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Sites Blocked By Smartfilter, Censored in Saudi Arabia

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the there-go-my-saudi-visa-opportunities dept.

Censorship 112

Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "Internet users in Saudi Arabia, along with most users in the United Arab Emirates, are blocked by their respective government censors from accessing the websites of the Trinity Davison Lutheran Church, Deliverance Tabernacle Ministries in Pittsburgh, the Amitayu Buddhist Society of Taiwan, and GayFaith.org. An attempt to access any of those websites yields an error page like this one. However, the sites are not blocked because they conflict with the religions beliefs of those countries' governments. Rather, they are blocked because Smartfilter -- the American-made blocking program sold by McAfee, and used for state-mandated Internet censorship in those countries -- classifies those sites as "pornography". You can see the screen shots here, here, here and here." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

I found these blocked sites by starting with a combination of URL lists and ad hoc spidering, and running as many sites as possible through the Saudi filters to catch the ones that were blocked. Some of the sites were blocked for reasons that were easy to guess -- for example, http://www.bighornbasinsfw.org/, the home page of the Big Horn Basin, Wyoming chapter of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, was almost certainly blocked because of the slang term "nsfw" in their URL. http://www.AgainstPornography.org and http://www.SearchingForMySpermDonorFather.org were presumably blocked because of the presence of the words "porn" and "sperm".

On the other hand, there appears to be no rational reason why the Filipino American Women's Network, the Tuscon Jazz Institute, or the Sacramento Police Activities League would have been blocked by Smartfilter, even by accident. A partial list of the blocked sites that I found is in the blog post I wrote for Citizen Lab, an Internet censorship research center at the University of Toronto.

Articles about sites that are erroneously blocked by Internet censorship software, have a storied history. The first widely read piece was the article "Keys to the Kingdom" written by Brock Meeks and Declan McCullagh in 1996, calling out Cyber Patrol for blocking EnviroLink.org and the University of Newcastle Computer Science Department, and CYBERsitter for blocking the National Organization for Women. I made a minor name for myself and the Peacefire.org site in the late 1990's by writing more pages about sites blocked by other products, including some (like X-Stop and SurfWatch) which no longer exist, and others that are still around, including Smartfilter. I was also one of six people comprising the Censorware Project, a loosely organized group of volunteers that published a few more reports.

By the early 2000's, however, it became clear that anyone whose mind was likely to be changed by information about what kinds of sites were blocked by blocking software, would have changed their mind already (or would, if they came across the research that had already been done up to that point). So the further reports on Internet blocking software errors, by me and other people, slowed to a trickle. I wrote a report in January 2002 on the latest list of sites blocked by Cyber Patrol, a product that most people today have forgotten. In 2006 I worked with the ACLU of Washington to publish a report on sites erroneously blocked by FortiGuard, a program used on computers in some libraries in central Washington, as part of the ACLU's suit to challenge the constitutionality of the program's use on public library terminals. (The Washington State Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit on the grounds that, regardless of what sites were blocked on the computers, it didn't matter because an adult library patron could request for the filter to be turned off.) In 2007 I wrote an article for Slashdot titled "From Bess to Worse" listing some sites that were blocked by an Internet filtering program called Bess (which was later bought out by Smartfilter and discontinued).

Most people's awareness of this debate, if they had heard about it at all, was limited to the perception that "breast cancer sites" and sites about "chicken breast recipes" were sometimes filtered by Internet blocking programs. Or they heard that "Beaver College" actually had to change its name to avoid being censored by web filters. As I tried to explain in a FAQ (written, according to the Wayback Machine, in 1999, but which still broadly holds true today), these examples are true, but they miss the point. These examples make it sound as if blocking software companies are doing the best job they can under the circumstances, and that the errors are unavoidable due to limitations on machine intelligence. In reality, any software algorithm that blocks the American Board of Vocational Experts, the Hopewell United Methodist Church, and the Patriot Guard Riders of Mississippi, as "pornography" (as Smartfilter currently does), is probably not the best algorithm the company could have come up with -- but there's no incentive for them to try harder, because few people will ever look that deep.

And yet, people continue to remember the "breast cancer site" examples. This sounds to me like an example of the narrative fallacy -- people remember that breast cancer sites were blocked, because there's a tidy explanation. There is no tidy explanation for most other examples of blocked sites, so the meme never spreads very far. Conveniently for the blocking companies, the blocked-site errors which make the company look most sloppy (the Kennels at Simpson Creek Farms, the St. Francis Institute of Milwaukee, etc.) are precisely the ones that, due to the narrative fallacy, most people won't remember or hear about.

