July 12, 2005

Secure Computing ("SmartFilter") Iranian Censorship Defense Is Censorware Doesn't Work?

A further note on Secure Computing ("SmartFilter") and Iranian Censorship: Does it strike anyone as interesting that one of their PR defenses to a violation of US laws, is in effect to claim that their censorware product does not work? That is, what is the business of a censorware company? Keeping third parties from reaching content that an authority has determined is prohibited (remember, exact authority relationship is a social value, not a technical matter). We have an authority - the US government - which has various laws against dealing with third-parties - such as the government of Iran. Now, a censorware product is not a one-time acquisition, but requires repeated downloading of the blacklist database. Let's look at the exact PR statement:

1) We block update requests from IP addresses that we know originate in Iran.

Now - "we know"? Is it the case, that, say, using an open proxy for access is enough to defeat the censorware company's ability to comply with US law? (or is it a matter of "Don't ask, don't tell", with respect to what they know ...). Can we make a negative inference about their actual ability to enforce content control over sexual material in general, given that they evidently plead they can't effectively comply with a specific legal obligation for a particular file of their own?

I wish someone had the ability to hold their feet to the fire on this matter of compliance with US law (I sure don't). Perhaps through some Qui Tam-like private right of action (I suspect Qui Tam isn't the exact method, I cite it here just for the idea). Again, it's not a crime to be a censorware company. But violating US export regulations or trade embargoes can be a serious legal matter.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on July 12, 2005 11:44 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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