Here's the background: A US-based company, Secure Computing, sells a website censoring product called SmartFilter, which is used by many organizations worldwide to keep their employees/students/members from accessing certain sites that have been tagged (often incorrectly) as having objectionable content. For example, out of the 692 entries posted on Boing Boing last month, only two contained nudity. However, SmartFilter also labels the other 690 posts as "nudity" because Secure Computing can't afford to make a filter that is more than 0.5% accurate.
Another reason we don't like Secure Computing: It helps corrupt dictators oppress their people. In defiance of the US government's stated goal of promoting democracy around the world, Secure Computing has the gall to license its filtering products to totalitarian governments, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. These countries, which have government-run ISPs, pass all their citizens' web requests through centralized filters. Can you imagine having a business model that includes selling tools of oppression to tyrants?
Also today, we learned another way in which Secure Computing is willing to make the Web worse for everyone in order to keep their inefficient filter from breaking: A Xerox employee told us that SmartFilter "now blocks any use of the Google 'Translate this page' function. Yay."
One reason SmartFilter might be interested in blocking Google's invaluable translation service is because it would stop people who had been using it to outsmart SmartFilter. (Here's Boing Boing's guide to defeating censorware, which includes the now useless Google translation proxy trick.)
If your company uses SmartFilter to block Boing Boing, we'd like you to test Google's translation service and see if it still works for you. Report your results here. It's hard to believe that Secure Computing would behave so irresponsibly as to actually block access to a translation service just to keep its censorware from collapsing.
Link to original Boing Boing story here.
I work at a Fortune 500 company that runs SmartFilter. I recently experienced the sudden blocking of BoingBoing.
SmartFilter is also blocking Google Translation Services in my company and categorizing the URL as "Anonymizing Utilities."
Another website that kind of works is WorldLingo. You can translate to another language, then "back translate" to English.
It may not be the best translation, but it works.
I'm currently working for Marconi in the UK and it looks like they are using SmartFilter to decide what their employees can look at whilst working.
Boing Boing has been banned/not banned several times over the past six months and now web translation services have been dumped in the sin-bin too. I tried both Google and Babel Fish with the same result:
Access denied because of its content categorisation: "Anonymizing Utilities"
Update: Kathryn Cramer has collected a great deal of financial information about Secure Computing, including the major shareholders and speaking engagement calendars of Secure Computing executives (so you can ask them why they sell censorware to tyrants). Great stuff. Link
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects