T-Mobile USA's Web censorship tool blocks Internet Archive, French economics site

The Open Observatory of Network Interference has released its report on the errors made by T-Mobile USA Web Guard, an Internet censorship product that T-Mobile customers can opt into. Web Guard blocks the website for the Tor Project (an anti-censorship tool), an Italian page that is displayed to users blocked by Italy's national censoring firewall, the Internet Archive, the website for Cosmopolitan magazine, a Chinese sports news website, a site that helps you keep your referer information private, a French economics site, a 9/11 conspiracy site, a Greek political blog, and many others.

T-Mobile USA Web Guard (via /.)


  1. Censorship is at its most effective when it doesn’t make sense. I will gladly opt-in to anything that makes my web experience more exciting!

  2. Given the size and prominence of the internet archive, I’m ever so slightly surprised that they didn’t hardcode something for it; but that is the one on the list that otherwise surprises me least:

    Architecturally, there is a lot of that ‘loading a scrape of a 3rd party URL in a frame’ behavior in the Internet Archive’s interface. That is also tool #1 for most of the web-based anti-firewall proxy sites, which most censorware interfaces try to block for obvious reasons.

    Google(and other) search engine cached pages and page translator tools usually get caught for the same reason. All are ‘legitimate’ in ‘content’ terms; but are trivial to use to get a benign TLD to feed you the content from a blocked one.

    1.  The Internet Archive was declared a top infringing pirate site in the most recent **AA’s list of places that are stealing kajillions from us.
      They also listed 50 Cents webpage, and sites they were providing songs to asking them to be shared with the public for promotion.

      Someone looked at the list and decided it must be true.

  3. Just about every pretween has a cell phone, my best guess is the people opting in for this censorship are doing so for their kid’s accounts.

  4. Yeah, the other really annoying thing about this is that I have a t-mo prepaid SIM that I use when in the States, and as a non-citizen it’s a huge pain to get this disabled – I’d have to call and argue with the CSR about why I didn’t have a social security number, which is what they require to disable it online. 

  5. Blocking Tor and other tools for working around censorship proxies makes sense, if you’re going to run a censorship system.   But most censorship systems are full of arbitrariness and random errors as well.  I do computer security work, and I’m constantly getting blocked by the work firewall because a site I’m trying to look at is a “Hacker” site (oh, no!), and half the videos on BoingBoing only work from the direct link, not the embedded version.

    1. If you work in security you should have a domain handy and the know-how to implement your own password-protected web proxy. Mine isn’t perfect but it beats our IT department – and my colleagues are extremely grateful that I share the PW.

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