OMG, this is a violation of our RIGHTS!!!1
November 2, 2003 6:29 PM   Subscribe

These guys are pretty upset. Symantec's new Internet Security suite combines a firewall, anti-virus utility, and content-filtering parental controls in one package. And guess what? When a user sets the filter to block "Weapons" sites, it blocks NRA pages!

Internet Security 2004 isn't really the issue, however. It's a (large) "community" once again overreacting, spreading FUD about rights being taken away, political brainwashing, and the world coming to an end.

Or, this is just the best. troll. ever. You decide.
posted by bhayes82 (41 comments total)
 
Doesn't web filtering just suck in general? (I always hear stories on how breast cancer sites are blocked because of "breast" and things like that.) And I'm not surprised the NRA would be blocked--they advocate the personal ownership of deadly weapons.
posted by amberglow at 6:46 PM on November 2, 2003


Ah, the "you decide" fallacy.

How will the metafilterers individual "decisions" will affect anything?
posted by titboy at 6:54 PM on November 2, 2003


In any case, this is a commercial product and they have the right to set it to filter anything they want, surely? The market will decide if they are happy with the way the filtering rules work or not.

Unless I have missed something fundamental, this is a complete non-issue.
posted by dg at 6:55 PM on November 2, 2003


Why does it matter? Symantec has decided that this is what they want to do with a piece of software they market. Their customers will decide whether or not it's a desirable feature and if not, I have no doubt Symantec will quickly drop it.

If their customers want it, why should I care? It's a commercial piece of software and isn't a requirement nor is anyone trying to make it one. Our rights have nothing to do with it, they can sell whatever they damn well please.
posted by cedar at 7:03 PM on November 2, 2003


You decide.

In that case, boxers.
posted by angry modem at 7:27 PM on November 2, 2003


These guys are pretty upset.
Who? The /.ers?
posted by mischief at 7:31 PM on November 2, 2003


Yes, mischief, I'm pretty sure it is indeed those kings and queen of overreaction.
posted by punishinglemur at 7:37 PM on November 2, 2003


Oh, good, for a minute there I thought bh was showing sympathy for the gun nuts.
posted by mischief at 7:40 PM on November 2, 2003


Ahh... those slashdotters. Always finding something to get all upitty about.
posted by ph00dz at 8:18 PM on November 2, 2003


Hmm, what do people expect to be blocked when you enable blocking on something as far-reaching as the term 'weapons?' Really now, this is such a non-issue its not even funny.

Conversely, if weapons was checked for content filtering and it didn't block NRA sites there would be complaints. Its called a no-win situation. Well there's one way to win, don't play around with the broken technology/scam that is called content filtering.
posted by skallas at 11:09 PM on November 2, 2003


Hmm, what do people expect to be blocked when you enable blocking on something as far-reaching as the term 'weapons?' Really now, this is such a non-issue its not even funny.

The NRA is to "weapons" as HRC (a gay-rights organization) is to "sex". It's not like you go to the NRA site to find out how to get a gun, just like you don't go to HRC to get laid. They're both political organizations, and politics is about speech. You don't have to be a Second Amendment fanatic to see the problems inherent in using content filtering to block political speech.

Why does it matter? Symantec has decided that this is what they want to do with a piece of software they market. Their customers will decide whether or not it's a desirable feature and if not, I have no doubt Symantec will quickly drop it.

The problem here is that the customers generally aren't the people who use the product. Instead, it's used by the customer's own users, who don't get any say in the matter, such as library patrons.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:41 PM on November 2, 2003


the entire filtering software industry is a hype job. filtering doesn't work. libraries full of treatises have been written on pattern matching techniques. the binary counting machines we call computers can not currently "understand" even a tiny portion of human writings. the artifical intelligence required to grasp the subtleties of context has not manifested in silicon. filtering is not a technology, it's a steaming load of commercial horseshit.
posted by quonsar at 12:42 AM on November 3, 2003


me & my monkey: It's not like you go to the NRA site to find out how to get a gun

Like I said, weapons is an ambigious term. You're projecting 'buying weapons' onto it. That's subjective.

