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Censorship: Internet Filtering

Documentation of Internet Filtering Worldwide, a project of the OpenNet Initiative, is seeking to document and analyze Web pages that have been blocked by, for example, countries wanting to restrict access to information for their citizens, or businesses that wish to disallow viewing leisure sites on company time.

"With this project we seek to document and analyze a large number of Web pages blocked by various types of filtering regimes, and ultimately create a distributed tool enabling Internet users worldwide to gather and relay such data from their respective locations on the Internet. We can thus start to assemble a picture not of a single hypothetical World Wide Web comprising all pages currently served upon it, but rather a mosaic of webs as viewed from respective locations, each bearing its own limitations on access. As various countries, companies and other entities employ or consider employing filtering software, documentation of the specific details, successes, and in some instances flaws of existing filtering efforts may prove helpful. (See European Union Internet Action Plan - Filtering & Rating, among other entities considering filtering.)"

Abortion searches blocked ... then unblocked

A few days ago, searches for the term "abortion" were restricted in a major government funded family planning database called Popline.

Wisely, folks at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which administers the database, acted quickly to remedy the situation and promise to launch an inquiry.

It is interesting, though not at all surprising, that the issue was first discovered and reported by a librarian:

A librarian at the University of California at San Francisco noticed the new censorship on Monday, while carrying out a routine research request on behalf of academics and researchers at the university. The search term had functioned properly as of January.

Puzzled, she contacted the manager of the database, Johns Hopkins' Debbie Dickson, who replied in an April 1st e-mail that the university had recently begun blocking the search term because the database received federal funding.

"We recently made all abortion terms stop words," Dickson wrote in a note to Gloria Won, the UCSF medical center librarian making the inquiry. "As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now."

From Wired.Com

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