beating the net censors

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Wed Aug 23 10:46:46 PDT 2000

[from Sam Smith's Progressive Review]


Peacefire has found a new method for disabling censoring software. Just run the URL through the Akamaitech server. For example here is how you would get to Yahoo this way:

Peacefire has a page that explains details and how to handle pages that won't load. Says the anti-censorship group: "Akamai's servers are set up so that they allow anybody to use their Web servers to access other pages -- and the blocking software companies are going to be very unlikely to block all of, since Akamai serves ads for tens of thousands of sites, and they would raise hell about it if the censorware companies started blocking their ad servers. Peacefire also offers "debate information" for those whose school or local library is thinking about installing software censors.

CNET: Akamai, which uses a network of computers to store Internet content closer to consumers to speed delivery, acknowledged that the technique is effective. But the company said the responsibility for fixing the problem lies with filtering software companies and not Akamai . . . Technology glitches have been an ongoing setback for Web filtering companies that promise to make the freewheeling Internet safe for children by blocking access to content they deem inappropriate. Censorware has touched off a fiery policy debate over mandatory pornography filters for library and other public computers available to children and has drawn sharp criticism for blocking both more and less than it advertises. The Akamai back door is only the latest example of content filtering workarounds. One recent example afflicted America Online, allowing teenagers to bypass parental filters by adding a "." at the end of a blocked URL.

But the Akamai bug could raise new and potentially far-reaching questions about the filtering responsibilities of Internet infrastructure companies. Censorware technologies are mostly voluntary, but they may soon become mandatory in some cases. In the latest effort to legislate Web filters, the Senate in June was asked to consider a bill that would require schools and libraries that benefit from federal subsidies to install some form of blocking or filtering technology to restrict children's access to pornography and other obscene material.

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