Also lookee here:

NRA gunshow calender

You know, the kind of gun shows I can BUY USED GUNS at.

Lookee:

Links to retailers!

The NRA sells knives on their website:

http://store.nrahq.org/nra/dept.asp?dept%5Fid=118

etc.

Not that I care, but I could see a parent not wanting his kid to go there thus enabling the generic weapons filter.
posted by skallas at 1:01 AM on November 3, 2003


I just want to know when the PatriotFilter is going to be released, to shut up all those fucking leftwing nutjobs. If it wasn't for them, that Limbaugh thing wouldn't have gotten off the ground: do I tell your fucking kids there's no Santa Claus?

the binary counting machines we call computers can not currently "understand" even a tiny portion of human writings.

I'm so calling them binary counting machines from now on, and I'm going to use scare quotes every time someone calls them a computer. I'll start a thread here in a couple days detailing the early results.
posted by The God Complex at 1:19 AM on November 3, 2003


an electronic abacus is still an abacus.
posted by quonsar at 1:30 AM on November 3, 2003


tgp: I just want to know when the PatriotFilter is going to be released, to shut up all those fucking leftwing nutjobs.

Its here and its almost every filter software around. Peacefire has lots more info on the subject.
posted by skallas at 1:35 AM on November 3, 2003


I hate when my dystopian ideas turn out to be old news.
posted by The God Complex at 1:45 AM on November 3, 2003


Apparently, what me & my monkey and other library patrons really want to known is if it blocks "girls with guns" sites.
posted by magullo at 1:50 AM on November 3, 2003


Like I said, weapons is an ambigious term. You're projecting 'buying weapons' onto it. That's subjective.

Uh, I'm not projecting anything. The NRA is a political organization, plain and simple - an advocacy group. No one is going to go on a homicidal rampage after visiting the NRA site.

Again, "weapons" is no more ambiguous than "sex". Do you think it's good if content filters block sites which advocate gay rights? How about women's rights? I'm sure there are people who'd like to block both from their children.

Also lookee here:

NRA gunshow calender

You know, the kind of gun shows I can BUY USED GUNS at


Uh, yeah. They have links to other sites about guns. If those would fall into the category of "bad stuff kids aren't mature enough to handle", those sites should be blocked I guess. But taken to the logical extreme, MetaFilter ought to be blocked, since it has links to sites about guns now!

The NRA sells knives on their website

Ok, now you're reaching. Did you look at those things? They're not weapons, they're tools - Swiss Army knives, of all things! Sheesh.

Not that I care, but I could see a parent not wanting his kid to go there thus enabling the generic weapons filter.

I can see that too, but that doesn't make it right. However you slice it, the bulk of the NRA site falls squarely in the realm of political speech, and just because we don't all agree with that speech doesn't mean we shouldn't get nervous when a company, selling a product, does something which will block that speech from its audience.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:56 AM on November 3, 2003


Ok, now you're reaching. Did you look at those things? They're not weapons, they're tools - Swiss Army knives, of all things! Sheesh.

then you don't mind holding mine during the flight?
posted by quonsar at 2:53 AM on November 3, 2003


...which is exactly why we shouldn' t allow filtering software into the libraries of this nation, curbing what adults can see, in the effort to protect the children.

I have the most foolproof way to filter the Internet. Its cheap, interactive, and will teach your child whatever particularly nauseating moral code that you would like to teach. (You know, things like "Jesus loves all, except those he doesn't" or "Remember Timmy, our god is a real god, theirs is just an idol".) Parents could actually sit with their kids and surf the Internet with them.

