Biased Blocking?

Word is out that Websense blocks foxnews.com because it’s categorized as an “Advocacy Group”. Meanwhile, CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, ABC News, and other MSM sites are not blocked by the enterprise security filtering software (for the exception of some sports content).

According to the source, if you attempt to access the news site from your desktop, the filtering software will send you the following error:

Access to this web page is restricted at this time.
Reason: The Websense category “Advocacy Groups” is filtered.
URL: http://www.foxnews.com/

Websense defines Activist/Advocacy Groups in the following manner:

Activist/Advocacy Groups

Sites sponsored by or devoted to organizations that promote change or reform in public policy, public opinion, social practice, economic activities and relationships. Excludes commercially sponsored sites (4, 13, 21), sites dedicated to electoral politics or legislation (10.2) or to the abortion issue (1), sites advocating hate or violence (16, 18, 27).

Peacefire.org has been looking into Websense for some time. They have logged a number of examples where the company has miscategorized various websites.

Mudvillegazette wrote about Websense back in September of 2004, complaining that the filtering software blocks a variety of blog sites.

If your company runs Websense on their corporate servers, give it a try. See if you can view Fox News in your browser, and try the others too. If one is blocked and the others are not, let me know.

I have contacted Websense and have asked them to confirm or deny that Fox News is being blocked by their software and explain why this news site might be unfairly singled out. When I get their response, I’ll post it here.

UPDATE: Thanks to those who have commented and emailed about their experience with Websense. It appears that some are experiencing un-filtered access to foxnews.com, while others are being blocked. I’m still awaiting the company’s official reply to my inquiry and when I receive it, I’ll post it here.

UPDATE II: Still no official response from Websense on the Fox News allegation. I have poked around a little more, and I’ve found further evidence that suggests Websense website blocking is more about attitudes and opinions of local individuals who manage the enterprise security software than any “out of the box” covert bias from the creators themselves.

I believe all companies have the right to decide how much Internet access they provide to their employees. Millions of dollars in productivity are lost every year due to “on the clock” amazon browsing/eBay bidding/score checking, not to mention the damage that’s done when a virus finds its way into a large computer network lacking proper security.

I didn’t find Websense guilty of any crime, so I don’t feel like I owe anyone there an apology. I merely brought a complaint to a larger audience and asked for explanation. It would be good to close the chapter on the issue, and a short, to the point reply from their corporate office would effectively do that for me. We’ll see…

Comments

  1. FOX Blocking

    PunditGuy is on to something interesting, and I hope conservative bloggers pick up on it. Websense, “global leader in web filtering, and premier provider of web security software, provides multilayered web filtering and web security solutions to incre…

  2. Sharp as a Marble says:

    We use websense at work and I can view Foxnews.com with no problem. I’ll ask the administrator if he had to ‘unblock’ it.

  3. We have websense, but it is not blocked. I asked our admin how it is categorized and he did one better than that, gave me the address to check myself.
    http://ww2.websense.com/global/en/SupportAndKB/SiteLookup/index.php

    Currently categorized as “News and Media”
    -Frank

  4. Does the company have a say in adding sites to the filter for blocking? I am curious if it is the company itself making the call (which is still just as bad as webscene if not worse).

  5. Gern Blanston says:

    Under the definition you provided, what about Fox News doesn’t make it an advocacy group? I guess I don’t quite follow. Fox News only exists to affect social and economic policy. Why the hell am I watching it if that isn’t what it’s for?

  6. dougpetch.com says:

    Oncd Bitten, Twice Shy

    Having fallen for the Internet swAOarm surrounding the non-controversy about AOL Instant Messenger’s TOS, I’m staying out of this one, other than to point out…

  7. Wonkette says:

    Remainders: Morning After Edition

    • Wonk’d: “Just saw Ralph Nader looking even more disheveled than usual, and slightly confused, trying to catch a cab quite literally in the middle of 18th and K. Hungover from St. Patrick’s day shenanigans? Insert green party joke here…”…

  8. Fox is the most blatantly partisan of the major news providers. What’s the big mystery here? Everyone — yes, even Republicans, knows this. “Fair and Balanced” is about as perfect a specimen of Orwellian doublespeak as exists in media.

  9. Joe's Dartblog says:

    Advocating Good Reportage?

    PunditGuy reports that Websense, an internet filtering application, blocks access to foxnews.com if ‘advocacy groups’ are set to be blocked. CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, and ABC News are not blocked….

  10. I’ve learned that quite often when the accusation of bias and/or partisan behavior is leveled at the media in general and at Fox specifically. What is actually being said is the accused party doesn’t re-enforce the accusers worldview. Enter the post by Scott…..

    M

  11. Broohaha says:

    SO you thought some software was biased because it appeared to block FOX news and not the other network news services. SO WHAT? You act as if FOX isnt biased, because it tells you what you want to hear…YOUR slant. Isn’t that biased? Don’t you WANT to consider other viewpoints? This is too much like Germany in 1938!
    Auf weider sehen!

  12. Gabrielle says:

    ok…i dont know much about the whole websense thing with fox news, but i do know that the lightspeed filtering program has a lot of sites blocked on it relating to any sort of pro gay rights, yet most of the anti gay rights sites are allowed to be viewed? isnt that just as biased??

  13. I AM A SECURITY GUARD ON GRAVE YARD SHIFT AND ITS BORING ON THE WEEKENDS AT WORK. I GET THIS Websense. THEN SAYS IT WILL BE REPORTED TO MY BOSS . AND IM TRYING TO VIEW MY SPACE . COM OR A YAHOO PROFILE IT SAYS DATING OR PERSONAL . HOW CAN I GET AROUND IT .

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