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Group unveils program to disable Web filters

Anti-filtering group Peacefire says porn-blocking Web filters from Net Nanny, CyberSitter and five other companies can be disabled with its program.

Porn-blocking Web filters from Net Nanny, CyberSitter and five other companies can be disabled with a program released Monday by anti-filtering group Peacefire, the group says.

The program, available as a free download at the Peacefire Web site, was released in reaction to expected federal mandates for Web filters on school and library computers.

The Peacefire program is an amalgam of the instructions for disabling filters that Peacefire has been posting on its site for months. But instead of having to input lines of code, the download makes disabling filters a "one-click process," said Bennett Haselton, head of the organization.

Haselton says the Peacefire program can disable seven filters: Net Nanny, Cyber Patrol, SurfWatch, Cybersitter, X-Stop, PureSight and Cyber Snoop.

"People have a responsibility to think about where their values come from," Haselton said.

For now, the program can disable only the filters that reside on a personal computer. But Peacefire is working on the next generation of disablers for filters that sit on networks, Haselton said.

Peacefire's release is contrary to what some of its own supporters believe is a better way to fight filtering software.

One group, the Censorware Project, decided it would disseminate information about filters but would not release code or applications to disarm them, said Censorware member Jonathan Wallace.

A Net Nanny spokeswoman said the software did not disable Net Nanny 4.0.

The release was met with a verbal shrug of the shoulders from many of the companies targeted.

"I'd prefer they didn't. But that's part of the whole game," said Joe Field, who does text support for Pearl Software, the Exton, Pa.-based company that created Cyber Snoop. The program's main thrust is to monitor Web use, but it also has some blocking capability.

Field said Cyber Snoop was not targeted in the past by Peacefire's efforts. "We're dealing with a different philosophy," one of monitoring vs. blocking, he added.

Bruce Taylor of the National Law Center for Children and Families called the release a victory for the porn industry.

"The porn industry in this instance really loves" it, he said. "It's a shame for kids and parents. It's a reason why Congress keeps passing laws."

Net Nanny spokeswoman Nika Herford said Peacefire's efforts damage the group's cause.

"The more they do this type of stuff, the more it gives you impetus to legislate," she said.

Peacefire's Haselton countered, "The government has the impetus to legislate regardless of what we do."