banned blogs

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Last night, after working out, I went out for a beer with my friends Weez and Cathy. We were standing in the front hallway of The Distillery, waiting for a table on the patio, when I noticed the "free Internet" kiosk. To kill time, I tried pulling up my blog to see if there were new comments.

Instead of my blog, however, I got a dialog box that said "Access to this site has been restricted at the request of this organization." Hmmm. Tried my main page--no problem. But the blog had been banned.

By whom? Wrong question. Not a person, but the filtering software that the bar was using. I'm guessing it was the "Shut the F*** Up" reference from Tuesday's post that triggered the filter, but there's really no way to be sure, since filtering companies won't tell you what their algorithm for restriction is based upon.

This is particularly worthy of note given Monday's Supreme Court decision to uphold the CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act). The CIPA "forbids public libraries to receive federal assistance for Internet access unless they install software to block obscene or pornographic images and to prevent minors from accessing material harmful to them."

One of the reasons that libraries were among the most vocal critics of the CIPA is that filtering software is notorious for its "false positives"--web sites with valid constitutionally protected speech that it mistakenly bans.

A real person evaluating my blog for suitability in a library setting would probably not choose to ban it based on the context in which the suspect word was used. But filtering software isn't that smart, and as a result, someone in a public library looking for information on my grant research, or the ala programs I attended, is out of luck. (My husband, reading over my shoulder, says "And rightfully so!" ;)

I think I'll take a little trip to the public library next week and see how many of the blogs on my blogroll are also blocked by filtering software. Scary stuff, isn't it?

2 TrackBacks

A real person evaluating my blog for suitability in a library setting would probably not choose to ban it based on the context in which the suspect word was used. But filtering software isn’t that smart, and as a result,... Read More

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4 Comments

I went into a public library in Manchester, England a few weeks ago and tried to pull up the homepage for the (then empty!) brand-new homepage for my blog only to find that it was blocked. Other blogs in the wordherders collective would come up, but not mine. Weird. You've hit the nail on the head, Liz, with the secretive, proprietary nature of commercial filtering software. I say, if the government mandates filtering, the government should provide the filters, and the those filters should be open to inspection.

You weren't reading my page when I found I was banned by some sources apparently because I'd discussed some poems by Anne Sexton and Allen Ginsberg.

I was noticeably upset, but fellow bloggers didn't seem unduly bothered by it.

As an ex-lit teacher, I 'm very sensitive to this kind of creeping censorship of ideas.

Just imagine the poor people living in regions of the UK, cut off permanently when these stupid filters become omnipresent.

They live in the counties of Middlesex, Sussex,
Essex. Some even in a northern town named Scunthorpe. And what about all those people whose house number is (say) 69 ?

And whole companies could be removed from the internet! The nationalised electricity generation company in Italy is called Powergen. But a filter would probably object to their web address(URL), which is www.powergenitalia.com

Ah well, let's just keep a stiff upper (er) lip :)

Stu Savory

I reported on a similar incident with my blog back in December.
http://www.esztersblog.com/archives/00000141.html

Also, consider that any resume with latin honors is likely to get filtered. (I won't spell it out in order not to add to the list of words that will keep this blog banned at places.) And there are counties in the US as well that would get filtered, I live next to Middlesex county in New Jersey (I spelled this out b/c someone else has done so above already anyway).

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This page contains a single entry published on June 26, 2003 9:13 PM.

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