One company, CYBERsitter, did manage to make a few blocking decisions in the 1990s that were egregious enough that their antics did make the news, and did finally raise some people's awareness that the controversy over private Internet filtering extended beyond "breast cancer sites". After TIME Magazine's website published an article (no longer online) that criticized CYBERsitter's blocking policies, CYBERsitter responded by blocking TIME Magazine's pathfinder.com domain. A few months earlier, CYBERsitter had blacklisted the monthly e-Zine "The Ethical Spectacle, after the Spectacle's founder, Jonathan Wallace, published an article criticizing CYBERsitter for blocking my own Peacefire.org website. And Peacefire.org had been blocked, in turn, because of a page I wrote (now very much out of date) listing some of the sites that CYBERsitter blocked, including the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Mother Jones. (Nowadays, of course, nobody would be surprised that filtering companies block Peacefire.org, since the site publishes ample instructions on how to get around Internet blockers. But at the time, the site's first and only article was the list of sites blocked by CYBERsitter, which is why CYBERsitter received so much criticism for blocking the domain in retaliation.) CYBERsitter also threatened to have Meeks and McCullagh criminally prosecuted for writing "Keys to the Kingdom" and threatened to sue me over the page that I had made.)

The moral, it seems, is that if you want an example of a censored web site to stick in people's minds, it either has to be a forgivable error, or an insane vindictive dick move -- because in either of those cases, people will understand why it happened. The vast swaths of censored websites on the spectrum in between, the ones for which there is no rational explanation for the blocking, go ignored.

These days, though, American and Canadian "censorware" makers have also come under fire for selling censoring software to foreign governments which use them for country-wide censorship. Most of the criticism focuses, naturally, not on the kinds of sites that are accidentally blocked by the blocking software, but on the immorality of these companies enabling statewide foreign censorship in the first place. Netsweeper, Blue Coat, and McAfee have all made the claim that "Once we sell their product to them, we have no control over what they do with it" -- which, as I wrote previously in Slashdot, is nonsense, because for the product to be effective, it has to rely on updates to the blocked-site list, which are provided at regular intervals by the manufacturer. Cut off the updates, and the product will not work, at least not as well.

So the fact that McAfee has classified the Boy Scout Troop 87 of North Andover, the Pan-Iranist Party of Iran, and Reptile Conservation International as "Pornography" is (rightly) overshadowed by the fact that McAfee is selling to government censors in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the first place. However, as long as the filters are installed, these blocked sites are at least part of the problem for users in those countries, just as much as they are for students or cubicle workers in the U.S. whose network administrators happen to use Smartfilter. And, of course, I sampled only a miniscule fraction of the Web to find these examples of blocked sites, so the true number of stupid blocks affecting Saudi and UAE users is likely to be much larger. For each individual example, you might reasonably ask, "Is it really a big deal if Saudis are blocked from accessing Boy Scout Troop 87 of North Andover?" But it adds up.

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Great..... (3, Insightful)

8127972 (73495) | about 10 months ago | (#46026061)

.... We now have a new reason for John McAfee to post a YouTube video with scantily clad women.

Re:Great..... (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46026111)

Besides him being stoned off his ass and unable to make sane decisions?

Re:Great..... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#46026205)

Besides him being stoned off his ass and unable to make sane decisions?

What does that have to do with anything?

If some rich guy wants to go on the interwebs and say stupid things while flanked by scantily clad women, that's his right. You don't need to listen.

I'm far more worried about people making sure I can't see things because they find it offensive.

Because, I'm not concerned with what they are offended by, and I'm offended that they think it's their right to prevent me from seeing it.

Re:Great..... (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46026219)

Because it could be seen as tantamount to a confession to previous crimes, possibly justifying extradition?

Re:Great..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026271)

Except WE DO NOT HAVE EXTRADITION with the country he's accused of crimes in, he claims innocence, and his decisions since have been pretty GOOD.

Re:Great..... (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46026467)

A treaty only guarantees extradition under specific conditions. Countries can still voluntarily extradite on serious charges(like, say, murder).

Re:Great..... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | about 10 months ago | (#46029575)

Or running a copyright infringing site. Apparently.

Re:Great..... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#46026297)

Because it could be seen as tantamount to a confession to previous crimes, possibly justifying extradition?

Doesn't it depend entirely on what he actually says???

If he dances around naked with a baby Jesus butt-plug and Elton John sunglasses shouting "Censorship is bad" and wearing a beer-bong hat and peeing on a kitten -- in what way can that be "tantamount to a confession to previous crimes"???

You seem to suggest that anything he did on the interwebs would fall into that category.

Re:Great..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46028049)

Because i kan reed believes in guilt by character assassination. If he and the religious right does not like a person, they can be brought up on any charges they like. Actually, I bet i kan reed would fit in right at home in Saudi Arabia.

Re:Great..... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | about 10 months ago | (#46027287)

I'm far more worried about people making sure I can't see things because they find it offensive.

Because, I'm not concerned with what they are offended by, and I'm offended that they think it's their right to prevent me from seeing it.

