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Human Rights Groups Sites Blocked by Web Censors

by Bennett Haselton Monday, Dec. 25, 2000 at 4:08 AM

Environmental and Amnesty sites blocked by 'child protective' software commonly used in schools and homes. A study detailing the sites blocked and the software that targets them.

Amnesty Intercepted:

Global human rights groups blocked by Web censoring software

Bennett Haselton

December 2000

Prompted by numerous student reports of being unable to access Amnesty International and other human-rights-related Web sites from school computers, Peacefire tested several popular blocking programs used in schools, to see which of these sites were blocked. We configured the programs to block only the kinds of Web sites that would be blocked in a typical school setting (pornography, drugs, violence, etc.), so that purely political sites should have been accessible. But we found several Amnesty-related sites blocked by the software we tested, including several documents on Amnesty.org itself blocked by CYBERsitter, chapters of Amnesty International Israel blocked by Cyber Patrol and SurfWatch, and several human rights groups blocked by Bess.

Notes on testing: Our method of collecting "test sites" was unscientific (running Web searches to find human-rights-related Web sites). Of the sites that we found to be blocked, not all of these were relevant enough to be listed here. Also, this is obviously not an exhaustive list of all political sites blocked by these products. For a more scientific study of percentage error rates for blocking software, see Peacefire's Study of average error rates for censorware programs, published 10/23/2000.

We have included screen shots of the sites being blocked by the different programs; in the description of each site, the words "blocked by [productname]" are linked to a screen shot of the "blocked site" message. Sites listed as blocked by Cyber Patrol as "sexually explicit" are blocked in one of the three Cyber Patrol categories "Full Nudity", "Partial Nudity" or "Sexual Acts/Text". (SurfWatch has a single category for "sexually explicit" sites.)

Although Cyber Patrol and SurfWatch are now both owned by SurfControl Corporation and blocked many of the same sites, the lists of sites blocked by the two programs are not identical. (SurfWatch is no longer being sold, but existing SurfWatch customers can still pay for weekly updates to the SurfWatch blocked-site list.)

Blocked sites



http://www.amnesty.org.il/

Amnesty International Israel

The English portion of the site includes information on the Junior Urgent Action Network, for Israeli youth aged 13 to 18, to educate Israeli teenagers on issues related to human rights. The Amnesty International Israel page is currently blocked by Cyber Patrol.

http://www.lawstudents.org/amnesty/

Amnesty International at New York University

The student-run chapter of AI at the NYU school of law. (SurfWatch currently blocks all of http://www.lawstudents.org/ as "sexually explicit"; LawStudents.org the home page of the Law Students Network, which is an online legal studies information center created by an NYU law student.)

http://www.clc-ctc.ca/

Canadian Labour Congress

A coalition of Canadian labor unions promoting health care and job safety within Canada and abroad, the CLC worked with Amnesty International in creating the International Tribunal on Workers

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