Boing Boing Goes Bye-Bye In Boston

    April 23, 2007

Government censorship rarely makes people happy, and in Boston, residents got the chance to prove this when Boing Boing, the “directory of wonderful things,” appeared to be banned from the New England city’s free WiFi network.  Yet new evidence indicates that the city of Boston had little, if anything, to do with the ban.

Still, there was serious cause for concern when the story first broke.  “Mayor of Boston bans Boing Boing,” reported Boing Boing’s own Cory Doctorow.  His post is complete with a picture bearing the words “Access To This Webpage Is Restricted” and the seal of the Mayor of Boston – not good, not good at all.

Seth Finkelstein offered a (relatively) comforting explanation, however: the ban was created by a piece of automatic censorware, which apparently objected to a link from Boing Boing to a version of Google with the SafeSearch turned “off.”  Furthermore, the ban was only temporary.

“BoingBoing should be viewable again on that network when the offending post scrolls off the main page, which should happen in a day or so,” according to Finkelstein.  “But that post itself will remain censorware’d until someone changes the phrase blacklist entries.”

So . . . who (or what) is responsible for the censorware?  Not Boston’s mayor, as it turns out, and not the city, either.  Blame for the Boing Boing ban falls upon, “a private, non-profit corporation created to develop, implement and operate a network to provide affordable wireless internet access throughout the City of Boston.”

Censorship did, then, take place, and as Doctorow wrote, the ban may have been enacted upon an “incredible [sic] stupid basis.”  But, as a Boston native, I’m happy to report that the city (which is just a partner of was not at fault.