or isn't what little kids are ready for, and not being a parent, I don't care. As I mentioned before, my point was to show that there was a rationale, one based on the perceptions of the intended market of the product, behind why certain sites like that of Manson, ICP, and Chumbawumba were placed in the block list. Note that this != to: "they are slightly non-mainstream, and therefore it is my personal belief that they should be censored". My personal belief is that censorware is based on a number of flawed principles, but I wanted to point out that if you consider the market that they are targeting, than placing these bands in the list makes a lot of sense for them.

    "Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"
  • Agreed. I don't think this sort of thing should go on libraries. It was installed on computers at my school for a while when I was in HS, and it was worse than useless. It blocked access to useful sights, and probably allowed access to thousands of porn sites (didn't poke around looking for them, but that would be my guess). But, if you consider the demographic that their software was targeting, there is a reason that they included the sites that they did. That was my main point.

    On parrot law: one more proof that there is little fundamental consensus in society. If I rules, killing parrots would not only be legal, but mandatory. ;)

    "Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"
  • I really think jamie is trying to push an agenda, and I think he should post it in a more approprate place, like the yro section.

    This was posted in the YRO section. If you don't want to read about it, you have a few options:
    1. Just ignore the story (eg, don't read it)
    2. Exclude articles about Censorship from your front page
    3. Exclude articles posted by jamie from your front page
    4. Uselessly complain about it in a post... wait, you already did that.

  • As long as child pornography or mutilated dead bodies, or whatever, must be treated differently than marilynmanson, or whatever, the problem remains the same: one person wanting to control what another person sees, says or does.

    I'm all in favor of people claiming the right to some say over what is done TO THEM or BY THEM. Let it stop there.

    Would you black hole a site simply because I say so? No? Then why pay any attention to the US Government or the UN.

    Perhaps what we need are Frank Herbert's "Family Atomics": make every point of view fully mayhem-capable. Then we are down to two choices, tolerance for all or mayhem for all. Both choices seem morally superior to censor-ware...
  • They get blocked out, but they'll get through again! You're never gonna keep...

    Oh nevermind.

  • They all say the exact same thing ...

    What other reports have an extensive discussion of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [] and the legal risks involved in anticensorware investigations?

    Hey, at least enjoy the section header quotes :-)

    Note a basic finding is that one has no idea about the actual content of the categories. It's common for "Sex" to have everything from feminism to gay rights.

    SmartFilter - I've Got A Little List is at st.php []

  • They ask for your phone number whenever you want to run their little search engine?

    Whenever a random web site asks for my phone number or email address without a good clear reason, I just use WHOIS and fill in their own address. Then I make sure to check all of the little boxes that say "We sometimes share this information with our valued friends. Would you like them to spam you too?" They probably remove themselves from the spam list pretty quickly, but it's fun to try anyways.

    Stuff like SmartFilter sure makes me glad I work for a university whose head security admin's philosophy is "most of our students are smart enough to get around any blocking I might install, so I don't bother."

  • Thank You for your feedback!

    Your suggestion to re-categorize the following URL(s): URLSuggested Categorization
    wt has been submitted to the SmartFilter Control List technicians for further evaluation.


  • First of all, I'm in favour of content control; parents should be able to control what their kids watch. I'm against mandating this in any way; adults should be able to choose what they want to watch.

    Censorship is a two stage process; deciding what the content is (Is it obscene ?, Is it blasphemous ?), and deciding whether it's acceptable to the audience (Is something that is obscene to a homophobe acceptable to me ? Is $cientology blasphemy offensive to me ?). A rating scheme addresses the first part, but leaves the second choice up to me. Commercial censorware simply takes both choices on-board. My personal morals are not the same as those of the censorware author - why should I accept their choices as to what my kids should watch ?

    Secondly, censorware typically applies ratings in an arbitrary and often naive manner -- the "Scunthorpe problem". Content authors are the best people to judge these ratings, and we should provide means for them to do so. OK, so the Trolls and the regular problem needs solving, but we should concentrate on this, not just abandon self-rating. After all, even a commercial Pr0n site wants a band of satisfied adult punters, not a bunch of under-age kids with stolen CC numbers, bringing the pr0n industry into disrepute (sic). Apart from the Trolls and a very few subversive sites, accurate self-labelling suits everyone's interests.

