Reprinted below is an essay by Bennett Haselton, founder of Peacefire, a student group opposing censorship. Bennett has undertaken a campaign to inform all interested parties that Solid Oak Sofware's Cybersitter product, represented by the company as an aid to keep children away from indecent information, also blocks political and feminist sites. Somewhat predictably, Solid Oak overreacted and has not only blocked Bennett's site, but has also contacted his ISP, threatening to block all the Web pages it hosts if it refuses to unplug the Peacefire site.
Read on for the details of Solid Oak's philosophy--then see my conclusions as to why you shouldn't buy Cybersitter, and some other Cybersitter-related links, at the bottom of the page.
Jonathan Wallace firstname.lastname@example.org
|Solid Oak Software has vowed that Peacefire's reports about CYBERsitter "will be blocked wherever they may be".||We are thrilled that so many visitors have offered to mirror this site following national coverage in Wired Magazine. If Solid Oak Software finds any mirrors of this site they are likely to ban those as well.||Here's how to set up a mirror of this site so that Solid Oak Software cannot use a search engine to find it.|
Original copy of this page at:
Among other places:
|Every fact on this page can be verified by referring to the articles below, from HotWired and Internet World magazine, or by downloading a copy of CYBERsitter from the Solid Oak Software web site, http://www.solidoak.com.|
CYBERsitter, a blocking
program from Solid Oak Software, is advertised as an Internet
safety tool that filters "offensive" content. Demo copies are given
away at the company web site, and the product is
also marketed by
on the Family, a long-standing backer of the
A close look at CYBERsitter reveals an agenda that infringes on the rights of children, parents and teachers wherever the program is used. Despite the hype over "parental control" as an alternative to government censorship, it is Solid Oak Software that takes control when CYBERsitter is running on your computer.
Although the word "women" is not banned for obvious reasons, CYBERsitter makes it impossible to enter it in an HTML form--so doing a web search on "Women's Rights" or "Women's Issues" at Yahoo is out of the question.
World Wide Web censorship
CYBERsitter's definition of "offensive" content cuts a wider swath of censorship than almost any other program.
Behind the Scenes
Solid Oak does not notify service providers when their sites are blocked. And unlike arch-rival Cyber Patrol, Solid Oak does not provide an appeals process for web authors whose pages are placed off limits.
What are we going to do besides talk about it?
You can contact Solid Oak Software, the makers of CYBERsitter, by sending mail to email@example.com or calling (805) 967-9853. Their President and CEO, Brian Milburn, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not put the word Peacefire or Haselton in the subject line as their e-mail software has been configured to reject all messages on this topic.
Visit some of the following sites and encourage their makers to stand up to CYBERsitter and hold their ground:
Questions, comments, or tipoffs: email@example.com.
Sources and more information:
See also commentary in PC World at www.pcworld.com/annex/columns/rose/index.html.
First created November 5, 1996
Last updated December 11, 1996
Contents of this page Copyright © 1996 Peacefire. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to redistribute.
In our book, Sex, Laws and Cyberspace, Mark Mangan and I viewed blocking software such as Cybersitter as a good thing. Using a "client-server" analogy for the Internet, we argued that laws like the Communications Decency Act attempt to eradicate certain kinds of information from the server (the entire Internet). Blocking software allows parents and others to make individual choices at the client level (the PC).
Solid Oak Software, distributors of Cybersitter, have gone far beyond this agenda:
I strongly urge parents looking to screen their children's Net use to avoid the purchase of Cybersitter, so as not to support Solid Oak's political agenda and bullying behavior.
Jonathan Wallace email@example.com
Cybersitter Censored Pages
Nurse Your Net Nanny.
A list of words and phrases blocked by Cybersitter.