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Cyber Patrol blocks Deja News

An anticensorship group criticizes the makers of the filtering program for blocking the newsgroup archives on the Usenet site.

Censorware Project, a group opposed to Internet filtering, released a report today criticizing a filtering company for blocking access to Deja News, a popular newsgroup archiving site.

Cyber Patrol puts Deja News, a site that stores postings from the Usenet newsgroup system, on its blocked site list because it contains all postings from newsgroups, including those that are considered obscene or otherwise inappropriate for children.

The Censorware Project in December issued a more comprehensive report criticizing Cyber Patrol for using too broad a brush when deciding which sites to filter.

Cyber Patrol decided to unblock many of those sites, the report authors stated today. Deja News remains on the list of sites that are automatically filtered, however.

That move concerned the Censorware Project authors, especially since Cyber Patrol is used in some libraries.

"Blocking library patrons from using Deja News because some of the newsgroups have sexual content is the equivalent of refusing to carry the Encyclopedia Britannica because some of the articles cover sexual topics," the report states.

Susan Getgood, a spokeswoman for the Learning Company, which owns Cyber Patrol, said today that users have the option of unblocking Deja News or any other site included in the "CyberNOT" list, which refers to the list of sites blocked by the program.

"The reason Deja News is on list is it does contain links and provides access to material that meets the criteria of Cyber Patrol's CyberNOT list," Getgood said.

While search engines can provide links to adult-oriented content, for the most part, the sites themselves will be blocked by Cyber Patrol, she said.

Newsgroups fall into a different category, however. "There are a lot of newsgroups that are on the NOT list. Deja News is not like anything else," Getgood said.

Deja News recognizes that some of the content for which Netizens can search is not necessarily suitable for children, said Deja News spokesman David Wilson.

That's why about a month ago, it separated content from "adult" newsgroups and added it to a pull-down menu. When users go to the Deja News page, the menu is set to search "standard" newsgroups. Anyone wanting adult material has to take the extra step of selecting "adult" archives or "complete" archives to gain access to those newsgroups.

"We are working to identify certain areas that would be objectionable to a large number of people," Wilson said. "You have to actively seek that content out to find it."

Wilson added that his company had never been contacted by Cyber Patrol.

"I disagree with the block," he said. "Am I concerned about it? I don't think it's going to do great, immediate damage to our traffic. I'm more concerned from the standpoint that it is blocking what is an extremely valuable resource for a lot of people.

"We would be open to talking with Cyber Patrol and any of the other products in that space," Wilson added. "We've just never been contacted by them. We've been judged and found guilty."

Getgood said her company is always open and responsive to feedback.