Boing Boing has recently been added to a blacklist of “nudity” related sites run by the US-based company Secure Computing, resulting in its being banned in entire countries – like the UAE, as well as many corporate firewalls. Here’s the editor’s searing response. I think it’s well worth reading. From it:
Today, we’ve learned that Internet Qatar, the sole ISP in the State of Qatar, has also banned BoingBoing.
We’ve heard from librarians in Africa who want to watch the video of the American Register of Copyrights denouncing Congress, employees at the Australian Broadcasting Company, students, and workers around the world who can’t gain access to our work.
At fault is a US-based censorware company called Secure Computing, which makes a web-rating product called SmartFilter. But SmartFilter isn’t very smart. Secure Computing classifies any site with any nudity — even Michaelangelo’s David appearing on a single page out of thousands — as a “nudity” site, which means that customers who block “nudity” can’t get through.
Last week, Secure Computing updated their software to classify Boing Boing as a “nudity” site. Last month, we had two posts with nudity in them, out of 692 — that’s 0.29 percent of our posts, but SmartFilter blocks 100 percent of them. This month, there were four posts with nudity (including the Abu Ghraib photos), out of 618 — 0.32 percent.
In fact, out of the 25,000+ Boing Boing posts classed as “nudity” by SmartFilter, more that 99.5 percent have no nudity at all. They’re stories about Hurricane Katrina, kidnapped journalists in Iraq, book reviews, ukelele casemods, phonecam video of Bigfoot sightings (come to think of it, he doesn’t wear clothes either), or pictures of astonishing Lego constructions.
….The question of keeping your child from viewing content you don’t want them to see can be addressed more efficiently locally, with tech tools like the browser Bumpercar. As BoingBoing founder (and father of two) Mark Frauenfelder explains, “My daughter and I found a bunch of great kid-friendly sites and have added them to the ‘white list.’ As a parent, I have local control of the sites she visits instead of handing over control to a remote group of people that I don’t trust to do my job of being a parent.”
The fact is, there’s no effective way to censor the Internet in broad strokes. Only dumb CIOs and totalitarian governments like the UAE believe that adding censorware to your network will prevent the naughty stuff from slopping in.
Update: I love this approach to the SmartFilter problem: BB is asking bloggers to post this image (at left) on their site as a protest, in the hopes that soon enough, SmartFilter will be all filtered out.