    Finally, there's often no context to the decision made by censorware. Should every site full of pre-Holocaust anti-semitism [] be banned ? If you're a museum publisher (as I am) it's often a serious issue; how to have content that's related to an offensive subject not be confused with the offensive material itself.

  • You can use a service like Surfola [] to get around these filters at work. Surfola gets the pages, relinks them to use their CGI, and then send them to you from their site. According to the SmartFilterWhere, there is no listing for it.
  • I think you meant "circumvention tools", not "anti-circumvention tools."

    Indeed. ;-)

    Seriously, LOC only was given the right by DMCA to make exemptions to the circumvention provisions, not the distribution ones, so it could not have addressed distribution. Subsequent to the LOC rulemaking, which exempted *only* censorware research and one other non-controversial class, there have been many who have called for Congress to revisit the whole concept of DMCA, and some who have made the call are in Congress. Whether (or when) that might happen, I just don't know, though I know that I would like to see it happen.

  • For example, Secure Computing defines a category Extreme or Obscene:

    Child Pornography: Excessive Violence / Mutilation

    The Extreme category includes URLs that may fall into other categories, but push the limits of acceptability because of their particularly graphic nature. These URLs are typically extremely violent, gory, or horrific in nature and may be related to sex, bodily functions, obscenity, or perverse activities. Sites include:

    Pixman's Vault of Porn Pix - contains extreme hard-core pornography Bizaree & Maximum Perversum - sex site with extreme and bizarre pornography is listed as "Extreme". Yeah a dot-com-deadpool is in the same leage as hard-core porn or excessive violence. They use the word "Fuck"! That's all it takes!

    Uh, oh, I may have just gotten slashdot banned as "Extreme"...

    Perhaps smartfilter's parent company showed up on fuckedcompany and this is retaliation? If they didn't, maybe they should...

    -c o r e

  • Block extream sports sites, but allow Did a troll write this list? :p

    Its all so clear now... Censorware was produced by a collective of trolls... It makes so much sense!

  • Well if you can always manage to do so, then you are (almost by definition) a perfect parent.

    And to do that, (always and without exception), you'll have to follow your kid to school, watch over his shoulder, not let him walk home alone with friends, not let him go over to friends' houses to play, go to the library alone, wander through the library unsupervised when you go with him, etc. etc. etc.

    If you are not watching your child 24 hours per day, seven days per week, then there's the chance that they'll get into something they shouldn't. After all, kids usually _want_ to get into things they shouldn't--it's part of growing up.

    None of which is to say that I approve of censorware (which is almost unfailingly useless), or good parenting. Far from it--when our kids are old enough to play with the computer, I'll have a log of everything they do on it, ported to my secure box. If they get places they're not supposed to, they'll get in trouble for it. BUT, I can't completely eliminate the opportunity for them to get into trouble. It's not possible, and it's not fair to them either.

  • So any parents who aren't perfect are lazy and

    Obviously not a parent. Hopefully never will be
    one either, with an attitude like that. (although
    it wouldn't last very long)

  • Typically organisations wouldn't file a class action lawsuit--the whole point of that item is to give organisation-like powers (and numbers) to individuals.

    But a company filing a standard civil lawsuit would be interesting.

  • The disgusting thing is that these companies inflict their own political and religious agendas on their own customers and nobody is the wiser.

    Well, SmartFilter, at least, publishes its definitions of each category, so if "nobody is the wiser" then perhaps it's because "Nobody" hasn't made the effort to inform himself.

    ...they are regulating the public .

    No, they aren't. They are regulating those who freely choose to subscribe to their service. This is the salient point: The association is voluntary. IF it were a case of the government imposing filtering on every public and private machine with Internet access, THEN you might have a complaint. It's not, so you don't.

    These ./ whinings strike a bit like complaining the New York Times is censoring the public simply because it doesn't print everything you want to read.

