Open Censorware ("Filtering") issues

by Seth Finkelstein

Problem - Censorware doesn't work

Secret blacklists, possible hidden agendas, commercial companies, etc. See

Proposed Solutions - "Open-Source" Censorware and Blacklists

Censorware is simple. Open-source censorware already exists!

Most well-known:


GnU Internet Lust Terminator

Already tried in Australia, rejected by Australian government:

"Announcing the GnU Internet Lust Terminator, an open-source censorware proxy that only filters ABA-supplied banned URLs.

The software is being developed by Zem for 2600 Australia and will be eventually submitted to the IIA for inclusion as an approved filter"

Another idea, due to emphasis on blocking images which are ads, is Privoxy: ( ]

Notable Social Problems

Robert Mapplethorpe - Blacklisted or not?

NAMBLA,"North American Man-Boy Love Association" - Whitelisted or not?

PORN lists

From a New York Times article Libraries Planning a Meeting on Filters:

Besides, [David Burt, a spokesman for N2H2] noted, "we would be making available the world's largest and best collection of porn sites, and that's not the business we want to be in."

See rebuttal in DMCA testimony ( about reading censorware blacklists:

MR. FINKELSTEIN: ... I would also like to say that, for all this talk of the pornography sites, since they were blacklists, they are really bad collections of pornography sites. (Laughter.) ...

It is something of a red herring. I know it's a, quote/unquote, "sexy" topic to say that they have these huge lists of pornography sites, but nobody has ever tried, except in a sort of snickering fashion, to use these lists as actual lists of pornography sites because they don't work well that way.

Child Pornography sites

Many people believe there is a kind of legal paradox for censorware companies to compile blacklists of child pornography sites. The argument runs that to compile a list, they must have viewed the child pornography sites, so they have confessed to a crime (and if they didn't view the sites, then they admit they are making a claim with no evidence)

I'm not a lawyer, but my legal research is below. It turns out that there is no legal paradox. Note the following section of the US code:

d) Affirmative Defense. -

It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of violating subsection (a)(5) that the defendant -

(1) possessed less than three images of child pornography; and

(2) promptly and in good faith, and without retaining or allowing any person, other than a law enforcement agency, to access any image or copy thereof -

(A) took reasonable steps to destroy each such image; or

(B) reported the matter to a law enforcement agency and afforded that agency access to each such image

In effect, this allows for law enforcement to approve any censorware blacklist creators. If they like the blacklister, they'll say they are convinced that the affirmative defense above applies, and no violation of the law is in process. If they want to go after any Open Censorware effort, they can say they have suspicions about the participants, who are then welcome to plead the affirmative defense in court. Good luck facing charges as a possessor of child pornography.

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