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                  Winners of the Foil the Filters Contest

Thanks  to  all  who  submitted entries in the  Foil  the  Filters  Contest,
including the many anonymous ones. We hope this contest will help illustrate
how  unreliable  censorware  is  and  provide  further  examples  for  those
interested   in   exposing  it.   And  of  these  examples, these  are   our

 Grand Prize

Joe J. reports being prevented from accessing his own high school's Web site
from  his own high school's library.  Carroll High School adopted  filtering
software  which  blocked all questionable material.  This included the  word


You  wouldn't  think  someone  named  Hillary  Anne  would  have  censorware
problems, but all attempts to register were rejected
because  censorware spotted the hidden word "aryan." Hillary says "I had  to
email  and  fight  the  system like crazy to actually  be  able  to  use  my
registered nickname again."


        The Poetic Justice Award For those bitten by their own snake


An  anonymous submitter noticed that the Web site of Richard  "Dick"  Armey,
Majority Leader of the U.S.  House of Representatives and a staunch defender
of  censorware  and  strict  Internet regulation,  is himself  a  victim  of
censorware. Netnanny, Surfwatch, Cybersitter, N2H2, and Wisechoice are among
the "software solutions" which Armey advocates.  All of them filter his site
because it contains the word "dick."

The  conservative group Focus on the Family intends its anti-porn site  Pure
Intimacy to be a "resource for those struggling with sexual temptations" and
the  "psychological bondage" of this,  as the main reason why individuals go
online."  Jim K.  observed that Cybersitter blocked this site for  violating
the following categories:  porno,  hardcoreporno,  sexual,  nudity,  and, of
course, bondage.


The  Silicon  Eye  Award  For finding objectionable  content  where  only  a
                            computer would look


Tim M.  wanted to register an account with Sympatico, but it wouldn't accept
the name "Heather," which contains the phrase "eat her."

  Honorable mentions

John  W.  couldn't  get  to a test preparation site.  The Navy's  censorware
blocked  him from accessing the A+ Exam site was blocked because  it's  URL,  contained  the word "sex." John C.  had the same  problem
with a biotechnology education site,

An  employee  of Surplus Exchange complained that customer's  always  report
being  unable  to access the site.  The non-profit company  recycles  office
equipment,  and,  in this whistleblower's words, the employees have "nothing
to do with sex." Maybe censorware is not their biggest problem.

One of Kelly D's Australian high school students had difficulty completing a
report on the genetics of cucumbers.  The education department had chosen to
use NetNanny, and when it detected the word "cum" in "cucumber". The student
had to complete the report offline.

CyberPatrol kept stopping Paul J.  from submitting his monthly reports.  The
subject of these reports was statistical software that "analyseS HITs,"  but
the center letters kept coming back as Xs.

Devon  R.  won't be seen on Microsoft Network's Messenger under the name  of
his favorite "high-tech cow." Censorware blocked his choice: "Gizmoo."

We  see  a lot of problems like the Essex  Company's  insufferable  problems
getting  their email to go through.  According to C.,  their address domain,,  rarely  vaults other company's censorware,  hurting profits and
frustrating works.

An  anonymous  submitter reported being unable to use a German word  for  "a
kind of virtual coffee" at Hotmail: "muckefuck."

Chris G.,  of Greece,  has a client,  Pissanos Productions.  His attempts to
register  were dismissed by Network Solutions and  many  other
services, resulting in "a large amount of money." Finally, he says, he found
a service that didn't use a word filter.


                Overkill Award For blocking even good words


John  exposed  some strange filtering decisions at Quokka.  The site  blocks
"golden,"  he  says,  "no doubt from its connection with showers."  It  also
blocks  "mate," "so Aussies and Kiwis can't use the term,  which refers to a

 Honorable mentions

John  W.  plays  multiplayer  games at CyberStrike II,  but  CyberStrike  II
appears to be playing games with him.  John noticed that the words "gay" and
"sex" are blocked at the site but if he types "I am a homosexual". "homo" is
blocked  and  replaced  with "*#%." Saying "I am  heterosexual"  goes  right
through, though, "of course."

Sergio is Canadian and, no surprise, a big hockey fan. All he wanted was the
time  his hockey game would start,  but he couldn't access Statspro  because
the  link,,  contained  the  word

Mike  Q.  and son have discovered that the auction areas at won't
permit the word "bitchy" in the description area even though the item he was
trying  to sell used the word on the back cover.  It was a book about  Bette
Davis, and many books are sold by Amazon which use this word, and others, in
their titles.


   The Sherril Babcock Award For enduring censorware's human implementors


Sascha  of Germany is Webmaster for Teendate,  an international penpal  site
promoting communication and understanding among teenagers.  When he tried to
submit  the  site  to,  it was blocked as an  adult-entry  site.  The
Webmaster  explained  that  "the word 'teen' would  be  reserved  for  adult


  The Twilight Zone Award For blocking which humans don't even understand


Scott,  a  high school student in Australia,  couldn't get past his school's
censorware to complete a report on the Fibonacci sequence (the  mathematical
sequence in which each number in the series is the sum of the previous two).
He  suspects  the  word was blocked because  the  mathematical  sequence  is
relevant to "the pattern of rabbit-breeding," but we don't buy it.

