Friday, December 21, 2007

Blocking Services as Censorship: Who Decides What's Naughty or Nice?

Traditional news media aren't the only ones who may be filtering what people see and read.

1389 AD, a blog with a very well-defined viewpoint about Islam and the War on Terror, has an issue with Websense and that filtering service's - mistakes?

Quoting from a message the blogger sent to Websense: "I request that (Foehammer’s Anvil) be reclassified as a news site. It is currently misclassified as a "games" site.

"There are NO games on Foehammer’s Anvil. Instead, it is a a hard news and commentary site with no fluff."

... "In addition, I request that you also reclassify (Gates of Vienna) as a news and commentary site."

It seems that Websense, a filtering service used by schools and companies to keep students and workers from using the "wrong" websites, uses categories like "news" and "games" to define websites.

Sometimes Websense makes a mistake. That's understandable.

What disturbs me is that Websense apparently is more likely to block a website "by mistake," if that website is what 1389 AD calls "anti-jihadist."

That smacks of censorship, the sort of politically correct "tolerance" that's plagued American culture, particularly academia and the media, for decades.

This latest allegation of deliberate blocking of unwanted opinion and information is, I think, another example of why the best blocking software is what we all carry between our ears.

When I started browsing the Web, I considered using one of these blocking services. Briefly. I decided against it because
  • Those relying on keywords were notoriously ineffective: letting porn through, while blocking innocuous fan sites about Patrick Stewart
  • Category-based services, where human beings make lists, deciding whether websites are naughty or nice, combine the disadvantages of human error and bias
I have no intention of using a blocking service that might block a website because it contained the phrase, "the bell went ding-d***, ding-d***." I also don't want to deal with a service that might be blocking sites because they had incorrect opinions or intolerant facts about the abuse of ADHD anti-American aardvarks, or whatever the crisis of the month was.

It will be a hot Minnesota winter before I let someone else decide what I, or my family, sees.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.


Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

And for the same reason I would not consider a blocking service. There are mistakes and there are mistakes; some of whcih amount to forms of censorship...I would rather be the one deciding at the time of posting....

Merry Xmas!!!

Brigid said...

And if it's in the interests of any kids in the family, then the parents should just have access rules. Or sit with the kid.

Electronic parenting. Yeesh.

Brian H. Gill said...

American Interests,

Thanks! I think many people still trust their own judgment.


Merry Christmas!

Brian H. Gill said...


...which is how this family works, as you know.

That, and having the web-connected computers in open, general-access areas. That 'electronic parenting' thing might make more sense in households where there isn't a parent around most of the time.

I still wouldn't trust someone else's judgment, though. That could be the norseman in me coming out.

Merry Christmas!

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.