TUCoPS :: Privacy :: fcfilt~1.txt

Stealth Censorship


   SafeSurf Press Release
   1304 Newbury Road, Unit E, Newbury Park, CA 91320
   E-mail: safesurf@safesurf.com * Web Site: http://www.safesurf.com/
   October 25, 2001
   Contact : Ray Soular
   Press Phone : (818) 613-1415
                    SafeSurf Warns of Stealth Censorship
         Los Angeles, CA - Thousands of family friendly Web sites, for no
   fault of their own, are being rendered inaccessible by "stealth
   censorship" and it may be putting people's lives at risk, warned
   SafeSurf, the online safety organization.
         This new type of censorship, promoted by a California
   corporation called Mail Abuse Prevention System, LLC (MAPS), silences
   every Web site whose address is located on a server that also happens
   to host one or two unrelated email marketing sites. However, since the
   browser message displayed says that the Web sites are non-existent,
   online surfers have no idea they are being denied access to many parts
   of the Internet.
         "This is stealth censorship*", remarked SafeSurf Chairman Ray
   Soular as he described how Web site owners have no rights under this
   system. "Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS) publicizes its Realtime
   Blackhole List (RBL) as being only of certified email abusers
   (spammers).  It provides this list to Internet Service Providers (ISP)
   who rely on its accuracy when shutting out these spammers.  In
   reality, MAPS' practice of listing entire groups of IP numbers,
   instead of the specific addresses of the spammers, is causing ISPs to
   shut off access to sites that have done no wrong other than they have
   similar IP numbers to the spammers.  Its like shutting off phone
   service to thousands of people simply because they have the same
   prefix as an obscene caller," explained Soular.
         "To make matters worse, MAPS has no idea of what content it may
   be blocking. Imagine trying to connect to a crisis assistance site
   after a devastating earthquake, only to find its among a vast IP group
   being blocked by RBL. People can die as the result of their blind
   imprecision. They MUST be regulated," Soular reasoned.
         Teleglobe, a global Internet provider who subscribes to the
   MAPS' Realtime Blackhole List (RBL), was blocking SafeSurf in many
   countries, simply because SafeSurf's Web site was on a public server
   owned by an hosting company once accused of providing services to
   email marketers.
         (News Flash Oct 29, 2001: MAPS removed SafeSurf from its
   Blackhole list and Teleglobe removed blocking.)
         "Under their system, an unsuspecting Web site can become a RBL
   hostage at any time, for any reason, and without appeal. Unless the
   owner of the server meets MAPS demands, the innocent hostage site will
   be left to rot in the 'Blackhole'," pointed out Soular. "This is the
   worst manifestation of censorship imaginable because it is applied in
   a way which fools Web surfers into thinking they still have their
   freedom", said Soular.
         Below is the text of SafeSurf's Open Letter to the Internet
   Community concerning MAPS' Realtime Blackhole List (RBL) that targets
   general IP groups instead of specific IP addresses.
   SafeSurf was recently alerted that we were marked for blocking, for no
   fault of our own, by Mail Abuse Prevention System's Realtime Blackhole
   List (RBL). SafeSurf has never sent out a single piece of junk email
   in the life of our company. Parents and Webmasters depend upon
   communication from SafeSurf to enable them to protect children on the
   Internet. As a result, by blocking SafeSurf, MAPS is endangering
   millions of children across the globe.
   MAPS' RBL blocking is censorship in its worst manifestation. It is a
   extremist system that seeks to censor people simply because they
   happen to be with the same ISP that has a particular individual that
   MAPS does not like. Their tactics would be similar to someone using a
   nuclear weapon to wipe out a cockroach.
   Although they may contact the ISP, MAPS makes no effort, whatsoever,
   to warn the people actually being censored. The innocent Web Sites
   have to depend on others to discover that their right to free speech
   has been desecrated. MAPS actions demonstrate what SafeSurf has long
   suspected; true censorship arises for the purpose of advancing the
   agenda of a particular group of individuals. Censorship is a broad
   brush that drips paint on the pure, as well as the tainted.
   MAPS may claim that their actions are in the interest of good, but in
   reality they would easily trade in the good of children to achieve
   their goal. They have more than proved this point by holding the
   SafeSurf Web Site hostage until they force the acquiescence of others.
   MAPS has no idea of what content it may be blocking. Therefore, they
   could negligently block sites that contain important life saving
   medical information, sites that protect children, and sites that
   output emergency info during tornado watches, fire and flood alerts.
   Imagine trying to connect to a crisis assistance site after a
   devastating earthquake, only to find its among a vast IP group being
   blocked by RBL. People can die as the result of their blind
   imprecision. They MUST be regulated.
   We hate spam as much as anyone else. SafeSurf receives hundreds of
   spam emails every day. However, we cherish our civil liberties too
   much to ever trade them to the careless people who are running MAPS.
   We have tried to reason with MAPS, but they refuse to offer affected
   Web sites a case-by-case appeal process. They seem to not care about
   fairness. They are blinded by the smell of spammer's blood and do not
   seem to care how many innocent Web sites they trounce in the process.
   Then, they rationalize and try to put the blame for their wanton
   actions on everyone else.
   This issue is completely different from the debate over porn
   filtering, because in that debate, at least it was agreed that the
   sites we were discussing were responsible for their acts. In this
   case, MAPS employs an underhanded tactic of targeting the innocent in
   order to persuade the guilty.
   We must insist that MAPS operate in a responsible manner. A just cause
   is no excuse for unjust actions. By accepting MAPS, we are, in effect,
   agreeing to full censorship of anyone, for any reason. This is beyond
   the worst-case scenarios we could've imagined coming from governments.
   MAPS may be on a crusade to rid the Internet of spam, but this should
   not give them the authority to deny freedoms to the blameless. It
   should not give them the power to shroud someone's brilliance simply
   because it happens to be on a MAPS targeted ISP. It should not give
   them the right to make a mockery of the pillars upon which America was
   I feel sorry for all the subscribers to Teleglobe, which trusts MAPS'
   RBL list. They have traded access to the truth in exchange for a
   cleaner mailbox. The really sad part is they don't even know it.
   We must raise our voices to warn the online world of stealth
   censorship. For in the end, we will either loudly hold on to our
   liberty or it will become clear that we gave up our rights by our
   Ray Soular, Chairman
   * The term, stealth blocking, was first used by Bennett Haselton in
   "The Coalition Statement Against Stealth Blocking" to be found at

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