weblog.infoworld.com considered harmful
A reader wrote to point out that weblog.infoworld.com is categorized by SurfControl as "Usenet News" and is, therefore, being blocked for people in organizations that deploy SurfControl's server-based filter.

Curious, I downloaded a copy of their software to check it out. Before I got a chance to look at it, I got a sales call from the SurfControl folks. Whom I proceeded to grill on their procedures. Is all "Usenet News" blocked by default? Yes. Can users override the block? Yes, either per-category or per-site. Does each such override require a transaction with the local SurfControl administrator? Yes. Will a subsequent recategorization by SurfControl take precedence over a locally-administered override? No. Does the operator of a categorized site receive any notification of the status assigned to it? No, it's up to you to check for yourself.

And then, of course, the burning question: how did my site get assigned to an objectionable category that's blocked unless users request an override?

SurfControl: We have a worldwide team of expert researchers who evaluate sites 24x7.

Jon: Hmm. Well it seems there's been an error. Can you please correct it?

SC: Give me the URL and I'll review your site.

JU: Look, just type "j-o-n" into Google and follow the first link.

(OK, that was bit was harsh, but geez, give me a break...)

I guess there's a good chance this will be fixed in a few days. Not that it matters much to readers of this blog, since few of you -- I suspect -- work in SurfControlled organizations. Still, the experience has opened a window onto a world I'm glad I don't live in.

Update: Jenny points out that maybe I do, or soon will, live in that world:

Imagine for a moment that you don't have internet access at home, school is closed for the day, or you're just at the public library doing your homework. In the near future, Congress may finally get its wish to force libraries to install filtering software like SurfControl on all of their internet terminals. They claim it's to protect the kids, but in reality it censors adults and kids alike. States are trying to do this, too, rather than leaving it up to you and your local community. [The Shifted Librarian]

I also note that although Scripting News may often be blocked, SurfControl has www.scripting.com in the presumably non-objectionable Computing & Internet category.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/06/13.html#a721