October 15, 2006

Welcome, SurfControl.com reader! Please introduce yourself.

I see I have acquired an interested reader from the censorware company SurfControl.com. Welcome! Please introduce yourself. As I asked the "Smith & Metalitz LLP" reader - who are you? Where do I rank in terms of "threat level"? Do I rate a Vice President reader? Marketing researcher? Intern?. Frankly, I don't think I'm much of threat at all these days, so maybe you're just a random company person who has stumbled upon my obscure thread of the web. Inquiring minds want to know.

I've always wondered what people assigned to do long-term surveillance of their ideological opposites think about it all. As in, if you get stuck wiretapping a mob conspiracy, it's going to be a pretty dull job. You're never going to wonder if the mob guys have a point after all, or admire something they've done except in grotesque way. But if its, e.g. the FBI and John Lennon, did any of the agents ever have a positive thought about the music, or even, maybe the war wasn't such a good idea after all?

So far, no assigned "opposition researcher" of me has ever been both willing to discuss it with me, and also thoughtful about the topic. So the mystery remains.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on October 15, 2006 01:33 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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Aught I have read your blog through an anonymizing proxy? There may be several SurfControl employees slogging through your defeatist, self-depricating prose to devour your ideas in our relentless drive to assimilate and conquer--I readily admit I am one. I think I've left comments or questions a couple times in the past month or so.

I found your blog from peacefire, which led to the censorware project (where I read the strange soap opera about that dickhead from slashdot), thence to you. After reading your awesome testimony in the DMCA exception hearing, I was hooked.

I'm a fairly recent hire, a techie, and speak only for myself.

All kidding aside, I think you're brilliant and a bit zany, which makes for a good addition to my blogroll. Nothing more sinister than that.

Posted by: Travis Finucane at October 16, 2006 02:11 AM

Thanks for de-cloaking. As to whether to use an anonymizer, at an intellectual level, I certainly know that part of my audience comes from censorware companies. As I say, ironically, they're some of my most dedicated readers (there's an apocryphal story of a supposed revolutionary group that consisted of agents from different government offices all being undercover operatives, and spying on each other).

Hmmm ... "brilliant and a bit zany" .. I can live with that :-)

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 16, 2006 10:26 AM

Hi Seth

I'm the producer of If 2 K -the Internet filter. I think I discovered you exactly the same way Travis did. The “soap opera” with Michael Simms lead me down the same road to you.

I would not consider myself as an “opposition researcher” and I never considered you a threat. I saw you as someone interested and thinking about the same subject I was although from a dramatically different position.

Our first filter was distributed in 1995 so we've been around for a while. I kept my eye on
Declan McCullochs “fight censorship”, Peacefire, and you as well as various others who do not come to mind because they did not endure. We leased our “filter engine” to a
well known California company that was attacked severely by most “filter critics” and
so they should have been. So I am intimately aware of the nature, frequency and “feel” of those attacks.

By paying attention to these groups it became apparent that hat was required in a filter
was transparent lists, analytical phrase filtering as a replacement for keyword, and a user ability to add or delete url blocks as well as a bypass switch. This we did by 2000.

That pretty much takes care of the known problems with filter conception. The filter critics such as yourself were helpful in realizing the cultural implications of filtering.

I paid attention. I was not spying.

Speaking only for myself and my company you don't have an opposition problem with me. You have a problem with the users of filtering and how they configure them. Or perhaps a problem by choosing to position yourself as “in opposition” or a “threatening” stance.

It seems to me the concept of “Spy vrs Spy” is “out to lunch”.

I have inputed in your blog and I have said to you “it is not how many people read you it is who reads you”. Similarly it is not how many filters you sell it is who you sell them to and what they do with them.

You have contributed to the concept of a better filter. Yet, I suspect that will not be any
comfort to you. I have been thoughtful about the subject and I would be pleased
to discuss any “mystery” on this subject.

On a personal note ...yea “brilliant and zany works for me”

I can be contacted at


Bob Turner

Posted by: Bob Turner at October 16, 2006 02:54 PM

Hi Bob, I've certainly not considered your reading me a mystery. But I do wonder about some others.

During my DMCA exemption work, the censorware company N2H2 was definitely doing "opposition research" on me.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 17, 2006 09:12 AM

ok....I get this.


Posted by: Bob Turner at October 20, 2006 02:41 AM