Halliburton Bounces Boing Boing

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Content filters, the scourge of office Internet goof-offs everywhere, claimed a very high-profile victim by blocking people behind those filters from visiting the most-heavily trafficked blog on the Internet.

Several posts on Boing Boing noted how several countries employed the SmartFilter technology from Secure Computing to prevent citizens from viewing objectionable content. That technology has found acceptance among several big US firms now as well.

The blog cited a New York Times report on how Smart Filter made an impact on one Boing Boing reader’s day when he tried to visit the site from Halliburton:

“Access denied by SmartFilter content category,” was the message a Halliburton engineer in Houston said he received last Wednesday when he tried to visit BoingBoing.net from his office computer. “The requested URL belongs to the following categories: Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies, Nudity.”


“When it happened I was pretty put off,” said the employee, who did not want to be named because the topic involved company filtering policies, “as I enjoyed the little distractions it provided me during the workday.”

Nudity at Boing Boing? Mark Frauenfelder posted about that hot topic:

Here’s the background: A US-based company, Secure Computing, sells a website censoring product called SmartFilter, which is used by many organizations worldwide to keep their employees/students/members from accessing certain sites that have been tagged (often incorrectly) as having objectionable content. For example, out of the 692 entries posted on Boing Boing last month, only two contained nudity. However, SmartFilter also labels the other 690 posts as “nudity” because Secure Computing can’t afford to make a filter that is more than 0.5% accurate.

Also today, we learned another way in which Secure Computing is willing to make the Web worse for everyone in order to keep their inefficient filter from breaking: A Xerox employee told us that SmartFilter “now blocks any use of the Google ‘Translate this page’ function. Yay.”

One reason SmartFilter might be interested in blocking Google’s invaluable translation service is because it would stop people who had been using it to outsmart SmartFilter.

The unnamed Halliburton engineer may not receive much sympathy from the community at large, since he works for a major government contractor that pays salaries out of US taxpayer dollars. The greater problem for filtering companies is context.

Blocking Google’s page translation service because of its potential for avoiding the content filter also removes the usefulness of the utility for those who have legitimate needs for it. That does not benefit anyone.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Halliburton Bounces Boing Boing
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