Or for real enlightenment, why not try not sheltering children as if they are puppies about to roam into a landmine field. Yeah, your kid might learn about pornography, gay rights, other regligions besides the one you cram down their throats... but they would also learn about the good of the world, as well as the bad. They would become more informed, more well rounded individuals, and will be able to adapt to society so much faster because they won't be completely oblivious to the world around them.
posted by benjh at 3:54 AM on November 3, 2003


we don't all agree with that speech doesn't mean we shouldn't get nervous when a company, selling a product, does something which will block that speech from its audience

You can get as nervous as you desire - but you will not find "company" or "product" mentioned below.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

By bringing in the library filters, you are confusing apples with oranges. The government pretty much required those anti-porn filters for libraries. Hardly similar to the current case.
posted by magullo at 5:13 AM on November 3, 2003


The NRA sells knives on their website.

Damn. While we're at it, we'd better block Macy's just to be on the safe side.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:58 AM on November 3, 2003


then you don't mind holding mine during the flight?

Holding your what, quonsar? I'd have to see a pic first, ok?

Oh, Swiss Army knife. Well, just because the TSA thinks something is dangerous doesn't make it so. I fly a lot, and on every flight I happen to have something with which I could kill someone easier than if I had a Swiss Army knife.

On the other hand, the TSA did confiscate my can opener, which was one of those folding P38 thingies (about an inch long, with a quarter-inch curved blade) from the days of C-Rations. The only way you could hurt someone with that would be to slip it into their food.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:03 AM on November 3, 2003


You can get as nervous as you desire - but you will not find "company" or "product" mentioned below. (1st Amendment snippet removed)

Where's the audible sigh key?

Yes, I acknowledge that Symantec has every legal right to do what they're doing. That's why I said we should get nervous, instead of saying we should sue them or something along those lines.

By bringing in the library filters, you are confusing apples with oranges. The government pretty much required those anti-porn filters for libraries. Hardly similar to the current case.

My fear is that Symantec is a more respected software company than the guys who make NetNanny or CyberSitter, and that we'll start seeing these things in public libraries.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:07 AM on November 3, 2003


on every flight I happen to have something with which I could kill someone easier than if I had a Swiss Army knife.

*reminds self not to get on an airplane with me & my monkey*
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on November 3, 2003


Plastic cheesewire dental floss.
posted by i_cola at 9:12 AM on November 3, 2003


Super Scout Web filter does not classify nra.org in their weapons category. Just happened to notice here at work.
posted by LouieLoco at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2003


>which is exactly why we shouldn' t allow filtering software into the libraries of this nation

Its amusing to see righties go crazy over a private product made by private enterprise sold in retail, yet when the very same conservatives advocate and have passed laws requiring (or bundling with needed federal monies) MANDATORY filters on PUBLIC libraries you didn't hear too much complaining from the core GOP constituency.

Double standard strikes again.

So pro-business is good until it blocks nra.org. Gotcha

Free-Speech is in the toilet unless it blocks nra.org. Gotcha

Yes, I'm simplifying matters a bit, but from the responses at slashdot its more than a bit hypocritical. Also, lets not make this a gun us v. them issue, I've got a FOID in my wallet with my pretty face on it too.
posted by skallas at 9:29 AM on November 3, 2003


Its amusing to see righties go crazy over a private product made by private enterprise sold in retail, yet when the very same conservatives advocate and have passed laws requiring (or bundling with needed federal monies) MANDATORY filters on PUBLIC libraries you didn't hear too much complaining from the core GOP constituency.

I don't see anyone representing the "core GOP constituency" here, or on slashdot for that matter. I do see this as an issue which affects everyone, regardless of their political perspective, since there's always someone who'd rather not have to be exposed to that perspective.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:15 AM on November 3, 2003


The NRA sells knives on their website.

Damn. While we're at it, we'd better block Macy's just to be on the safe side.