    Here's a radical thought: if you don't like filtering software, don't use it ! And if your school/employer forces you to use it, complain to your employer (I suggest /RANT mode), not SmartFilter.

    The only way to force these companies to behave ethically...

    I.e., the bastards ought to go straight to hell because censorship is evil ! I suspect the only "ethical" thing these companies could do in your eyes is put themselves out of business.

    As I understand it, SmartFilter sorts, you select. If you want chat but not porn, do it. If you want cult/occult but not "shock", no problem. I believe the customer can also circumvent the filter on a site-by-site basis. Strikes me as quite reasonable.

    The fact is, your company/school owns the hardware you're surfing on, and probably feels it has the right to a modicum of control over the activities being performed on its property. If you disagree, then do your surfing from home.

    Lee Kai Wen -- Taiwan, ROC

  • The school board in Palm Beach County has been blocking "all" websites providing e-mail access for some time. Well, starting this week, they (actually the company that makes their blacklist) decided that password-protected discussion boards are a form of e-mail. Hence. students in Palm Beach County may no longer access Slashdot. I checked some other websites with message boards (including such sites as Of course, these weren't blocked. Perhaps it's because they censor their comments... who knows? I don't really see the logic on this one, Perhaps we should demonstrate the Slashdot Effect with the district homepage...
  • It seems they have a "Worthless" category as well. So that means they can just decide that, say, the "end of the internet" page, or Slashdot, or CNN, or any Time Warner website is Worthless since it's of inferior quality to their own (assuming, of course, that they're owned by a rival company). Can't there be some legal remedy for this, despite how the information itself was obtained?
  • why is it that you can't block partial nudity without blocking "entertainment"? which includes the infamous IMDB []
  • It was a joke for fucks sake.
  • To me it just seams easier to say "Jr with X clicks of the mouse I can tell exactly when and where you went so watch out." you check once a week and if for some unknown resion the logs are gone, ground him! I know that alot of you big shot IT guys are making loads of cash but can't you spend 5 min once a week to scan a simple log? We're not talking about debuging code here


  • How is your kid supposed to know that they have the part he is looking for, or even what kind of site *IS* if it was locked out so he couldn't look at it?

    Unless he had someone else check FOR him, there is no way for the person with the censored access to know what they are missing, and whether and what to ask for access to. Anything censored may as well not exist.
  • With somewhat of a surprise, I agree with you. Large organizations have every right to filter the material their people are going to be viewing. Using a piece of filtering software is currently the most efficient way to do that. Filters do well in handling bulk numbers of sites.

    Unfortunately, I also believe that censorship sucks. It's not that I want to surf for porn, or that I think no one should have the right to decide for me what I should be looking at. My university implements a filter on its network, and as a student, I recognize that I am under the university's authority, so I have no problem with that.

    No, the problem, as you said, is that there is no real check on the manufacturers of these pieces of software. However, my school has a solution that I consider adequate. If we believe a site to be blocked in error, we can bring it to the attention of the admin, and they will review it themselves. If they agree, the site is unblocked. Already I have gotten them to unblock 2600, attrition, and some other computer-related sites.

    In reality, I am the check on the manufacturers. I turn off image loading, bypass the filter, and check the page out for myself if I think there is a mistake. Because unless I have made a typo in the address, the filter is most likely making a judgment call I am not going to agree with. True, I am not going to make the companies change by doing this, but neither am I going to get the movie industry to change the rating of a movie simply because I disagree with it. Instead, I will do like I always do: Ask my friends who have seen the movie, check out the previews, and maybe give a little weight to the rating, then make my own call.

    My method works for me, because the admin is cool enough to acutally listen to users who complain, and I am getting the sites that would otherwise be blocked. Maybe this will not work for you, but it is worth a shot.

  • The best filtering software is actually hardware: PARENTS.
    And their choice is simple: watch the kids and guide them, or choose to switch off the computer/modem.
    Same argument goes for TV. Don't like something, switch the damn thing OFF!!

    On that line, commercial software should only be seen as an aid to parents, not a replacement.

    Scientists today discovered signs of intelligent life on planet Earth.

