A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Censorship Computing

Rockynogin over at Cornpone - one of The Zoo's bestest blog-buddies - has uncovered some odd shenanigans going on with a company called Secure Computing.  It seems that Secure Computing has blocked access to ProtestWarrior.com - a pro-Israel, pro-Bush organization that counter-demonstrates at anti-war rallies - while allowing free access to such venomous leftist web sites as answercoalition.org, ruckus.org, and earthliberationfront.com.

In the interest of fair play - and exposing the hypocrisy of the far left - I've sent an e-mail to Secure Computing's Public Relations Manager.  There is a chance that the whole thing is nothing but a problem with their filtering software; there is also a chance that it's more blatant illiberalism from the "liberals".  We'll find out which when and if Mr. Burt sends me a reply.

Dear Mr. Burt,
An employee of a Secure Computing customer recently wrote an article on his web log about your company's decision to classify ProtestWarrior.com (www.protestwarrior.com) as a "Hate Speech" web site.  As a member of ProtestWarrior I find such a classification deeply disturbing and highly unfair.  I have plenty of black, Jewish, Asian, homosexual, and bisexual friends (and family) that would likewise be shocked to find an organization like ProtestWarrior so categorized.
First and foremost, ProtestWarrior.com is not "Hate Speech" by any sane definition of that term.  ProtestWarrior, as an organization, simply espouses a pro-Israel, pro-Bush, anti-terrorist political stance.  Our purpose is to provide moderates and conservatives with a voice that counters the virulent anti-Americanism so often displayed by leftists and Islamists at various demonstrations across the US.  When counter-demonstrating at such gatherings, our protestors have been subject to public ridicule, threats of violence, and nearly constant attempts to censor their message.  Put plainly, Mr. Burt, ProtestWarrior members are far more likely to be the victims of hate speech than to be those engaging in it.
Secondly, Secure Computing places many highly partisan liberal groups safely in the "Politics & Opinion" category.  MoveOn.org and answercoalition.org are no less adamant and opinionated in their message than ProtestWarrior.com; why do they not share the same classification?  Furthermore, earthliberationfront.com and ruckus.org - web sites that plainly advocate violence and vandalism - are freely accessed by Secure Computing customers.  How is their voice acceptable where ProtestWarrior's is not?
One of two things is going on here, Mr. Burt:  Either Secure Computing uses an automatic filter of some sort that has miscategorized ProtestWarrior.com, or Secure Computing employees are engaged in a campaign to promote leftist web sites while censoring those holding an opposing viewpoint.  As a public company with obligations to its customers and shareholders, Secure Computing has an overriding responsibility to figure out what is happening and resolve the issue.  All of us have our political opinions, some of which others are bound to find irritating or even offensive.  But it is unconscionable for one group of citizens to control another group's access to information - whether mistakenly or intentionally - based upon the popularity of a given political stance.  There is a fine line between security and censorship, Mr. Burt; I suggest you look carefully at which is being engaged in here.
Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Stay tuned on this one, kids.  Hopefully there will be lots more to come.



Update: It turns out that David Burt and Secure Computing are with the good guys after all. Bravo to them for their swift attention to this matter.