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Continuum 2 - IT expert replies to blocking

Reader comment on item: No Longer Banned in the British Library!

Submitted by Peter (United States), Apr 14, 2014 at 19:45

Someone who attributes sinister motives that easily will not make friends easily either.

I'm not saying Mr. Pipes is wrong, but you have to give the BL the benefit of the doubt at the moment.

Having a rudimentary understanding of Web filtering is part of my professional work, as I market complex firewalls and web filtering systems. It's staggeringly difficult to get right, as so much is subjective, the playing field isn't level, and the rules of the game keep changing.

Most systems produce a 'score' for each web object, based on direct assessment of content and reference to other indices elsewhere. Over a certain threshold will get it (or the whole domain) blocked. Scores are usually on several different scales, and mathematically combined. This helps effectiveness. Usually, all administrators do is set the threshold values and set exceptions based on complaints from users.

There's no practical alternative to this. There are simply far too many sites to have a manual process, AND this process has to work for every language on the web-connected planet, not just English (and not just the Roman alphabet, either). The system also has to consider hosting services known to have low security, or a history of virus delivery, or a history of hosting unpleasantness.

The problem is turning network administrators into 'thought police.' It's a role they universally hate, don't want, and has nothing to do with the technical complexity of their training and mainstream work. It's analogous to holding a car mechanic responsible for the vehicle owner's bad driving!

It's not going to change much, either. If you run a public organisation, which would you rather hear as a complaint: "Johnny downloaded hundreds of porno images while he was using your computers!", or, "I couldn't research transvestite hem-line trends because the sites were blocked!"

One makes you laugh, the other may well get you sacked.

And you can't hold a conversation above the clattering sound of middle managers running for the bunkers. They usually don't want to think about this and they certainly don't have the bandwidth to formally decide whose illiterate 3-page rant, sorry, blog, gets blocked and whose doesn't. Of course Mr. Pipes' blog isn't in /that/ category, but that's no help to underpaid administrators.*

Welcome to modern life, Daniel Pipes.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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