  • Most of those are un-moderated news groups. Marylin Manson fans after they jerk off to go to those news groups and then shout, "rape the virgin mary!" at the top of their lungs before their mom kicks their ass for being up on a school night.
  • I was just wondering if redirecting links could be used to trick filtering software. You know, like &target= []
    Well at least it is the URL I use at work, but we are just being monitored, not cencored.
    Besides "Microsoft Smart Filter" in one sentence...either word combined with "Smart" sounds weird to me ;-)

    That's the basic solution. You won't be able to prevent your kid from seeing everything you find objectionable, but neither should you want to. There's pleny out there that's bad, but good parenting should be able to instill a level of maturity to let the child figure that out. Yes, kids will access a little more than what you want, but make sure they understand the reasons and not just that it is forbidden. I remember in 7th grade trying to get movies working on win3.11 because I had found a porno clip. I spent several hours and had a very educational experience about windows, how video works, and I watched the porno once or twice, then moved on to other things. And when I was done, I don't think I was corrupted or badly influenced as a result. I guess I'm trying to say, be a good parent and raise your kids right, and they'll be able to make their own decisions. They'll be different from yours, but at least they'll know how to decide. You do your part in your kid's education, and it will work out in the end.

  • "Dad, is blocked, help me?"
    "Dad, is blocked.."
    "Dad, why is blocked?"
    "Dad, could you unlock this site for me?"

    repeat x 1000

    My point is, too restrictive becomes a hassle for the parent, because his kids want to go to ,say , (made up) and the censorware often winds up blocking the good sites too often.

    As for the hammer analogy, censorware would be the equivalent of smacking yourself with the clawed end.
  • Actually I don't think that every site uses the phone numbers they ask for. I'm not as paranoid or as irritated by advertisements as most slashdot readers so I give them my phone number. When I was in high school we had our phone number changed (to get phone service, cable, and cable modem in one package deal). This stopped all telemarketers from calling us (but not too many ever called in the first place). I gave internet sites the new number whenever it was asked for. This didn't seem to speed up the process since it still took the telemarketers about six months to start calling the new number (this was in spite of the fact that the old number had a message giving the new number). I would think that this would have taken less time if the various internet sites that had my phone number sold the information.

    "Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto"
    (I am a man: nothing human is alien to me)

  • Your kid comes to you, and says, "Dad, I want to read because I think I might be gay", and you say ...

    Yet another painful reason that censorware invariably hurts more than it helps.

    If you're a parent that genuinely cares about your child, you not only say, "OK, I'll take that filter off", but you also sit down and listen to your kid. Chances are they're scared stiff by the kind of hateful crap they hear everyday in the halls at schools, and they need your love and attention. Of course, chances are excellent that you never installed censorware in the first place.

    If you're a parent that cares more about having your child turn out how you want them to turn out, then you'll tell them point-blank that they aren't gay, never will be gay, and eye them like a hawk for the rest of the time your child lives under your roof. Of course, your kid probably knows better than to tell you the truth, and probably hasn't for some time, with good reason.

    Censorware just makes it easier for parents to try and mold their kids after the metal's already cooled. If your kid is still young enough that the contents of the internet pose a genuine hazard to their development, they shouldn't ever be using it unsupervised, anyway; if your kid is old enough to know right from wrong and make their own decisions regarding who they are, then censorware is just another wall to put between yourself and your child.

    $ man reality

  • simpler analogy: censorware is like a squad of dumb security guards ordered to keep hoodlums out, and let the VIPs into a convention. They repeatedly refuse entrance to about 50% of all VIPs that walk up, but let 90% of all the hoodlums in anyway.

    When you call the security company that you contracted out to, they threaten you with violence for complaining...

  • How about we let kids be? How about we tell kids that there is some weird stuff out there, but go and see what you can find and try to learn something, and if they have any questions, they can ask their damn parents! Nothing on the internet is going to really hurt or damage anyone! I know this is a hard concept for some people to understand, but if children occasionally see sex or violence, they will not instantly be destroyed for life. Just make sure kids know to be safe and not get themselves into any physically dangerous situations from the internet, which is fairly easily done.