Agreed - we should have a layer of censoring which protects us from their intolerance :P

Re:Great..... (2)

CokeJunky (51666) | about 10 months ago | (#46026997)

I have to wonder... is there a chance that John McAfee did all of that far out stuff just to make his name look bad, so that Intel would stop using it? He sold the right to use the name a long time ago, but was still getting hate mail about the crappy software. Since he would have had no legal case to stop Intel from using the name, perhaps, just perhaps he was doing all this stuff in the last year to get the result announced at CES. Intel is going to re-brand the software this year. Could it be that he is actually an evil genius who planned it this way? My personal suspicion was that the stuff in Belize was just as messed up as it seemed, but the ranting and raving on the internet and generally crafting such a bad-boy persona may have been brought up a couple notches to help get his name off the software. I can't imagine a guy like that wouldn't have at least considered making use of the media to push that personal agenda. Not withstanding the scantily clad women, I would love to use his uninstall procedure one of these days. Too bad it's my work computer that is stuck with the software.

Re:Great..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46029007)

because Americans knows the rest of the world thinks Americans are really right tits. They are so afraid of seeing a right tit. you get thinks like this happening.

Be-headings fine , naked people and you scream wont someone thing of the children.

Bloody merkins

Re:Great..... (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 10 months ago | (#46029523)

What I really want to know is if McAfee blocks its own website because of their association with John McAfee. It would make total sense to me..

Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#46026077)

They're always going to have way too many incorrect matches to be effective, and miss way too many things as well.

A bunch of years ago the filter at my company (Blue Goat, Goat Mountain, Blue Mountain, something like that) flagged a frigging Yoga site as pornography/inappropriate.

My impression of these is the people who maintain these are incompetent, clueless, and occasionally injecting some of their own biases into it.

In other words, they're terrible, useless, and ineffective ... pretty much like we've been saying for years.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46026197)

You're assuming that anyone cares about the false positives. No company gives a shit when their developers can't get at information on a library they're using because it's on "forums." They'd much rather have people who can't do their jobs as well than face the risk of anyone "slacking off" on company time.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 10 months ago | (#46026805)

I've actually had reference sites blocked by a filter because they were classified as 'hacking' sites.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46027219)

Not at our company. After some of the sales force got caught looking at porn on the job, the VP of sales was livid. She fired those involved and demanded web filters be installed.

Well one time we were doing support, and had to hit Dell's site, looking for drivers. The page said "Drivers for Dell Dimension D-XXX," where XXX could be any 3 digit number. Well the filter saw the "xxx" and assumed it was a porn site, and we were blocked. The filters went down that day.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46027731)

Congratulations in living in a world of sanity.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (2)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#46027841)

Back in 2000 (when anyone still used AOL) a lot of us were appalled that with the child filter on AOL would allow access to the Republican party site, the NRA, the big booze manufacturers, the American Nazi Party, all the US military web sites, and a bunch of other far-right web sites, but blocked access to the Democratic party site, Al Gore's web site, MADD, NOAA(?), and pretty much every left-leaning news site. A lot of us cared about the false positives then, and access through the child filter went up and down depending on the volume of complaints until the election was over.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 10 months ago | (#46028077)

Back in 2000 (when anyone still used AOL) a lot of us were appalled that with the child filter on AOL would allow access to the Republican party site, the NRA, the big booze manufacturers, the American Nazi Party, all the US military web sites, and a bunch of other far-right web sites, but blocked access to the Democratic party site, Al Gore's web site, MADD, NOAA(?), and pretty much every left-leaning news site. A lot of us cared about the false positives then, and access through the child filter went up and down depending on the volume of complaints until the election was over.

NOAA -- Blocked due to climate change propaganda.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46028707)

I'm not sure you understand what "propaganda" means.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

operagost (62405) | about 10 months ago | (#46029183)

We should have blocked MADD decades ago. They're so off base now that their founder is their harshest critic. They're a temperance union.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

Amtrak (2430376) | about 10 months ago | (#46028237)

That hasn't been my experience. At my company they used to block all video and forums. Then my department (programming) needed some videos from M$ to run and access to some "forums" for documentation on a few libs. The director just gave the IT security department a call and ten minutes later the whole programming department had access to the sites we wanted. Sounds to be like you worked for a shitty company that can't control it's own filters. :)

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026213)

flagged a frigging Yoga site as pornography

You're supposed to be ranting about the irrational blocks, not the accurate ones.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 10 months ago | (#46027103)

If they ever ban yoga pants there will be an outright revolution

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... Canon = Weapon (1)

rjune (123157) | about 10 months ago | (#46026497)

Yup, an internet filter once blocked me when I was trying to find a manual for a Canon check scanner. The banned category was "weapons!" Smart filters aren't.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (1)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about 10 months ago | (#46026555)

A bunch of years ago the filter at my company (Blue Goat, Goat Mountain, Blue Mountain, something like that) flagged a frigging Yoga site as pornography/inappropriate.

I have two domains of my personal name, each with a place holder "Under Contruction" home page. My company blocks one as "Pornography/Inapropriate" and the other one as "Gambling". I've owned each for more than a decade and they've always been blank.

So I think they make up these ratings.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (2)

retchdog (1319261) | about 10 months ago | (#46027321)

They're using some kind of shitty statistical classifier, probably programmed by people who don't know what they're doing. Porn sites were probably the majority of sites which used your placeholder at some point, etc.

