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crashing the COPA Commission hearing with embarrassing reports

By Eloquence in News
Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 08:50:40 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Bennett Hasleton writes to the Peacefire journalist mailing-list (HTMLized):

The Congressionally appointed COPA [Child Online Protection Act, Eloq.] Commission to study blocking software held its second hearing today in Richmond, VA, where representatives of several blocking software companies testified about their programs. Representatives from two blocking software companies, Exotrope (makers of "BAIR") and ClickSafe, were on the panel; we released two new reports on those programs to coincide with today's hearings. [cont.]

Findings: ClickSafe actually blocks most of the COPACommission.org site, as well as several others, as "pornography", and BAIR still doesn't work, even though our first report on BAIR came out a month ago and they said they would fix the problems.

First, screenshots of sites being blocked by ClickSafe:

  • eight documents on the COPACommission.org site blocked as "pornography", including the biographies of Stephen Balkam and Donna Rice Hughes
  • all three of www.ACLU.org, www.EFF.org, and www.CDT.org, the three most popular anti-Internet-censorship sites on the Web (and the head of the CDT, Jerry Berman, is even one of the co-organizers of the Commission)
  • pages on about half of the Web sites of companies and organizations which have officers who are on the COPA Commission, including the Internet Content Rating Association and FamilyClick.com

Then, our new report on BAIR: http://peacefire.org/censorware/BAIR/second-report.7-19-2000.html

in which we conclude that the BAIR "artificial intelligence image filter" has no ability to distinguish between pornographic images and non-pornographic pictures of people's faces -- both of which get blocked about 2/3 of the time. (This is an "improvement" over a month ago when BAIR didn't block any images, but it's still hardly "fixed".)

The original report and this follow-up are linked from our BAIR page at: http://peacefire.org/censorware/BAIR/

Waldo Jaquith, a long-time Peacefire member, was at the COPA Commission hearing ready to ask questions of the blocking software panelists asking how they would respond to the discoveries in these reports, but the COPA Commission ended up not allowing questions from the public. However, Waldo did get to give copies of the reports to several reporters who were there, and I've asked the COPACommission.org webmaster to add links to the reports from their "research papers" page at


(They already have a link to our "Project Bait And Switch" report.)


Peacefire is a non-profit organization which takes a firm stand against censorware. Their continued exposure of false positives (like gay pages, sex ed., breast cancer info etc. -- some of which look like they are intentional) and false negatives by censorship software has been a relevant factor in the public discussion of these issues.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Peacefire
o Exotrope
o ClickSafe
o COPACommis sion.org
o http://pea cefire.org/censorware/ClickSafe/screenshots-copacommission.html
o www.ACLU.o rg
o www.EFF.or g
o www.CDT.or g
o FamilyClic k.com
o http://pea cefire.org/censorware/BAIR/second-report.7-19-2000.html
o http://pea cefire.org/censorware/BAIR/
o http://www .copacommission.org/papers/
o Also by Eloquence

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crashing the COPA Commission hearing with embarrassing reports | 6 comments (6 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
"Crashing" the hearing? (3.70 / 3) (#1)
by Perpetual Newbie on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 10:48:27 PM EST

"Crashing" the hearing? From what I've read, it looks like the activists were only able to wait in the background and sit on their reports while the people who are going to be making the decisions listened to the one fallacy-filled side of the story from the censorware manufacturers.

Are the reports actually getting to the commission members? No matter how good your reports are, they may as well not exist if the people making the decisions don't get to read them. We all know that the censorware programs are not perfect, and that the technology is nowhere near good enough, but the commission doesn't know this and is repeatedly being lied to and told that the programs and technology are perfect. If this is all they hear, then they have no reason to disbelieve it and will make important decisions based on faulty knowledge.

Re: "Crashing" the hearing? (none / 0) (#2)
by CmdrBurrito on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:34:08 AM EST

Man that's one fawking DSL!

[ Parent ]
Re: "Crashing" the hearing? (none / 0) (#6)
by Perpetual Newbie on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 12:49:25 AM EST

Man that's one fawking DSL!

Umm... what? What's digital subscriber line have to do with this, or is the acronym intended to mean something else in this context? Or is this spam I am replying to?

[ Parent ]

Re: "Crashing" the hearing? (none / 0) (#3)
by Eloquence on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 08:42:53 AM EST

I think Bennett's intention was to bring these reports to the attention of mainstream media beforehand, since CNN, Wired and other relevant media are on his journalist mailing list. I thought it might be interesting for K5, too, but it doesn't seem to generate a lot of discussions. Perhaps that is because this issue is more about what we can do than what we think (as most of us probably agree that censorware is bad). So what can we do?

  • Mirror Bennett's and others' (e.g. CPHack) pages on censorware, especially on big servers like this one, this is important since peacefire.org is blocked by most censorware as it includes instructions on circumventing the programs
  • donate cash to Peacefire and similar organizations (I'm not affiliated with them)
  • inform your friends about censorware and the importance of freedom of speech on the Net
  • support projects like FreeNet and Publius for anonymous publishing of information

Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]
Re: "Crashing" the hearing? (none / 0) (#4)
by baka_boy on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:20:06 PM EST

The other thing you can do is donate time and expertise to peacefire in their testing and evaluation of censorware. Technical skills, media connections, even just manual test-and-record work can all help, and could help even the odds just a little bit against the software comanies with their squadrons of NDA'd coders. Just my 0.02

[ Parent ]
Not Crashing. (none / 0) (#5)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:45:04 PM EST

I agree with the poster above.

If the information doesn't get into the correct hands, it doesn't matter.

And this write-up sounded like they didn't do that at all, and merely went for the media attention. Did *any* of the reports get mailed to the congress-critters on the panel?

I don't have faith in the critters being online aware, so I can't forward them the link (they'd ignore it).

Bummer :(

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

crashing the COPA Commission hearing with embarrassing reports | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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