And Amazon, they sell all sorts of knives. Filtering software sucks, plain and simple.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:38 AM on November 3, 2003


memonkey: I do see this as an issue which affects everyone, regardless of their political perspective

Oh please. These are privately owned computers. You're taking this ridiculous anti-property rights position because a site you like can be blocked. It can also be blocked like so:

edit Hosts

0.0.0.0 nra.org
0.0.0.0 mynra.org

Ta da! Perhaps you can go and sue the writers of the TCP/IP stack. Really now, putting ideology before property rights isnt an argument for freedom its an argument against freedom.

Then again I block sites all the time, encourage it, and give my blocking lists away.

Want to be on the side of the angels? Then consider the real social damage mandated library filters do and drop the 'symatec has a weapons censoring button' hysterical strawman.
posted by skallas at 11:59 AM on November 3, 2003


Oh please. These are privately owned computers. You're taking this ridiculous anti-property rights position because a site you like can be blocked.

I'm sorry, what anti-property rights position am I taking? I'm not saying that the government should intervene with Symantec - which seems to be the natural reaction of most people here when they sense something is wrong - but instead I'm saying that private citizens should be concerned. I never said anyone's rights have been violated, or anything along those lines.

And, frankly, it's presumptuous of you to assume that I give a rat's ass for the NRA site, per se. While I'm a fan of the 2nd Amendment as well as the 1st, I think the NRA are a bit on the nutty side, generally.

But the fact remains that this is just as good and valid an argument against filtering software as the fact that CyberSitter blocks N.O.W's site. They're both examples of political speech being blocked, and I think both are objectionable, and worthy of complaint. It's legal for them to do it, but it's acceptable for us to complain about it, and potentially convince them not to do it. Personally, I may reconsider a purchase of other Symantec software (Norton Ghost 7.5 Enterprise Edition) as a result.

I do think there's a difference between Symantec - a major seller of enterprise & business software - and the rest of the clowns in the filtering business.

Want to be on the side of the angels? Then consider the real social damage mandated library filters do and drop the 'symatec has a weapons censoring button' hysterical strawman.

It must be so nice to be able to identify "the side of the angels". I don't see this as a strawman, just another example of that real social damage. It must also be so nice to be able to easily dismiss every viewpoint you find disagreeable. I don't see anyone being hysterical here.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2003


monkey, give it up already. You have already made an attempt to make mandatory filtering and this simple symantec hack on private computers equal, which shows a shocking lack of understanding on what the constitution applies to and what it doesn't.

Property rights: what I mean is you are against users using their computers as they see fit, under the guise of "1st amendment' WHICH DOES NOT APPLY TO PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS.

You can cry foul and whine about symantec's simple decision to include what many consider a controversial site all you want but these facts remain:

1. Filtering is happening. Filtering is legal. Private filtering is a property right.

2. Filtering on private computers is none of your business.

What gets me if that you think by 'putting pressure' on symantec they're going to remove nra.org and thus save the internet. Sorry, the larger problem is filtering. When done on one's own computer there is nothing wrong with it as it is private property. When done publicly there is much wrong. You keep mixing these concepts into a lame strawman that exposes your bias towards this issue and frankly is unconvincing and higly disingenuous.

There's a real crisis with information control in our public libraries and it has nothing to do with blocking nra.org on a firewall after choosing to block a broad category called weapons.

monkey:But the fact remains that this is just as good and valid an argument against filtering software as the fact that CyberSitter blocks N.O.W's site.

No its not. The problem with NetNanny et al is that they are used on PUBLIC equipment. Few, if any, care that parents use this stuff for their kids. Well, you seem to care quite a bit.

Mountains out of molehills, man.

bhayes: Or, this is just the best. troll. ever. You decide.

Starting to look like a grand attempt at trolling. Slashdot fell for it, doesn't mean we have to also.
posted by skallas at 1:58 PM on November 3, 2003


libraries have always filtered the information that they allow their customers to access. When was the last time you saw a copy of "Playboy" or "Live to Ride" on the shelves at your library? Just because they do it with technology as well as with purchasing policies now does not make it any worse or any better.
posted by dg at 2:23 PM on November 3, 2003


monkey, give it up already. You have already made an attempt to make mandatory filtering and this simple symantec hack on private computers equal, which shows a shocking lack of understanding on what the constitution applies to and what it doesn't.