The thing with blockers like this is that there isn't really a whole lot of market pressure to make them good. The peons being blocked generally don't have a say, and the management doesn't really give a shit about over-blocking them either. Also, as a distant second, it's not a sexy enough field to draw the good talent; in fact, it's a repugnant field.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46028421)

Blue Coat.

Re:Internet filters are a joke ... (2)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 10 months ago | (#46027013)

You have obviously not heard of Lululemon.

This sort of software ought to be abolished (2)

mi (197448) | about 10 months ago | (#46026079)

Better allow an occasional exposure of children to pornography — which, obviously, happens anyway — than arm oppressors world-wide with means to block people in this manner.

No, I don't think, making such programs should be banned. But we, Americans, ought to stop buying it for our homes and libraries...

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1, Redundant)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46026149)

I think you're reaching. It's not like this kind of software is hard to make. A simple relational database storing classifications, a bit of code to do DNS lookups to make sure people don't just enter IP addresses, and a means of entering the data, and an IP filter packet inspection at any juncture on the way to servers. You could knock out a simple version in a week or two.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (0)

jaseuk (217780) | about 10 months ago | (#46026187)

And then spend the next 10 years accurately classifying the rest of the internet.

Jason.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46026243)

Yes, but, if you run a country you can do that pretty easily. Just make [local government owned ISP] forward you every DNS request, have some low-paid overzealous "moral assesor" check it out if it hasn't been yet, and ban away.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (0)

JLennox (942693) | about 10 months ago | (#46026411)

1 person to categorize each domain's content? The parent post was indicating the ludicracy of exactly this.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 10 months ago | (#46026459)

I... never said 1? Come on, you're (hypothetically) run Saudi fucking Arabia, they censor every book that comes through their borders too. They have many people on hand who fit this job title pretty well.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#46026705)

As sibling post said...

KSA has this little army of sorts known loosely as the "morality police" (forgot their real name, too lazy to hunt it down). They have lackeys on nearly every street corner or so of nearly every village. These chumps spend their time busily looking for someone who forgets to stop and show respect during the 5x-daily prayers, lets a curse-word slip, wears a Chador with the hemline a bit too high, looks a little too long at a girl, etc.

I'm pretty sure the king could spare a couple thousand of these soi-disant 'guardians' to maintain a simple blocklist...

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

plover (150551) | about 10 months ago | (#46026277)

And then spend the next 10 years inaccurately classifying the rest of the internet.

FTFY.

Harry Tuttle, why hast thou forsaken us? (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 10 months ago | (#46026967)

inaccurately classifying The Internet

sheeeeeeit I could do that job in half the time and for half as much.

We've got this smart boy, Sam Lowry, down in information retrieval that could do it tout suite -- if he could bother to stop watching American westerns on department time.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 10 months ago | (#46026163)

No, I don't think, making such programs should be banned. But we, Americans, ought to stop buying it for our homes and libraries...

The problem is that people who have a strong desire to censor the internet have no idea how it works, and aren't willing to acknowledge that just because they don't want to see it the rest of us are willing to be censored.

You don't want to see smut, or have your children seem smut -- fine, that's your choice and up to you to enforce it and pay for it.

But making it so the rest of us can't see smut to ensure your child doesn't see smut or your religious sensibilities aren't offended ... not my fucking problem.

Your choice to not see things doesn't trump my right to see what I find acceptable -- and, no, just because there are things I want to be able to see that you find offensive that I have any desire to see child pornography.

And, hell, these days kids seem to more or less make their own child pornography and text it to one another.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#46026741)

The problem is that people who have a strong desire to censor the internet have no idea how it works, and aren't willing to acknowledge that just because they don't want to see it the rest of us are willing to be censored.

...and for once, I find myself grateful for incompetence. Here's hoping it remains that way until we can remove such intent from the world.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

microbox (704317) | about 10 months ago | (#46027117)

...and for once, I find myself grateful for incompetence. Here's hoping it remains that way until we can remove such intent from the world.

The desire to censor and to control the sexuality of others', is innate. Augustus Caesar was such a prude. We cannot wipe the intent from the world, but we can marginalize the wingnuts with a philosophy of do no harm.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 10 months ago | (#46026773)

Your choice to not see things doesn't trump my right to see what I find acceptable.

It does if I'm the government and Allah has given the Most Holy and Sacred Duty of ensuring the Purity and Righteousness of the people.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 10 months ago | (#46029377)

Your choice to not see things doesn't trump my right to see what I find acceptable.

It does if I'm the government and Allah has given the Most Holy and Sacred Duty of ensuring the Purity and Righteousness of the people.

Or if I own the computers and network you are using to look.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 10 months ago | (#46029611)

the US govt owns the internet. the only way to use it is to assume it's a military installation and you have guest access. Are you saying that the US GOVT should decide what's acceptable? how would this apply to other countries? It's irrelevant to me because I don't acknowledge any entity that claims ownership over me.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#46027707)

The impulse appears to be this: People who's stated values conflict with their what they actually wanted to do attempt control their universe so that they will never come in contact with the chance to do whatever it is they say is bad.