    Terradot []

  • Every one of these and many more are blocked as "Extreme," which puts them in the same category as photos of mutilated dead bodies, bizarre hard-core pornography and child pornography.

    And now you explain to me how Marylin Manson doesn't fall under all those categories...

  • NO! NO! NO! we don't want GREP either ...! If we can't come up with a better use of computers than GREP, than who can...

    If you look at some hotel guide, you see all of these silly little icons, like `food', `showers' etc. You can work out what facilities are available from these.

    Now imagine something like a search engine, picking up these ratings icons, and filtering them according to requests. You want no {x}, we'll screen out the {x} or grey them out or whatever your preference is.

    Site rating would be done at the first at peer level. There would be some rights of appeal, to a certian number of authorities. There would be about three or four levels of grievence appeals each costing additional money.

    Sites can decline to participate, and you can decline to use the ratingware on your system. But in both cases, it's like going outside. You don't know what sort of strangers you will meet... Sites should also be able to reject an applied rating (as in opt out), even to the extent of posting a `don't disturb' sign on the door.

    Say I create a site "". It may get rated as some setting, eg "occult" by things that look for sting. On the other hand, the site might be a genuine resource for families that are recovering from excessive occultdom in one of the children.

    If the site were subjected to peer review, the rating might reflect the true help-recover-from nature of that site, rather than a `this is more'.

    You could have three or four or so chanels of censorship, by different groups. You as a user might then select the ratings engine as you select the search engine.

    I mean, if we want anything better than big business, grep or whatever looking after our ratings, we have to do something ourselves on it. Hence this suggestion ... :)

    It sounds pretty optional, but it is a lot better than name-guessing, grepping and whatever. I mean, if you as a page opt out, you can not be seen by those who have ratingware running. It's your call, not someone else's

  • Maybe they could rate sites like they rate movies. Then you could visit sites based on their ratings. A browser could be set to browse only rated sites for example, and stiff fines applied for persons who abuse the rating system (eg turning a site rated as general exhibition into a porn site, for example)

    It's something like they do for the movies.

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:16PM (#573979)
    you sound a lot like our politicians. They feel that this and that are bad for the public (Internet, driving w/o a seat-belt, music) and they also feel the need to push this bullshit on us.

    Just because Marilyn Manson is weird and his music is not for your taste (along w/ICP) does NOT mean that a filter program needs to block it... There needs to be some sort of decency here. A filter pogram is not to be some fool's idea of what is wrong. It is what society in general believes... I think that this guy should be put into the mosh pit at an ICP show and see how much Faago they can squirt on his ass before he is pounded into the floor :)
  • by M@T ( 10268 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:03PM (#573980)
    I hate censorship software and filters with a passion... My pet peeve is that they're becoming more and more common in Australian schools and other public places and, by default, enforce American moral standards on Australian kids. The two societies are similar, but not the same - a point which is lost on our politicians.

    There is also the VERY large issue of the banned lists of sites including sites that:

    a) in no way qualify as a danger to kids but have fallen foul of a keyword search. eg (large Aussie company Dick Smith Electronics - forced to refer to itself as DSE across its entire web site)

    b) are listed as an act of spite by the companies providing the software.

    with no public disclosure of who is on their lists nor any legal recourse for those companies who are there inadvertently.

    HOWEVER, I am torn between my high moral standing on freedom of expression and my ability to decide what I can and can't access, and my desire to protect my kids from some of the very BAD parts of the Internet.

    The fact is that if you take the lowest common denominator for the human race and halve it, you're guaranteed to the result lurking somewhere on the net.

    Lets assume that I'm a conscientious parent with home computer set up in the full view of everyone. There are still times when I'm not going to be able to be there while my kids are surfing, or at a mates place with decidedly less supervision. Even good kids do stupid things.

    Slashdot has, quite rightly, bagged a lot of this software right from the start. What we haven't done yet is come up some alternatives...

    So... what are the solutions???

  • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @11:52PM (#573981)
    Please tell me what the danger is with commercial "censorship" software?

