Filter software limits
One of the interesting debates that keeps
popping up on technology fronts is the question of public places like schools
and libraries "filtering" software,
which supposedly stops children from accessing
indecent material on the Internet.
This week, something interesting popped
up on Slashdot (www.slashdot.org), a list of sites that fell victim to
the filters even though there wasn't anything improper there. While the
main list is long (395 Web pages total), a few highlights might be in order.
There were about 20 AIDS/ homosexual advocacy
sites on the list. Also fairly common were medical pages, and, of course,
political advocacy sites like
Wisconsin Right to Life and Planned Parenthood.
In the interest of humor, I thought the
bizarre might be more appropriate. The Aberdeen Independent (www.aberdeen-indy.co.uk)
was blocked on the
grounds that it was pornographic. As this
newspaper has won the honor of being Scotland's best independent newspaper
four years running, it's
interesting to see it blocked. The only
mention of pornography I could find was the headline "Pornography takes
over financial site for children."
ActionFit (www.actionfit.com), makers of
custom-made leotards and swimsuits, were blocked for adult content. Something
about photos of people
wearing swimsuits, apparently, as if our
kids don't see that every time summer rolls around.
A site on mathematical formulae (www.silcom.com/~barnow1/HTransf.htm)
was blocked for being sex-oriented. I'm not sure how a homogeneous
matrix can be sexual, but apparently they
have figured it out.
Southern Alberta Fly Fishing Outfitters
(www.albertaflyfish.com) gets caught, too. Something's fishy about this.
Andalusian Horses (www.andalusianhorses.com),
a horse breeding stable, is blocked as well. Can't have our young ones
seeing unclothed horses,
The Electronic Activist (gemini.berkshire.net/~ifas/activist),
containing a list of contact information for national and state representatives,
was blocked for
sex, nudity and mature content. I'm not
sure how contacting our representatives hits any of those, except demonstrating
maturity. The site is also
affiliated with the Institute for First
Amendment Studies (www.ifas.org), and it seems the filtering companies
may have a bone to pick here.
Poster Service (www.posterservice.com),
a shop where you can pick up posters cheap, got blocked. It's either the
collection of bikini babe posters or
the Homer Simpson "got beer" poster that
caused that, but there's still nothing indecent there.
For the weird and wacky, don't expect to
see urban legends (www.snopes2.com) if you're using filter software. While
it does have a section on urban
legends dealing with sex, I couldn't find
anything truly explicit on hand.
And if you want something truly weird,
Cyberpatrol blocks the site www.vvm.com/~jevans/flichens.html for, of all
things, sexually explicit content. I
imagine someone must have issues with
an explanation of plant reproduction.
Just to put it in perspective, the analysis
observed a total of 6777 URLs, of which 395 appear wrongly blocked. Even
so, the content blocked was very
suspicious, and makes it seem as if the
filtering software has goals above and beyond protecting from indecent
content, since it seemed very
Ahlf, a senior electrical engineering
major, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.