For example, a standard right-wing argument against any kind of sexual permissiveness is that it will lead to either pedophilia or beastiality (or both). As Bill Maher argued recently, what they're really saying is that the only reason they don't bang kids or animals is that there's laws preventing it, which simply makes these guys sick bastards.

Of course, they couch in terms of "I'm moral, so should everybody else." But they really mean "I'm having a harder time staying moral than everybody else."

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026185)

And Britons should think twice before letting the Government mandate it for every single person in the country.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#46027801)

We did. The government ignored us. What are we going to do about it? None of the major parties have came out in open opposition to the filter, they just support it to varying degrees, and Cameron is using the sneaky political trick of using threats of a law to force 'voluntary' filtering so there isn't even going to be a real debate in parliament.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

Uberbah (647458) | about 10 months ago | (#46028723)

And Britons should think twice before letting the Government mandate it for every single person in the country.

You mean it's not just those Craazy Mooslims that want to censor the internet? Oh well, guess that would have interfered with the storyline...

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (2)

MacTO (1161105) | about 10 months ago | (#46026749)

I sympathize with your comment about libraries, though the libraries that I have seen only use filtering software on workstations for children.

I disagree with your comment about homes. If you desire freedom, that includes the right of people to filter their own internet connection. That is even true if it is a parent who wishes to filter content that their children may see. (Parents bear a great deal of responsibility when it comes to raising children and will face many of the consequences when things go wrong. They should have the right to implement policies that reflect that, rather than constantly being neutered by people who have no understanding of the weight of child rearing.) If an individual disagrees that a site has been blocked, they certainly have the right to disable the block or filter.

Filtering on a national scale is a different issue altogether. My perspective on the issue is that it is much more complex than many on Slashdot seem to claim. While I have a desire for a completely free web and believe that the government should stay out of enforcing morality as much as possible, the internet also makes it incredibly easy to conduct illegal activities and hide behind international borders. I'm not talking about run-of-the-mill pornography here since there are much more serious crimes.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | about 10 months ago | (#46026969)

I disagree. Because why should YOU have the only choice? Why should YOU decide for parents what their children can and cant view?Or maybe the parent dont want to view say... pornography sites. Isn't forcing ones view on another Censorship? Because thats why YOU are suggesting. False positives can be fixed so you have no argument there as well.

Re:This sort of software ought to be abolished (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#46027749)

"Better allow an occasional exposure of children to pornography"

It's not safe to say that these days. People have lost their jobs for saying things like that.

Sigh... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 10 months ago | (#46026095)

Isn't it wonderful that Western companies get to profit from the abuses of liberties in other countries. Well, as long as shareholders make money, heck why not allow companies to harvest human flesh in third world countries. After all, money is the only thing that matters.

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026403)

Amen to this.

Welcome to the world anno 2014.

Re:Sigh... (2)

cardpuncher (713057) | about 10 months ago | (#46026755)

Quite. I have just received from Linked In a message that: "McAfee, Verizon and AT&T are looking for candidates like you". I now loathe myself for apparently exhibiting qualities they appreciate...

Re:Sigh... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#46027743)

This is hardly a new phenomenon: The prominent US corporations (such as IBM and Coca-Cola) who traded with the Germans in the late 1930's and early 1940's should give you an idea of where corporate America's loyalties truly lie.

Lazy programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026117)

Adding a new row to the database for "anti-islamic" felt like a pain on sunday morning, just told his managers to select "porn".

Re:Lazy programmer (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 10 months ago | (#46026983)

Here's a couple definitions that might be enlightening how this sort of thing can happen:

Pornographic:
"obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit."

Obscene:
"1. offensive to morality or decency; indecent; depraved: obscene language."

I suppose I could see some government official in some Islamic country incorrectly defining a website promoting Western religion as 'pornographic', based on the above.

users blocked by slashdot say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026145)

goose gander chicken egg tree apples rotten deception epidemic

uh, they are porn (0, Flamebait)

larry bagina (561269) | about 10 months ago | (#46026191)

Have you read the bible? Lots of fucking, gang-bangs, rape, etc. It makes 50 shades of grey seem tame. And, hey, it convinced my girlfriend to give anal sex a try. (she likes it more than I do, for the record).

Re:uh, they are porn (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#46026815)

Hint: Islam (which is what the folks in KSA practice) doesn't read The Bible as you may know it.

They do have supplementary books to the Q'uran, such as the Tawrat (a radically copy of the Hebrew Torah), and the Injil (a highly abbreviated and bastardized version of the New Testament Gospels) - but they're not required reading, and are usually only used by Islamic scholars or the more liberal Muslims.

So no, don't expect to see, say, Song of Solomon in their scriptures.

Re:uh, they are porn (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 10 months ago | (#46026851)

Have you read the bible? Lots of fucking, gang-bangs, rape, etc. It makes 50 shades of grey seem tame. And, hey, it convinced my girlfriend to give anal sex a try. (she likes it more than I do, for the record).

