The Greatest Generation liberated Europe from Nazi Germany, and the most-privileged generation whines about free wi-fi. Yes, I’m from the generation of whiners and complainers. I’m using the “free” wireless Internet connection at a hospital, and I hate it because free also means filtered, censored, or whatever else you want to call it.Now, I know what it feels like to be in China, but worse. I am completely walled off from all the verboten content that exists in the free world for arbitrary and capricious reasons. Once you’ve seen what exists outside the Garden of Eden, you don’t want to go back in.When I try to access a banned site, I am redirected to this IP number: 10.226.37.60. Fortunately, the URL explains why a certain domain was blocked. Based on the categories provided, I think the hospital is using Secure Computing’s so-called SmartFilter for content censorship.
“Dating and Social” websites
I can’t access Plenty of Fish, Match.com or HOT or NOT. If the hospital wants to ban dating and social sites, most people can probably understand how the above three websites fit the bill. However, other sites that fall within this category ban include Facebook and MySpace.If you are looking for an “adult” date, SexSearch.com and Adult FriendFinder are also banned, but as pornography sites, instead of as dating and social sites. However, as some people have discovered, not all the members of sexsearch.com are adults.Since Facebook was banned, I was curious about other social networking sites. I was able to access LinkedIn. As for Avvo, it was banned as a “Spam Email” site. So, if you are in a hospital bed and want to find a personal injury lawyer, try the Justia Lawyer Directory or Martindale-Hubbell instead.
One website deserves an honorable mention for earning the prestigious two categories ban. The censors barred access to Orkut as a dating and social site, and also under the personal pages category.
The personal pages category snares a lot of web sites:
- Blogs: Blogspot, WordPress.com, and TypePad.
- Photo Sharing Sites: Flickr, smugmug, and Shutterfly.
- Video Sharing Sites: YouTube, iFilm, Revver, and Google Video.
Interestingly, the filters do not shut out all YouTube domains, so I can actually view the YouTube home page. However, several YouTube sub-domains are banned, which compromises the full-functionality of the site.
Legal Web Sites
Here’s where the stupidity of the SmartFilter technology really shines through. They’ve banned Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs as a personal page, but, Kevin, M.D. – Medical Weblog is o.k. Doctor Kevin = Good. Lawyer Kevin = Bad. However, they aren’t giving all doctor blogs a free pass. Family Medicine Notes is a banned personal page.Kevin (the lawyer) can take some consolation since he is among distinguished company. The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, Akin Gump’s SCOTUS blog, the Becker-Posner Blog, The Volokh Conspiracy and Professor Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog are all banned. However, they haven’t touched the Lessig Blog or the Law Professor Blogs.
Isnt it Ironic?
Google Blogoscoped, which constantly rails against Chinese censorship, is banned as a personal page. But my favorite banned website belong to Google’s spam killer Matt Cutts. As the public face of Google, he shares with the community what sorts of SEO strategies can get a website banned from the Google index and someone has banned his site. SmartFilter? Right.In a nutshell, I can read Hillary Clinton’s blog and the Republican National Committee blog, but not the Weblogs at Harvard Law School. I can’t read The Wealth Report, but Al Jazeera, Pravda and The People’s Daily are kosher. And people really pay for this technology?