You know what’s really, really really annoying? Well okay, lots of things, but pretty high up on my list is when some moronic Internet-monitoring service classifies my site as porn and blocks it so that it can’t be accessed by anyone working in an office where this service is used.
There’s this Net-monitoring filter called Fortinet, which has, for no obvious reason, put my blog (and a few other blogs I know of, including India Uncut and Gaurav Sabnis’s Vantage Point) in the category “offensive”. This first came to my notice a few weeks ago when my own office started using this service. I came in to office one day, tried to access my site and found instead a message saying:
“Accessing this site is a violation of your user policy. This site has been rated: pornography.”
Of course, I raised hell with our systems staff and eventually got them to unblock my blog URL on our office server. But since then I haven’t been able to access a few other sites from office.
Anyway, things were quiet for a few weeks – none of my friends had a problem opening my site from their workplaces and so I didn’t follow up – until today, when Black Muddy Shamya, who works for Headlines Today, messaged to say he couldn’t access Jabberwock; his office had started using Fortinet.
So what process does Fortinet use to monitor and pass random judgement on websites? Well, one obvious way would be to scan sites that have objectionable pictorial content (mine doesn’t) or profanity (which I usually avoid) and to stamp “pornography” on them. Now this would be silly enough in itself – how can you realistically censor the Internet? – but what’s much worse is that there clearly isn’t a fixed set of guidelines for classifying sites. Blogs that are full of explicit language, for instance, have not been blacklisted and can still be accessed on my office server. I spoke to one of my systems guys about this selective screening and his theory is that Fortinet acts on people’s complaints: if someone writes to them saying my site is offensive and supplies a URL to one of my posts where, say, the F-word has been used (in the post or in a comment), well that’s enough “proof” for these guardians of cyber-space morality. Seems a reasonable explanation to me, based on what I’ve seen so far.
For now I’m trying to find out how I can contact Fortinet and send them a polite but firm mail asking them to kindly de-porn me. If you know anything about how these Net-monitoring services operate, or if you have been unable to access my blog, or have faced a similar problem with your own site, please write in.