Which? The Bible or 50 shades?

(And, if the Bible, chapter & verse?)

Re:uh, they are porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46027653)

Have you read the bible? Lots of fucking, gang-bangs, rape, etc. It makes 50 shades of grey seem tame. And, hey, it convinced my girlfriend to give anal sex a try. (she likes it more than I do, for the record).

Which? The Bible or 50 shades?

(And, if the Bible, chapter & verse?)

Read the end of the Book of Judges. Specifically, Judges chapters 19 through 21. The story of the Levite and his concubine is one of the most graphic you will ever find anywhere. You will never hear this story discussed in sunday school. It is far too graphic to be made into a movie. Some say the Bible is a book of fairytales only suitable for children; I disagree.

Re:uh, they are porn (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 10 months ago | (#46027071)

Chapter and verse - quick, I am in a hurry.

Re:uh, they are porn (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#46027823)

Ezekiel 23. Verse 20 gets the most attention, but read the whole thing to get the whole sex-and-violence story. Caution: Involves sexual mutilation.

Re:uh, they are porn (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 10 months ago | (#46027973)

Thanks, but not working. Back door still inaccessible.

Re:uh, they are porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46028387)

And, hey, it convinced my girlfriend to give anal sex a try.

Why in the hell would any man want to put his dick inside an asshole?? I could understand with gays, they don't have a lot of choices where to stick it. Little dick, maybe?

Disgusting. Are you in the closet, perhaps?

Obligatory (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 10 months ago | (#46026307)

Slashdot groupthink requires any posting about censorship in a police state to be followed by an obligatory "YEAH BUT THE USA IS 100 TIMES WORST!"

This post must be made by a geek in his mum's basement, whose only travel out of the USA was a trip to Winnipeg to meet a girl he met on ICQ.

Re:Obligatory (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026371)

To further accelerate the adoption of geothermal energy, the United States Department of Energy is sponsoring a Geothermal Case Study Challenge (CSC) to aggregate geothermal data that can help us more accurately pinpoint the thermal resource. Managed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the CSC currently seeks professors interested in structuring their geothermal energy coursework and assessments around this data initiative. We invite you and your students to take part in the 2014 Challenge!

Over the course of the spring 2014 semester, student groups at participating universities will produce a series of well-researched case studies detailing the exploration, development, and geologic history of selected U.S. geothermal resource areas. Case studies produced by each student group will be added by the students to the existing collection of data currently available on NREL’s Open Energy Information (OpenEI) platform, and will ultimately contribute to the development of a set of exploration best practices for evaluating future geothermal prospects and delineating between resources with similar conceptual models. Data will also be submitted into the National Geothermal Data System for worldwide access to geothermal-rich technical data by academia and industry developers.

The top five student groups that produce the highest quality case studies will be awarded paid travel for one student representative to present the team’s work in a poster session at the 2014 GRC Annual Meeting in Portland Oregon, September 28 – October 1, 2014.

Please visit the Geothermal Case Study Challenge homepage for more information about taking part in the challenge this spring. University/professor sign-ups will close on 2/7/2014, so please register your class as soon as possible. Additional questions about the challenge may be directed to Kate Young at katherine.young@nrel.gov.

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026813)

Wow...

You're a whiny bitch. :-)

Especially shrill when being a whiny bitch who is complaining about other whiny bitches.

Even John thinks its shit. (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 10 months ago | (#46026333)

McAffee products such as antivirus and especially smartfilter, is and pretty much always has been useless.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/john-... [ibtimes.co.uk]

All the evidence seems to suggest that Smartfilter's classification ratings are controlled by someone with a determined but very fucked-up agenda.

Re:Even John thinks its shit. (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 10 months ago | (#46027159)

McAffee products such as antivirus and especially smartfilter, is and pretty much always has been useless.

Worse than useless - default installs of McAffee products on box-store computer has long been held to be malware by many in the IT community, present company included.

"If you believe this site should not be blocked.." (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about 10 months ago | (#46026427)

So do SA residents actually use that link? What actually happens?

Nothing? Good things? Bad things? Very bad things?

.

really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026441)

I would have liked to seen the screenshots, but my organization has blocked 'peacefire.org' under the category "filter avoidance."

keyword women (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 10 months ago | (#46026565)

National Organization for Women and Filipino American Women's Network probably got blocked for having the word Women. Because we all know there are no women in Saudi Arabia (outside the house).

UAE and Saudi slavery (1)

nobuddy (952985) | about 10 months ago | (#46027257)

many middle eastern countries import a lot of workers form the Philippines and India. They take their passports once they arrive, pop them in a housing facility and bus them to work and back. They never make enough to get ahead of the debt they incurred for this wonderful opportunity, and cannot leave without their passport- which they will not get back until their debt is paid.

communication to places like Amnesty International or women's help groups is prevented to help keep the slaves from revolting.

http://globalpublicsquare.blog... [cnn.com]

Good old religous nutjobs.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026593)

I loved the "Deliverance" site. they say

"Please tell us a little about yourself by completing the form below. "

And then ask for name, address, and all three telephone numbers. ALL three.

