The Censorware Project

Federal Courts Use Censorware;
Free Speech Advocates Object

By the Censorware Project

April 22, 1998


Contact: Jonathan Wallace
daytime: 212-513-7777
evening: 718-797-9808

New York, April 22, 1998 -- The Censorware Project, an organization which battles the use of blocking software by public institutions including schools and libraries, announced today that it has learned that federal courts are using the WebSENSE censorware product, at least in the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth judicial circuits (covering twenty-two states and Guam). WebSENSE was installed by the Administrative Office of the Courts, apparently without the knowledge or consent of the judges themselves.

"I am really disturbed that the federal court administrators have installed censorware, especially in light of federal judge Leonie Brinkema's recent decision in the Loudoun County, Virginia case," said James Tyre, a First Amendment attorney who is a founding member of the Censorware Project. "In that decision, available at, the judge suggested that blocking a web site in a library is like pulling a book from the shelves. It is particularly shocking that the Administrative Office of the Courts thinks that federal judges need to be protected against the Internet -- and that our tax money is being spent to buy censorware for this purpose. It would be ironic indeed if Judge Brinkema is prevented by WebSENSE from visiting the very sites at issue in the Loudoun County case, blocked by X-Stop, a competitor of WebSENSE."

One site erroneously blocked by the WebSENSE product under its "Hacking" category is -- a humorous site created by security experts to educate the public about computer crime. "WebSENSE apparently took the site for a real computer crime site," Tyre said. "DigiCrime is not just one bad block out of 200,000: it is one of 54 hand-picked sites by the makers of WebSENSE itself included in the downloadable demo versions of the product. Although The Censorware Project has not done a full analysis of WebSENSE, one must seriously question its claims to accuracy if it cannot even get its demo blocks right." WebSENSE also reportedly blocks A Different Light Bookstore,, specializing in gay or lesbian literature. The company claims that the product blocks 200,000 sites.

The Censorware Project is a group of Internet activists opposed to blocking software and ratings systems for the Web on the grounds that both approaches promote government censorship of the Net. For more information, please contact Jonathan Wallace at

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