November 15, 2002

Updated Censorware Report - BESS's Secret LOOPHOLE

From: Seth Finkelstein
To: Seth Finkelstein's InfoThought list
Subject: IT: Updated Censorware Report - BESS's Secret LOOPHOLE
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 06:21:18 -0500

It's been in the news recently that the Supreme Court has decided to review the decision where the Federal censorware law "CIPA" was struck down for libraries. See the information at

So I've revised and updated an anticensorware report of mine: BESS's Secret LOOPHOLE: (censorware vs. privacy and anonymity):

This report described a then-secret category, which could never be unbanned, in the censorware program BESS (BESS is made and marketed by the company N2H2). A LOOPHOLE turned out to be anything which let a reader view material prohibited by censorware - such as anonymizer/privacy sites, language translation sites, even sites which helped people check the design of their web pages. All of these sites were banned, at all times, even though they had no pornography or sometimes any content objectionable at all. They were forbidden themselves simply because the services the sites provided could be used to read forbidden material.

In this update, I've added new examples, such as a site which gives the general service of allowing people to edit any image file (since that service can be used to retrieve image files, it's banned).

The report has also been revised with more discussion of the legal implications of this banning, including mentions of my report in expert-witness testimony in the CIPA case, and discussion in the lower-court decision which struck down the law.

Almost all news reports describe censorware in terms of filtering out pornography. But that is not accurate, as it focuses only on presumably objectionable material. Censorware is about controlling what people are allowed to read. That's a profoundly different problem. And so far the courts have grasped the implications, that such control requires vast banning to even attempt to be effective. I hope the courts will continue to maintain that banning anonymity, privacy, language translation, and so on, in order to make sure no-one can read prohibited material, is thoroughly against the Constitution.

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By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on November 15, 2002 06:36 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups

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