The pattern is the same: they are shocked, even outraged. They defend themselves, saying they can't imagine why anyone would think such a thing. One person misunderstands, thinks I'm accusing him of secretly selling pornography: he sends me an angry rebuttal and complains about me on a mailing list for webmasters.
None of them has done anything wrong. All of them have been blacklisted as pornographers. I'm just the first one to tell them so.
To be precise, Cyber Patrol says all of their websites are both FullNude and SexActs. These are the ultimate don't-go-there categories -- if a library or school or parent or business blocks nothing else, they will block these two. One is for pictures, the other for pictures and text:
- Pictures exposing any or all portions of the human genitalia.
- Pictures or text exposing anyone or anything involved in explicit sexual acts and or lewd and lascivious behavior, including masturbation, copulation, pedophilia, intimacy involving nude or partially nude people in heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian or homosexual encounters. Also includes phone sex ads, dating services, adult personal ads, CD-ROM's and videos.
Regarding the sites below: collectively, we spent hours looking for any sexually explicit material they might have, asking search engines to scan the sites, and checking the sites themselves by hand. None of these listed contained much if any material that would qualify in either the FullNude or the SexActs categories.
Each block found seems stranger than the last:
|Creature's Comfort Pet Care Service. Ken and
Nancy Holley used to work at their local Animal Welfare League, in
Virginia. Now they have a service for walking dogs on weekdays, and
providing in-home care for pets while their humans are away. They seem
proud of their website, and they should be: their
page is touching, their
"Creature of the Week"
is a charming idea, and the site overall was one of only fifty in
the world to be a finalist in Microsoft's "Activate the Internet"
When he learned that their site had been classified as FullNude SexActs, Kenneth was not pleased:
|Air Penny (BeInMyPoster.com): Nike's site glamorizing Penny Hardaway and the shoes named after him. Cyber Patrol calls this poster FullNude SexActs.|
MIT Project on Mathematics and Computation. FullNude SexActs.
AAA Wholesale Nutrition. Bodybuilding products and protein bars. FullNude SexActs.
The Sunset Strip neighborhood of GeoCities. An area where people can set up free websites relating to music, and over ninety thousand people have done just that. Ninety thousand individual websites, hundreds of thousands of webpages, are about "rock, grunge, punk, techno, and the alternative scene" -- but are blocked as FullNude SexActs.
|The National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry. Not very explicit, unless you consider draft recommendations on the use of cardiac markers in coronary artery disease to be explicit material. Nevertheless: FullNude SexActs.|
Wetherington Glass and Mirror. Before their site is even completely online, it's blocked as FullNude SexActs.
Tourist Guide: an electronic magazine. FullNude SexActs.
travelxn dot com: information on travel. FullNude SexActs.
Domain Services Network: register a domain name. FullNude SexActs.
|WorldPlay was formerly known as The ImagiNation Network. The site offers "online games, chat, and sponsored events within community-based entertainment environments that anyone and everyone can enjoy." Anyone, that is, who isn't using Cyber Patrol: FullNude SexActs.|
The author of three gothic vampire novels points out that they have the "occassional cuss word": but the writing that describes the sexual affairs of the undead is less graphic than the books found lining the supermarket checkout lane. And there is no nudity on the site. FullNude SexActs.
The software developer who maintains LezliSoft explains, not in her native tongue, that there is:
no nudity or porn on my website. But my banner (and my url) inserted to the sex sites by my banner exchange and link-exchange service. But no pictures. Othervise I have dating service, but no nudity, this is romantic :-)). I'm a shareware developer.
Remember, SexActs includes dating services. And apparently FullNude can be applied if a site's banner ads ever show up on a sex site (or vice versa?). Link exchangers, beware.
Department of Computer Science, Queen Mary & Westfield College. FullNude SexActs.
Cafe Haven, at Brigham Young University. FullNude SexActs.
A server at the Chiba Institute of Technology, in Japan. FullNude SexActs.
|The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratories. FullNude SexActs.|
An alternate server at the University of Arizona. FullNude SexActs.
We, the People of Ada: a political committee in Ada, Michigan, set up "to bring about a change for more honest, fiscally responsible and knowledgable township government..." FullNude SexActs.
Yoyo is "a student run server at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia" with 5,000 student accounts and over 6,000 web pages. Every page is blocked as FullNude SexActs.
Many of the people I contacted were beyond upset: they were furious. Some of the comments I received could not be reproduced on this webpage without earning a fair block in the Violence/Profanity category.
More than one surprised me by talking about suing Microsystems Software. For the record, Microsystems' list criteria page clearly states:
we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of our screens and we assume no responsibility for errors or omissions.
We normally think of censorware products being used to protect children, so at first I dismissed the extreme reactions from people who ran online businesses that were blocked. After all, children don't buy things online very often, says conventional wisdom. How much business could they possibly have lost?
Then I remembered that this product is not installed only in schools and libraries --
it is sold to businesses as an ideal tool to control employees' use of the net;
If an employee is searching for shareware to buy for his or her company, and Lezlisoft is blocked by an employer or by a service provider, a sale may be lost. Over eleven million people connecting to the net through service providers using co-branded Cyber Patrol software, if they select that option, will be blocked. Eleven million. Perhaps the idea that stores doing business online have lost revenue from an improper block is not so silly after all.
Update: two days later, as we predicted, most of these sites were unblocked. Some, surprisingly, were not. Our aftermath analysis goes into detail. 12/25/97
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