SurfControl, owner of Cyber Patrol, told us by email today that it has removed The Register from its CyberNot list of banned sites.
In future Cyber Patrol will block only the story containing a reference to Peacefire.org, a controversial anti-filtering organisation. Which is what it should have done in the first place... although, as Peacefire is on the Cyber Patrol blocked list, anyone reading our story on a SurfControl-enabled computer will be unable to access this site, anyway.
And, since we've just mentioned Peacefire, this story may be blocked too.
Kiddie filters for grown-ups
Our removal from Cyber Patrol's CyberNot list could take a few days to percolate through the various Cyber Patrol OEMs, which embed the filtering technology within their own network management and filtering software. These products include the WebNot facility in Axent's Raptor firewall, WebBlocker from WatchGuard, Novell's BorderManager. It is the use of Cyber Patrol filtering technology, designed to protect children, in corporate products, which prevented many adults from reading The Register at their workplace this week.
Incidentally, some people think we were being unfair to Novell which, unwittingly, banned The Register from customers using the Web filter facility of Border Manager. Our answer is this: Novell, and the other Cyber Patrol OEMs, which would also have been added to our entirely arbitrary , and now rescinded, banned list of companies not to cover, are responsible for their products.
The Cyber Patrol technology used by OEMs is user-defined - in other words sysadmins can already remove blocks to The Register, as SurfControl points out. But this is disingenuous, we think. How easy is it for employees of large companies to get their IT departments to do anything?
Besides, just about any company that is anally-retentive enough to use content filters will ban sex sites, a category under which, incredibly, The Register was listed - libellously, in our opinion. And why should Reg readers have to actively seek permission from their IT departments to have us unbanned?
Right of Reply
SurfControl was unhappy with the first story we published about Cyber Patrol's decision to block The Register.
"We should be grateful if The Register would adopt a policy of allowing companies, such as ourselves, the opportunity to respond in full before going to press," a company representative wrote to us.
Astonishing. Cyber Patrol blocked The Register without informing us, or giving us a chance to respond in full, or at all.
The reason why we were supposedly banned, the Cyber Patrol flack told us, was that "The Register published an article written by Peacefire, containing information on how to access inappropriate sites specifically blocked by Cyber Patrol. Given irresponsible nature of the article, apparently encouraging users to over-ride Cyber Patrol's filtering mechanism, we took the decision to block The Register - upholding our first obligation to customers by preventing their children or pupils from being able to surf websites containing sexually explicit, racist or inflammatory material."
But where is the sexually explicit, racist and inflammatory (what does that word mean?) material on The Register?
The article in question was not written by Peacefire, but by John Leyden, a Register reporter. It merely describes peacefire.exe and provides a link to the Peacefire.org Web site where the cracking utility can be found by surfers without a Cyber Patrol-enabled computer. To say that The Register in any way enables the children of SurfControl customers to access a cracking utility is, quite simply, false.
That's when readers become good friends
We would like to thank all the readers for their support in getting Cyber Patrol's ludicrous blanket ban removed. There's far too many to for us to reply in person, but we'll publish a selection in our letters page today.
There is an old saying that you should not pick an argument with people who buy their ink by the barrel. In the 21st century version, neither should you pick an argument with a mainstream Web site that has more than one million readers a month. But Cyber Patrol lamebrains picked an argument with us.
Finally, we got through this entire episode without mentioning freedom of speech, or questioning the propriety of tech companies censoring tech news publications, once. Until now. ®