What idiots.

A mistake, even if there's irony (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 10 months ago | (#46026715)

While I personally find most organized religion in this the 21st Century to be an obscenity, I'm sure it's just a dumb mistake that those sites are listed as 'pornography'.

On the other hand I could use this opportunity to show an example of how internet censorship could easily be abused:
  • 'Mistakenly' list web site as obscene
  • Someone hacks said website, inserts pornographic content in a non-so-well-hidden place
  • Oh look! Upon reviewing the site, it is pornograhic! How awful!
  • Censoring of said website is set in concrete

..yeah, I know, sounds kind of thin, but in the dystopian Internet of the not-so-far-distant future that we're potentially heading towards, political abuses of the system would yield such nonsense as this. Of course that's assuming that the death of Net Neutrality is allowed to stand, reverting it back to a series of walled gardens with pay-walls separating them, or that ISPs don't all start charging us by the byte for basic connectivity ala-cellphone data plans, essentially pricing Internet service out of the reach of the masses again (which would be, in my opinion, an extinction-level event for the Internet), or that the United Nations doesn't somehow seize ultimate power over the Internet in general, imposing rediculous rules on every nation regardless of their culture or laws, or any number of other rediculous fates for the Internet, that is.

Re:A mistake, even if there's irony (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 10 months ago | (#46027115)

You don't even need the hacking step. Say you've got a site that threatens to grow in popularity and upset the status quo. In this scenario, you are the one in power of the nation's web filter and thus have incentive to keep the status quo in place. You block the site for being "obscene" or some other generic term. A portion of the population will complain, of course, but most will just ignore it as it doesn't directly impact them at that moment. Then you just wait for the movement to splinter into new sites, block those, and repeat until the movement loses steam. Mission accomplished! You've suppressed a growing movement using nothing but your handy dandy national web filter.

Why do you think it is McAfee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026781)

I am pretty sure it is blocked by software made by ETI, now purchased by BEA systems.

Yeah... (Sqore:200,000) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026825)

But they're listed as minimal risk, as p0rn should be...

It's not just mcafee. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46026865)

Barracuda webfilter is also blocking these URL for pornographie. They must have ended up on a blacklist somewhere, along with $Creator nows how many other legetimate website. Welcome to the wonderful world of web filter. It's all automated and once your blacklisted you stay there for ever... (or untill someone point it out to you).

I would guess that most web filter will block them as well.

I already know the thoughts (1)

thewolfkin (2790519) | about 10 months ago | (#46027001)

Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts

um.. I already know. Filters are a terrible terrible idea for adults that get worse the larger the scale you try to apply them to. A porn filter for kids is one thing. Something like this happens as a responsible parent you whitelist it and move on. But for a COUNTRY? There's no way it was ever going to work. The entire history of web filters is told in story after story of false positives.

"insane vindictive" examples... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46027081)

The moral, it seems, is that if you want an example of a censored web site to stick in people's minds, it either has to be a forgivable error, or an insane vindictive dick move -- because in either of those cases, people will understand why it happened.

The implication that we don't have any such instances to point to is a false one.

Australia was caught blocking websites with dissenting views on abortion. As far as I know, these blocks are still in place.

Captcha: solvable.

Re: "insane vindictive" examples... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46031493)

umm, Australia doesnt block websites, certain Australian ISP's block websites but the country as a whole, no

Tor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46027207)

No problem really. The Onion Router works well enough.

Re:Tor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46027961)

Only if you are looking for child porn. If you aren't a disgusting subhuman, then Tor is not recommended.

Not just McAfee software... (1)

phoebus1553 (522577) | about 10 months ago | (#46027245)

We have checkpoint monitoring/filtering software here at work, and a lot of those sites are being blocked as 'Sex' as well. Not every one of them but enough of them. Even the screenshot site is blocked, possibly because it has the name of the original site in the link URL.

Very interesting, is there a common database being referenced here?

Re:Not just McAfee software... (1)

danlip (737336) | about 10 months ago | (#46027825)

I just checked the first 7 examples and none are blocked at work for me - and they do block a lot of stuff.

On the other hand, a lot of times I search for the text of an error message and some of the most hopeful looking links are blocked as "gaming".

Not pornography (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46027255)

''classifies those sites as "pornography".

No Porn but it's obscene because those sites are about mindfucking.

I wonder how many actually "clicked here" (1)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 10 months ago | (#46027335)

If you believe the requested page should not be blocked please click here

... click ...
 
Who is it?
The Saudi Secret Police.

I wonder how many actually "clicked here" (1)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 10 months ago | (#46027365)

If you believe the requested page should not be blocked please click here

... click ... ... knock kock ...

Who is it?
The Saudi Secret Police.

Saudi Arabia- evil beyond belief, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46028033)

Saudi Arabia, alongside its ally and twin, Israel, is the most inherently evil nation of the Earth.