    Product often has inflated and unrealistic claims made about it. (Effectivly the companies concerned lie about using people, when in fact they use search engines.) But as it's sofware it drops through loopholes in consumer protection laws.

    In my mind, this type of thing should be encouraged, to give parents a tool to protect to their kids.

    Maybe it it were to stay in that market. Rather than being pushed into the workplace, libraries and schools. Where different (sometimes radically different) filtering criteria make sense.

    Yes, almost all filtering software currently available is next to useless, but it improves all the time, and may someday actually be a useful tool for parents to guide their children's exposure to 'controversial' material.

    Exactly how are the products improving, they might have bigger black lists. But there are still the same quality problems. Let alone the fundermental issue that "contravesial" is a moving target and highly dependendant on such things as religious, political and ethnic orientations.
  • by Spasemunki ( 63473 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:02PM (#573982) Homepage
    Well, these filters are marketed to parents who are trying to keep kids away from obscene material. Lesse. . . ICP has a song that deals with screwing corpses, and Manson will sing about screwing anything that will raise an eyebrow. Chumbawumba espouse anarchist philosophy, not of itself harmful but maybe not what six year olds are ready for. I have nothing against any of these bans on artistic grounds (I was a big Manson fan for a while in high school, actually), but their material is not quite what young 'uns are ready to be exposed to, from the point of view of a person interested in buying this software to use with young kids. These filters are a product, like any other. They target a market, and they tailor to that market. As such, blocking ICP and Manson are within reason. It's the stuff about blocking random computer and sports sites that are signs that the software is uninteligent, and people who wish to use it should think twice before buying it. Remember, this stuff is a product aimed at conservative and concerned parents, not a system of values that is going to be forced upon you unless someone does something boneheaded like force this garbage to be on all public systems. A filter program is exactly some fools idea of what is right and wrong. It is not a general view of society, and would be worthless if it were, because as I can tell there aren't many general consensuses available in society, except maybe "don't kill stuff that can talk, except maybe parrots". Filters are a product. We shouldn't elevate them to a status that they don't really have.

    "Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"
  • by Seth Finkelstein ( 90154 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:42PM (#573983) Homepage Journal
    Your kid comes to you, and says, "Dad, I want to read because I think I might be gay", and you say ...

    Please also read the discussion about Federal legislation in this area, and legal risks for investigators.

  • by Gefiltefish ( 125066 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:41PM (#573984)
    Here's what I see happening in the future (or maybe my idealized future):

    One of these filtering progs starts scanning around for "obscene" material. It runs into itself, which, by nature contains "obscene" material, as this is what it is built to catch.

    The filter prog filters itself.

    This recursive paradox causes a huge explosion that destroys all filtering software.

  • by the_other_one ( 178565 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:36PM (#573985) Homepage

    Has any band, company, charity ever tried to sue a maker of filtering software for lost business due to an erroneous classification?

    Perhaps a very LARGE class action suit could solve this problem.

  • by KevinMS ( 209602 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @06:47PM (#573986)

    They ask for your phone number whenever you want to run their little search engine? Imagine if altavista asked you for your phone number every time you did a search. I'm really getting sick of seeing the word "phone" on internet forms. You know the only reason they are asking is to either try to sell you something or sell your phone number to somebody else trying to sell you something. Basically asking for your phone number is tantamount to asking for a run to the phone and a few minutes of your time, or wasting your employers money. I'm also sick of headhunters seeing my resume on, seeing it has no phone number but clearly has an email address, looking up my number and calling me. I think we need a movement to divorce all relationship of phone to internet.
  • by Throw Away Account ( 240185 ) on Friday December 08, 2000 @05:52AM (#573987)
    It's the whole point of religion. "Those that believe are saved, everybody else is doomed".

    Er, no, you're wrong. For example, the belief you cite is not a doctrine of the largest single Christian sect on Earth, the Roman Catholic Church (hasn't been since Vatican II). Nor is it a doctrine of Hinduism. Or Buddhism. And those three represent more than half of the religious believers on Earth.

    So next time you feel like generalizing on what "all religion" is like, a grasp of actual religious doctrines would be useful to have first.

