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Friday, January 27, 2006

AUB unblocks "From Beirut to the Beltway"

AUB has finally unblocked "From Beirut to the Beltway" after I submitted a request to their computing department yesterday. An anonymous reader informed me on Wednesday that my site and a number of other Lebanese political blogs were “blacklisted” and could not be accessed via the AUB network.

AUBnet users got this message when they typed my URL:

403 AUBnet Blacklisted Site

The site you are trying to access via AUBnet was blocked by an automatic content matching process.

AUBnet relies on URLBlacklist.com, a commercially-managed URL blacklist service that provides human verified and maintained URL categorization.

Access to this site is blocked...

Target group = porn
As you can see, Beirutbeltway.blogspot.com was categorized as “porn” and was automatically blocked.

The AUB person who restored access to my blog told me that “in general, blogspot.com subdomains are all listed under http://urlblacklist.com/. However we can exempt some sites upon users' request.”

According to the company's website, URLblacklist.com allows anybody to submit requests to categorize URLs as anything from “kids time wasting” to “pornography.” Someone obviously hated my blog and tried to manipulate the system by classifying it as porn.

Urlblacklist.com claims their black list is human verified. Removing sites from that list is not easy. First you need to use their search feature to locate the site. My site could not even be found, even though, at least according to AUB, it was blacklisted!

The fact that this site was accessible before makes me believe that this was done recently. To AUB’s credit, their computing services department acted on this immediately when I notified them. I do think, however, that they should not rely on this service, which as you can see, can be easily manipulated by people with political agendas.

In any case, welcome back AUB students and faculty!

This is a further example to illustrate that the efforts to "clean" the internet and to control its contents are often misguided. Had one reader in Lebanon not complained, had Kais not approached the AUB computer center and had they decided not to cooperate then all potential users of the AUB internet connection would have been deprived of reading a Blog that they have an interest in. How many other blogs are wrongfully censored?

I imagine that all AUB users are adults under the law and thus I see no reason to waste any resources aimed at curbing their personal rights especially when the price for such actions could be so high.

The only argument is support of internet censorship by the AUB is the fact that it is a private institution. Unfortunately it is a private institution of higher learning that is abbrogating its duty to encourage free access to all ideas, even those that it disagree with. The AUB is setting the wrong example.
ghassan, there are actually a few other blogs that are blacklisted. Which is a shame, considering that some of those aren't even political. I think, as Kais said, that this may have been a blogspot.com general ban.
Damn... I had better stop accessing this site at work... or at least I may as well go to a real porn site and make it worthwhile!
I asked a while back why is it that Leb blogs get only 10-20% of their readership from Lebanon?

Could there be more censorship than we know? Other campuses?

(Still hoping that DSL will help some with that issue.)
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