Monday, January 21, 2013

A Minor Skirmish in the Culture Wars

You're looking at a blocked page I encountered on my Nexus 7. I was at a local restaurant, Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza. Anthony's, like so many restaurants in the area, provides an open WiFi point. Unlike other restaurants this Anthony's uses Solid Oak Software's CYBERsitter to "filter" (censor) sites it deems unfit for the general public. In this particular case, it flagged BoingBoing.net as undesirable for one of the possible reasons listed to the left. In particular I found the last reason, about being located in a "blocked country," a bit humorous. A simple WhoIs lookup (via GoDaddy, of all people) shows BoingBoing to be hosted in Toronto Canada. The only thing BoingBoing is "guilty" of is acting as one of the leaders against uncontrolled and blatant Internet censorship and IP fascism.

Solid Oak Software has been, and continues to be, the center of controversy. From its heavy handed censorship to accusing the Chinese for pirating its software and re-marketing it as Green Dam Youth Escort, Solid Oak Software seems to continue to crop up like proverbial palmetto bugs.

As for Anthony's: I've been there twice, once over New Years with one of my daughters for a meal, then a second time, this time with just my wife when I captured this screenshot. I was following BoingBoing (along with many other sites) over the coverage of the death of Aaron Swartz, in particular Cory Doctorow's commentary. And so, while waiting for our meal I pulled out my trusty Nexus 7 to read a bit (my wife had her Nook reader with her), trying to check on BoingBoing, when I ran into this page.

This past Sunday I went out with my wife to check on all the local restaurants we know with public Wifi near our home, to see if BoingBoing was blocked. My method was to stop, get out for a moment, get a WiFi connection, then navigate to BoingBoing. Of all the restaurants and businesses we checked (Chipotle, Barnes & Noble, Panera Bread, Whole Foods, Two Js, First Watch, and Anthony's), only Anthony's had the block.

Which is fine by me. Anthony is a bit on the expensive side, and tends to burn the crust of its pizzas black, something I find I really don't care for. The one item they have on their menu that my wife and I truly enjoy are their wings, and that's just an appetizer. But I don't enjoy those wings so much to swallow their censorship along with the food. There are too many other good places around the area that don't have this kind of censorship for me to spend time or money at Anthony's. And now that I know that Solid Oak Software is still out and about, I intend to be ever more vigilant in finding them and pointing out where they're hidden.