"Vapor Ware" Software Absolutely Doesn't Work
Meanwhile Congress is Mandating Filtering Software be Installed in Every School and Library
UPDATE: July 1, 2000
(ORIGINALLY FILED: June 26, 2000)
Exotrope Inc.'s BAIR smut-blocking software was billed as the "final solution" in closing the last big loophole in anti-pornography Internet Blocking software: BAIR could actually find and block pornographic pictures! Through huge databases, products like Surf-Watch could block entire web-sites from minor's view, but pictures, accessed directly, could slip right through. Exotrope proclaimed that through complex algorythems it could actually determine what image was included in a jpeg.
Except, it just doesn't work.
WIRED NEWS reported in an excellent, well researched article by Declan McCullagh titled Smut Filter Blocks All But Smut
that "BAIR's 'artificial intelligence' does not work as advertised."
"In tests of hundreds of images, BAIR incorrectly blocked dozens of photographs including portraits, landscapes, animals, and street scenes. It banned readers from viewing news photos at time.com and newsweek.com, but rated images of oral sex, group sex, and masturbation as acceptable for youngsters," WIRED continued it's report.
This is exactly the kind of problem that PEACEFIRE - Youth Alliance Against Internet Censorship has been reporting and combating for the last three years.
"I think all manufacturers of blocking software have suckered journalists and politicians to some extent by claiming it is more accurate than it really is," said Bennett Haselton, founder of Peacefire. "This is an unusual case because we're talking about a product with a zero percent accuracy rate."
In the software industry, such advance hype about software that doesn't yet exist or not ready for actual release is called "Vaporware."
Meanwhile, on June 27, 2000, the U.S. Senate approved Senator John McCain's amendment requiring the use of software Internet filters in every school and library. McCain's amendment was added to the huge Labor, HHS and Education appropriations bill.
The Senate voted 95-3 vote to compel local adoption of filtering and blocking software. The McCain amendment requires schools and libraries receiving E-rate federal funds to select and use technology that blocks access by minors to obscenity, child pornography, and "any other material that the library determines to be inappropriate for minors."
The WIZARD genuinely sees both sides of the filtering issue and has actually opposed the American Library Associations blind eye "let any kid see any thing" policy. But, given the overwhelming evidence the software doesn't work well, we worry such government legislation will give parents and guardians a false sense of security.
The Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), and many other groups opposed the McCain mandatory filtering amendment, which imposes a one-size- fits-all filtering mandate on centers of learning and information-gathering, and precludes local communities from choosing for themselves whatever solutions they believe work best to deal with children online.
The Senate is expected to complete work on the Labor HHS appropriations bill this week. The House has already passed its version of the bill, which also included similar filtering language.
The Labor HHS appropriations bill also includes this little government intrusion in your face regulation:
An amendment by Senators Hatch and Leahy, requiring large ISPs (greater than 50,000 subscribers) to provide filtering software to their customers for free or at cost, was added without objection to Senator McCain's amendment and passed as well. What's next, a regulation for us to use the software?
If you disagree with this bill and it's assault on Freedom of Speech, The Center for Democracy and Technology is organizing a grass roots campaign to lobby congress to defeat the bill.