Update on the Boing-Boing/Secure Computing Censorship story

I said to keep an eye on this story last week as an example of how a company can get Kryptonited (remember when the Kryptonite bike lock could be picked with a plastic pen and the company pulled an ostrich before issuing a recall?). Well, here’s the backstory. Boing-Boing readers (very popular group blog) started to notice they couldn’t get to the blog in certain Arab countries and Fortune 500 companies. The reason was some software, usually installed by clueless CIOs and IT departments, which blocks websites that display images of naked people. Seems Boing-Boing reviewed a coffee-table book about old men’s magazines and ran a thumbnail image of the cover, which, if you really, really squinted, would reveal some nudity.

Well, Secure Computing, the company that makes the software which blocks the websites, which annoys the users and sends the editors of Boing-Boing into fits, is now getting flamed royally.

Sunday New York Times last weekend gave prominent play to the incident:

“But a look back reveals that the January entry made reference to two new books from the graphic design imprint Taschen. Yes, the books are about adult magazines, but they are history books. And as for the thumbnail-size image that appeared alongside the original post, well, if you have to squint, is it really smut?

But that did not appear to be Secure Computing’s concern. According to the company’s definition, the Nudity classification applies to sites containing “nonpornographic images of the bare human body. Classic sculpture and paintings, artistic nude photographs, some naturism pictures and detailed medical illustrations” are included.

“We classify Internet content into over 73 different categories so that customers can chose, by category, what types of Web content they want available to their organization,” the company’s chief executive, John E. McNulty, said in an e-mailed statement, adding that Secure Computing “has no control over, or visibility into, how an organization implements their filtering policy.”

Then NPR had the story yesterday. Meanwhile, the editors at Boing Boing continue to hammer at the company, but the company ….

Go to the website and there’s nary a word. Not a peep. You can almost see the executive team hiding out, looking at the Times and listening to NPR, wondering, “what can we say to make this go away?”

E-mailed statements are worse than saying nothing at all.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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