July 03, 2003

Libraries and opening censorware blacklists

The New York Times has an article Libraries Planning a Meeting on Filters, which briefly touches on issues about "open-source" censorware:

he group will also demand that the companies reveal their database of blocked sites to libraries so they can determine which programs best suit the libraries' needs, or they may work with third parties to develop new filtering software.

"If we can't get what we want from the filtering companies, I say let's make our own," [Ms]. Krug said.

A representative of one of the leading filtering companies said the industry was ready to cooperate with the librarians. David Burt, a spokesman for N2H2, said his company's product made disabling the software easy. But he said there might be more disagreement about releasing the list of blocked sites, which would be valuable to the company's competitors.

Besides, he 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."

1) I've said this before, but censorware companies aren't going to open their blacklists to anyone. And even if they did, you don't have the time to pour through it all. I've looked through censorware blacklists, and it's an incredibly boring task.

2) And I noted in my DMCA testimony (http://sethf.com/anticensorware/hearing_dc.php):

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.)

I want to go into this because I get this -- no, let me go into this. People are always asking me this question: "Oh, boy, have you gotten any good porn sites?" And I tell them, "It's really, if you want to get some good sites, don't look in this censored blacklist."

In fact, I can demonstrate that -- (laughter) -- because when the CyberPatrol blacklist went out, nobody ever said that it was such a great collection. The reason why - this is important -- I know this is funny, but the reason why that they're such bad lists is because there's so much junk in them.

If you wanted a list of sex sites, would you want to go through somebody else's tastes, sites which didn't work, sites which had changed ownership, or so forth? No, you would want a good collection from somebody who had actually made a collection which would appeal to you, and there are people who sell them. There are people who make them for free. They have absolutely no impact on the research that I am doing.

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.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on July 03, 2003 02:12 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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