 Honorable mentions

Trish  M's company uses WorldSecure software which won't let her access  the
popular  Web  crawler search engine.  The entire site is blocked  for  being

Jeff  G.'s  company wouldn't let him access a link to  WebMonkey,  a  techie
site,  from's  site.  He's  not  holding  his  breath  for  an

John  found that the sailing forum at Quokka bans use of the  word  'scoop'.
This  has everyone baffled.  He asks "does it mean something that I  haven't
heard of?" "Scooping" is a new one to us, too, John.

Chris  found NetNanny was triggered by the word "rum." It "didn't  block  it
per-say,"  he  says,  "but  instead sent spaces in place of the 'rum'  in  a
company FTP password. Disabling NetNanny solved the problem. A lesson for us


              The Frolic Award For fun at censorware's expense


Peacefire's  Bennett Haselton takes the prize for his fun with  Cybersitter.
Bennett  started with this phrase:  "Gary Bauer is a staunch anti-homosexual
conservative who sees the gay movement as absolutely pure fascism and thinks
movies of men with men are the greatest terror."

After  Cybersitter's keen filters attacked it,  here's what came out:  "Gary
Bauer is a staunch anti-conservative who sees the gay movement as absolutely
pure and thinks movies of men with men are the greatest."


                           The Dick Sexton Award

Named for one with a personal stake in censorware for obvious reasons.  This
award honors those whose lives have been affected by filtering.


Terry  D.  works  for a company that secured a contract in  that  Yorkshire,
England town,  Scunthorpe.  The IT manager had implemented a mail filter but
wasn't aware that no one had been able to receive customer emails from  this
client  for  four days (the filter didn't generate logs).  The  manager  was

An  anonymous submission blames the Gauntlet firewall for  "prohibiting  300
lawyers from searching the Web for detailed dissections and commentary.  The
most  frequently used word for such works is 'analysis,' and the first  four
letters of that word are blocked."

 Honorable mentions

Manish  Engineer and Dean Santamaria-Capetanelis deserve quick mentions  for
being  blocked  for  non-censorware reasons.  The former's name is  often  a
"reserved"  word  which  isn't  permitted as  a  registration  option..  The
latter's last name is frequently blocked because,  with 22 letters,  its too
long  for  many registration algorithms to accept.  Online,  look for him as
just Santamaria-Cape.


         The Puritan Award For outstanding achievement in hindering
                people from learning about their own bodies


Altavista's  "family filter".  When activated on 9/26/00,  Altavista's total
number of returns for "sex"  a topic which includes areas of public  health,
mental health,  safety,  reproductive facts,  contraception, animal biology,
sexual dysfunction, law, history, prose, and poetry totaled only 161.


    The "I saw the light" Award For committing censorware to the flames


Not everyone stays committed to censorware.  Mike maintains a former science
teacher's  Web site and built in a censorware mechanism with what  he  calls
"the usual swear words." When a posting showed up on his site which  spelled
"class"  as  "cl***",  he  dumped the filtering software to the  flames  and
hasn't used it since.

 Honorable mention

You  may  know Matsushita better as the company that controls  Panasonic.  A
"major mover," according to David B., but only after voicing his "outrage at
the  stupidity  of the algorithm" did his company prevent the  company  from
appearing in his newsgroups as MatsuXXXXa.


         The Inspiration Award For reminding us what it's all about


Attributed  to  EPIC's Marc Rotenberg,  and though we aren't sure if it's  a
real case or not, it says it all and we couldn't pass it up. Thanks, Marc.

"Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of sXXXch, or the right of
the  people  peaceably  to XXXemble,  and to peXXXion the government  for  a
redress of grievances."


 Alan Brown, Dir., Internet Development, Digital Freedom Network

                  RELATED MATERIAL

Digital  Freedom Network announces censorware contest winners:  The  Digital
Freedom  Network has announced the winners in its Foil the Filters  Contest.
(September 28, 2000)

Digital Freedom Network announces "Foil the Filter" contest: DFN's "Foil The
Filters"  contest is under way,  and entrants are encouraged to search  high
and low,  sometimes very low,  to trip up Internet censorware. (September 7,

A debate on filtering: Executive Director Omar Wasow and DFN
Internet  Development  Director Alan Brown debate the  merits  of  filtering
technology. (August 30, 2000)

Filtering  follies:   Filtering  software  is  no  substitute  for  parental
discretion, and it often does more harm than good. An essay by DFN Executive
Director Bobson Wong. (August 25, 2000)

Web  site  bans woman with "unacceptable" name:  In a new twist on  Internet
censorship,  Los  Angeles attorney Sherril Babcock was blocked from  joining
the  online service at least until she  changes  her  name.
                      (August 18, 2000)

Widening the network of friends:  Dissident Xin Wenming condemns the Chinese
government for shutting down his site and clamping down on freedom of speech
on the Net. (August 11, 2000)

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