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Date: 2000-08-21

Neues vom Filterwahn


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Nicht mehr ganz taufrisch, aber aufgrund der inhärenten
Idiotie ein Must: eine Frau Babcock wurde von einem US-
Provider nicht als Kunde akzeptiert, weil dessen
Filtersoftware den "cock" nach "Bab" und damit den ganzen
Namen blockierte.

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relayed by Bobson Wong <bwong@dfn.org> via gilc-
plan@gilc.org

WEB SITE BANS WOMAN WITH "UNACCEPTABLE" NAME

NEWARK, N.J., August 18, 2000 - In a new twist on Internet
censorship, Los Angeles attorney Sherril Babcock was
blocked from joining the BlackPlanet.com online service - at
least until she changes her name.

When Babcock registered for access to BlackPlanet.com, a
New York-based Web site dealing with African-American
topics, she was told that her last name was "unacceptable,"
presumably because it contained the word "cock," and she
was not permitted to register.

Suspecting the matter to be a simple matter of the site's
overly ambitious censorware, she contacted
BlackPlanet.com hoping to clear up the problem. She
explained that "Babcock was my father's name as well, and I
am very fond of him."

Crystal Martin, BlackPlanet.com's Moderator for Member
Services, responded. She apologized twice for the
inconvenience, but said "unfortunately, the letters that form
the word 'Cock' is [sic] unacceptable and will not be
recognized by our system."

Omar Wasow, BlackPlanet.com's executive director, intends
to continue using the censorware. Though he described
himself as a strong supporter of free speech, he defended his
use of censorware as an attempt to not offend his site's
membership, even though there would be casualties like
Sherril Babcock. When asked if he would register Babcock
manually, thereby bypassing the censorware, Wasow
explained that if the censorware made bad decisions even
only one percent of the time, it would have meant over 8,000
manual entries given the current population of his online
community. Babcock would just have to change her
registration name to please the censorware.

End of matter. Babcock is still not a member, and cyber-
rights groups are having a good laugh over this latest episode
of censorware's shortcomings.

"Censorware is a non-solution for a non-problem. It doesn't
block what it intends to, most of which doesn't hurt anyone,
and it blocks far too much of what it shouldn't. It's a failure
and it's scary that some want public libraries to adopt this
junk," said Alan Brown, Internet development director for the
Digital Freedom Network.

The episode reminded Babcock of America Online's ban of
the word "breast" in its chat rooms. The ban was only
overturned when members of a breast cancer survivor's group
complained that the ban left them with very little to talk about.

According to the cyber-rights organization Peacefire, Internet
censorware is so flawed that various versions have blocked
Web sites including Time Magazine, the National
Organization for Women, the Vatican, the Heritage
Foundation, and even sites about dogs.

"Would St. Francis of Assisi or Emily Dickinson also have
been banned from BlackPlanet.com?", asked Bobson Wong,
executive director of the Digital Freedom Network.

The Digital Freedom Network (DFN) promotes human rights
around the world by developing new methods of activism with
Internet technology and by providing an online voice to those
attacked simply for expressing themselves. DFN creates
Internet applications to fight censorship, acquires technology
tools for other activists, launches Internet-based campaigns
on behalf of human rights, and serves as a technical resource
for activists worldwide.

DFN's Web site is http://dfn.org.


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published on: 2000-08-21
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