-Did you know Saudi Arabia had an ACTIVE trade in rape slaves right up until slavery was abolished in 1962.

-Did you know that America's main Saudi ally, Bandar 'Bush', a monster currently overseeing the endless waves of terror attacks in Syria, had a RAPE SLAVE for a mother. And let me be clear. When I say RAPE SLAVE, I mean an under aged female child kidnapped, sold and enslaved by her Saudi master for one reason, and one reason only- so she could be raped whenever her master felt the urge.

-Did you know that Saudi Arabia replaced its universal policy of using RAPE SLAVES with a new, identical policy of importing women from the third world, and denying them all their Human Rights, under a framework created for Saudi Arabia by the US government. The US government, since 1962, has protected Saudi Arabia against all criticism in the UN, and has promised that no Human Rights activity in Saudi Arabia will ever be supported by the USA.

-Did you know that Saudi Arabia provides JUDGES for Sharia courts that condemn women (and gays) to the most inhumane forms of judicial torture in ALL the west friendly Middle East dictatorships. Libya, Syria and Iran REFUSE to permit depraved Saudi justice in their nations, which is why the USA says these nations must be destroyed.

-Did you know that third world women workers in Saudi Arabia have their passports confiscated on arrival (a policy fully supported by the USA), and cannot leave the nation until they have received comprehensive examinations of their sexual organs. If medical staff working in Saudi (and these people are frequently American or European, breaking their Hippocratic oaths) suspect the women have been having sex, or are pregnant, they report the fact to the Saudi religious police, and the women are subject to the most vicious flogging imaginable, and then imprisoned.

-Did you know that every woman in Saudi Arabia has to have a named male who is her lord and master in EVERY legal sense. Her legally named master can beat her, deny her education, and prevent her from leaving the family home.

-Did you know that mainstream media outlets in the USA constantly use the example of Saudi Women whose family do NOT abuse her as 'proof' that women have rights in Saudi Arabia. This is the IDENTICAL tactic used during the time of slavery in the USA, when media outlets constantly used the rare example of well-treated slaves to suggest that slavery was 'good' for black Humans.

Every power the filthy depraved monsters who 'rule' Saudi Arabia have was given to them by the Americans. The British, formally responsible for the area, were very unhappy at the evil abusive nature of tribal Arab rulers, but took a pragmatic approach. When the USA took over control of Saudi, it made it clear to Arab rulers that it fully supported their slaving and other Human abusing attitudes, and would use the power of the US press to produce constant pro-Saudi propaganda.

Only yesterday, the US press was crowing about how Saudi Arabia had forced the UN to remove Iran from the meeting about the future of Syria. Syria is a secular State, where women have the same rights as men, and all religions are respected. Obama has promised Bandar Bush that Syria will fall to extremist Islamic rule before he leaves office. Obama has PROMISED that women and gays will be feeling the lash imposed by Saudi judges operating in courts across Syria, when the people's government of Syria finally falls.

Tech companies get a bad rap for this crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46028039)

Why is it than when a tech companies products are used in nefariousness, seedy, controlling manners the tech company gets lambasted as the doer of all evil! This is completely unfair and in fact plain stupid to single out IT related business in this way. When does a company in a different industry get stained because it's products are misused: a gun manufacturer getting a soiled reputation because it's products were used in a murder, an auto manufacturer having it's name dragged in the dirt because somebody drove drunk in one of their cars, a rope producer buried because it's twine was used in a kidnapping, a television manufacturer getting the blame because somebody watched Mission Impossible II.

Proxies don't filter traffic, people do.

I can read this now. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#46028353)

I tried to read it at work earlier, but our filter blocked the article.

You can mod that funny if you want, but it's true.

Is it bad that... (0)

D'Arque Bishop (84624) | about 10 months ago | (#46028567)

... I got as far as "Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton", remembered the absolutely inane and laughably incorrect drivel he wrote regarding the protections of the Fifth Amendment, and clicked "Close Tab"?

(Yes, I know, I'm back posting. I only came back to post that and ask that we be warned next time there's a Haselton post so we know it should be skipped.)

Re:Is it bad that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46029005)

I don't give a damn if he keeps posting, just so long as he does it IN HIS JOURNAL and then LINKS TO IT, just like EVERYONE ELSE. Fucking moron doesn't get the thing because samzenpus is too busy sucking him off.

Where are the lawsuits (1)

aggles (775392) | about 10 months ago | (#46028853)

It surprises me that nobody has successfully sued the filter companies for blocking legitimate traffic to their site. Proving financial damage shouldn't be that hard, and there is clearly negligence is how some filters are constructed.

Sexual repression (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46031417)

Sexually repressive cultures breed a lack of understanding of sexual matters, eventually resulting in a people that don't know what sex and porn look like, and don't want to, so can't see the absurdity in a Lutheran church being labelled porn. Discipline is not repression, it is control in the face of influence , not the elimination of perceived sources of influence.

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