Property rights: what I mean is you are against users using their computers as they see fit, under the guise of "1st amendment' WHICH DOES NOT APPLY TO PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS.


Uh, I don't think I said anywhere that the Constitution applies to any of this. I simply said that content filtering of political speech is objectionable. You're the one implying that government action is an appropriate response to all objectionable behavior. I think it's perfectly acceptable to disagree with something, without forcing someone to abide by your wishes.

What gets me if that you think by 'putting pressure' on symantec they're going to remove nra.org and thus save the internet.

I don't know about "saving the internet" - that ship has sailed - but I do think that voting with one's wallet is a perfectly acceptable behavior. I don't see why, as someone who objects to content filtering at public facilities, wouldn't see some potential problems with this, since it's very likely that public facilities will buy Symantec before buying NetNanny or the like. I'm actually typing this from a classroom at a large library in Baltimore, and I can tell you that their IT guys would certainly favor Symantec over other products from less widely-known vendors.

I'm not really too concerned about the NRA, specifically. They'll be able to get their viewpoint across one way or another, with all of the money they have. I'm far more worried about the comparatively fringe causes I care more about. Being a gay vegetarian, I know something of fringe causes.

But the plain fact is that the NRA site is political speech, and blocking access to it serves only one goal - to block access to their ideas. It's not the Anarchist's Cookbook, it's not where you can buy a gun. If that doesn't raise your hackles a little bit, why should anyone else care when sites that match your views are blocked? Doesn't it worry you a little that people think the way to raise their kids is to shelter them from "harmful ideas"?

Sorry, the larger problem is filtering. When done on one's own computer there is nothing wrong with it as it is private property. When done publicly there is much wrong.

I don't think I stated that it's wrong (in any actionable sense) to do anything you like with your own computer.

You keep mixing these concepts into a lame strawman that exposes your bias towards this issue and frankly is unconvincing and higly disingenuous.

Frankly, your attempt to tar me with bias is unconvincing to me and highly disingenuous. You keep talking about property rights and so on, which are completely irrelevant to this discussion, since I've said nowhere that there is any legal issue here at all.

What I've said, boiled down into a simple, easily parsed sentence, is that we should be concerned when software is used to limit access to the marketplace of ideas. It doesn't matter whether those ideas are good or bad, in themselves, if we believe that good ideas will triumph over bad ideas in said marketplace.

Starting to look like a grand attempt at trolling.

What a load. "I disagree with you, so you must be a troll." In the marketplace of ideas, this is the sign saying you're all out for the day.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:39 PM on November 3, 2003


monkey:What I've said, boiled down into a simple, easily parsed sentence, is that we should be concerned when software is used to limit access

monkey: The problem here is that the customers generally aren't the people who use the product.

I see a big problem with those two statements. First off, you assume that this is censoring software. Its not, its a personal retail software that's firewall, a virus checker, and a spam fighter. By comparing it to NetNanny et all you are again being very disengenious to the point of, again, stretching to make some half-assed remark regarding software you don't seem to at all understand. On top of that you keep equating this with library filters and make the grand assumption that libraries are using this and that other blockinjg programs don't block the nra. In practice, most filters are customizable, thus you can block or unblock the NRA to your hearts content.

Here are some filters and some smart criticisms over them which contrast greatly with your "sky-is-falling" chicken little attitude over ONE site blocked by a non-scalable non-large environment personal firewall.

Even the above link mentions the Norton product and shows that it blocks another gun site. Big deal.

I've implemented some of this stuff, and the symantec product is small beans and designed for the personal computer market, not for the large environments. On top of that when you're using a computer/network you don't own, you have little say in what you can access. Current decisions almost always favor the owner of the equipment, thus your boss can filter out whatever he wants and read your corporate email.

