Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 11:52:18 -0700
From: Bennett Haselton
Subject: Crashing the COPA Commission hearing with embarrassing reports
The Congressionally appointed COPA 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. Waldo Jaquith from Peacefire also went down and crashed the hearing armed with copies of the reports.
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 http://www.copacommission.org/papers/ (They already have a link to our "Project Bait And Switch" report.)
Pretty exciting stuff -- since these hearings may affect the fate of COPA, the "Child Online Protection Act", which is the Internet censorship law to be fighting against right now, this is one of our major chances to change the course of a legal battle that affects the entire country. (And embarrassing big companies, and seeing the looks on their officers' faces when confronted with the evidence, is also nice.) We'll be in overdrive for the next few weeks -- check the Peacefire.org site often!