    And before you start slamming into me, first note that I am also an atheist. However, I made sure I knew what I was rejecting first. You obviously didn't.
  • by Outlyer ( 1767 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:06PM (#573988) Homepage
    I think it's a little disturbing that Chumbawumba's site was banned, and not because it has anything to do with music, which it likely doesn't. More likely, it's due to the fact that Chumbawumba has extremely leftist views, something a lot of conservatives are obviously not comfortable with.
    While I might not agree with all their politics, this is tantamount to banning Nader's site, or Buchanan's for that matter.
    I honestly don't see any other reason for them to be lumped in with more 'shock' oriented artists like Marilyn Manson and ICP; they share little musically, or lyrically, or even in their videos. The one 'shocking' thing about Chumbawumba is the politics.
    If this is the reason they're blocked, then someone please save me from the Information Retrieval Agency, because I'm a wee bit scared.
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @06:58PM (#573989)
    It's one thing to censor the material you let your children access or your employees. That is understandable. Using a filter to achieve this is sensible (you're not going to do it all manually!).

    The disgusting thing is that these companies inflict their own political and religious agendas on their own customers and nobody is the wiser.

    The problem is that these companies say "Hey, we'll regulate ourselves -- no need for government involvement!" But they are not just regulating themselves, they are regulating the public.

    At least when I go to see a movie, I know that the R rating isn't unfairly applied because the lead actor is a prolific democrat or republic or even a $cientologist. The only way to force these companies to behave ethically in their generation of lists and filters is to take every oppertunity to confront them in the most public means necessary and possibly to undermind, reverse engineer and defeat each package as quickly as they put them on the market.

  • by Shoeboy ( 16224 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @06:36PM (#573990) Homepage
    Their music-critic skills need work too, as they block,, Marilyn Manson, and even Chumbawamba's website.
    No, I think their music critic skills are spot on perfect.
  • by gehrehmee ( 16338 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @09:19PM (#573991) Homepage

    Oddly enough, N2H2's "Bess" censoring system allows users to submit sites for "approval", at which point they're immediatly blacklisted. (Any site that ONE user finds offense must be offensive to EVERYBODY, right?)

    Imagine my suprise when a friend of mine submitted the N2H2 site for approval, and the web site that allows people to purchase the censoring service suddenly become rated "Obscene" for about 24 hours. :p

  • by Mike Schiraldi ( 18296 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @06:34PM (#573992) Homepage Journal
    I'm torn between a deep hatred of censorship and an equally deep hatred of Marilyn Manson.


  • by thewiz ( 24994 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:26PM (#573993)
    I work on a military installation that uses SmartFilter to prevent access to sites on it's blacklist. Imagine my surprise Monday morning when trying to get my daily dose of Slashdot to find out that this site is listed as being unaccessable because it is a "chat" site.
    I'm sure someone will remark that Slashdot could not possibly be considered as a work related site, therefore the military is justified in blocking it. That maybe true, but as a systems administrator there are several sites that I normally frequent to find out what crackers are up to. I cannot access these sites at work (since SmartFilter blocks them) and must do so at home to keep abreast of news on the computer security front.
    "Smart"Filter and all the other packages that pretend to "protect" people from the "evils" of the internet only end up restricting access to many of the sites admins/programmers/techies access to do their jobs. When will the companies that produce these pieces of crap realize that they are selling parents and companies pipe dreams that they can block out the undesirable aspects of the net? It is far more effective for parents to spend time with their kids surfing the net and helping them avoid areas they want to be off limits. Most companies have clear policies about what is considered acceptable usage; employees who violate those rules should be dealt with as the company sees fit.
  • by 31eq ( 29480 ) on Friday December 08, 2000 @01:33AM (#573994) Homepage
    Chumbawumba espouse anarchist philosophy, not of itself harmful but maybe not what six year olds are ready for.

    Oh well, that's alright then. As long as it's only political censorship.

  • by Seth Finkelstein ( 90154 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:28PM (#573995) Homepage Journal
    Type in as:

    If you don't type that EXACTLY (http and www,
    not case-sensitive), you will get a misleading result
  • by phil reed ( 626 ) on Friday December 08, 2000 @03:01AM (#573996) Homepage
    Will parents install it? yes.

