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.
Websense defines Activist/Advocacy Groups in the following manner:
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…