Also you're barking up the wrong ideological tree. If any speech is threatened by these filters is liberal/progressive speech. (from above link)
Brian Livingston, "AOL's 'youth filters' protect kids from Democrats," CNet News.com, Apr. 24, 2000.
This news report described Livingston's investigation of AOL's blocking decisions for signs of political bias. He found that the "Kids Only" setting blocked the Web sites of the Democratic National Committee (www.democrats.org), the Green Party (www.greens.org), and Ross Perot's Reform Party (www.reformparty.org), but not those of the Republican National Committee (www.rnc.org) and the conservative Constitution (www.ustaxpayers.org) and Libertarian (www.lp.org) parties. Livingston also reported that AOL's "Young Teen" setting blocked the home pages of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (www.gunfree.org), Safer Guns Now (www.safergunsnow.org), and the Million Mom March (www.millionmommarch.com), but neither the NRA site (www.nra.org) nor the commercial sites for Colt (www.colt.com) and Browning (www.browning.com) firearms.
Read the rest of the article to see whats REALLY being blocked. It ain't the NRA.

Mountains out molehills. Funny how filtering criticism didn't hit this kind of critical mass until it potentially blocked the NRA. Whatever point youre making is getting lost in the noise of whether or not filters work, are proper to use, and how they're used in a private setting. If all you're trying to post is "be concerned," well it sure took you a whole bunch of tries to come to that conclusion while treading through unrelated territory regarding libraries and such.

monkey:"I disagree with you, so you must be a troll."

I was refering to the slashdot poster. Relax.

> When was the last time you saw a copy of "Playboy"

Classic non-sequitar here. The internet connection is active thus the content in there, if there is no playboy to have then that's not exactly the same situation is it? In fact, a suburban library I used to have access to did have playboy FWIW.
posted by skallas at 4:00 PM on November 3, 2003


It is the same principle though, skallas. If it is bad for libraries to filter content on the Internet, the same principle must apply to dead tree content. If you are not going to filter content and there is sufficient demand for hard copies of pornography it should be made available. My point being that libraries have always filtered the content they provide, so it is wrong to draw a distinction between the source of the content when you talk about filtering.

There is obviously a difference in that the technology enables customers to override the policies of the library unless some filtering is on place, where the only books that can be accessed are those the library owns. Which sort of makes the case in favour of filtering, in my opinion.
posted by dg at 6:01 PM on November 3, 2003


I hope that the library copies of Playboy had all the pages laminated. Reading all those articles can be a messy business, after all.
posted by dg at 6:06 PM on November 3, 2003


I've implemented some of this stuff, and the symantec product is small beans and designed for the personal computer market, not for the large environments.

Yes, that is absolutely correct. However, Symantec has a history of providing personal products, then later providing enterprise versions of those same products, and providing collections of related products. While you can buy Personal Firewall now, I wouldn't be surprised to see this rolled up into an enterprise firewall package, in which you buy one of their little yellow boxes, and get site licenses for antivirus, etc.

Funny how filtering criticism didn't hit this kind of critical mass until it potentially blocked the NRA.

That's just silly. Years ago, on slashdot, the same exact discussion took place about NetNanny, etc. It was just as hysterical then, for what that's worth.

If any speech is threatened by these filters is liberal/progressive speech.

Yes, I'm aware of that. I'm certainly willing to concede that. I don't care for that. I just think it's hypocritical to think it's ok to suppress the things you disagree with, and not ok to suppress the things you do agree with.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:13 AM on November 4, 2003


If it is bad for libraries to filter content on the Internet, the same principle must apply to dead tree content. If you are not going to filter content and there is sufficient demand for hard copies of pornography it should be made available.

It's one thing for a library to not purchase a book or magazine - they certainly have limited resources for that as it stands - and another thing for a library to be forced to purchase and implement and manage software to actively prevent access to things which otherwise would be freely available.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:15 AM on November 4, 2003


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