    No. Smartfilter is priced in the thousands per year range. It gets installed by institutions and corporations in a proxy, then the entire company is forced through the proxy. I know -- I installed it in a previous job. Of course, if I knew what was in this report, I'd have been more hesitant.


  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @08:50PM (#573997) Homepage Journal

    How long a list would you like? What's bad about this is:

    • Censorware vendors are misrepresenting the capabilities of their products. They claim it does something which it does not. They claim it doesn't unfairly block material when clearly it does.
    • It is installed on firewalls and other up-stream systems such that the end-user doesn't get a say about the level of blocking. This is almost never appropriate, and sure to bite you in the butt in unforseeable and inopportune ways.
    • If you attempt to point out the flaws in their products, the censorware vendors will attempt to sue you for violation of some imaginary intellectual "property" (trade secrets), or for violating the license "agreement". Even if you prevail in court, you're still out thousands of dollars in legal fees defending against what is nothing more than an act of harassment.
    • Censorware blocklists belie a socio-political agenda, almost always closely allied with extremist religious factions. Sites discussing secular humanism, gay/lesbian issues, family planning/birth control, or any of the other extremist's hot-button issues are summarily blocked, and then they deceive you about the reason they're blocked. (Particularly incriminating of their lack of intellectual honesty is how they consistently block sites critical of their own product.)
    • There is no conclusive evidence that uncontrolled access to Internet content -- or, indeed, any kind of content -- is going to irreversibly "damage" anyone. Thus, the fundamental assumption that censorware is needed at all may well be flawed.

    I'm not interested in denying people the right to make a choice about whether to install censorware or not. Individuals can make whatever choice they want about whatever level of brokenness they're willing to live with. But in order to make that choice intelligently, they need to be truthfully informed of what this stuff really does. So far, that's not happening to the degree it needs to.


  • by MrP- ( 45616 ) <> on Thursday December 07, 2000 @06:39PM (#573998)
    Search Results:
    SmartFilterWhere confirms that the URL(s) you have entered are currently listed in the following SmartFilter Control List Categories shown below. NOT LISTED

    Block extream sports sites, but allow Did a troll write this list? :p
  • by Jim Tyre ( 100017 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:00PM (#573999) Homepage
    Jamie writes:

    His discussion of the legal risks of decrypting these blacklists is fascinating too, and (as he likes to say) "a topic in itself." He would like to open up the source to his SmartFilter-decryption tool but feels the legal risk is too high. How sad is that?

    IAAL, and to me, this is the more important part of the piece. He's written a tool which arguably is legal because of the LOC exemption for censorware research to the DMCA anti-circumvention provision, but (understandably) he's reluctant to distribute it, allowing for a more full analysis of SmartFilter's flaws, because there is no similar exemption for distribution of anti-circumvention tools.

    We here on Slashdot have seen tons of stories on the flaws of censorware, but the message is one still not gotten by much of the media or the general public. A truly exhaustive analysis of SmartFilter or other censorware products would help, but LOC's "half a loaf" exemption prevents that from happening without some reasonable fear of legal risk.

  • by deglr6328 ( 150198 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @06:58PM (#574000)
    as to why they block things like sci.archaeology, is it? Remember that almost all censorware out there has a Christian Fundie slant, and it's easy to see that if junior discovers archaeology then dinosaurs, biology and evolution are next, and then from there you'd might as well write him off as another anti-creationism devil worshiping Darwinist!

  • by Tosta Dojen ( 165691 ) on Thursday December 07, 2000 @07:52PM (#574001) Homepage
    Christian Fundie slant? How does your slant explain this?

    news:soc.religion.christian - "Christianity and related topics." blacklisted Cult/Occult - "Examining the Holy Bible." blacklisted Cult/Occult
    news:soc.religion.christian.promisekeepers - "The Christian group Promise Keepers." blacklisted Cult/Occult
    news:soc.religion.christian.youth-work - "Christians working with young people." blacklisted Cult/Occult

    I have a better explanation: All around, in every direction, censorship sucks!