Servers Block A Number Of 'Provocative' Sites
International Airport adopted free wireless Internet service last
November, the move was met by-and-large with applause from
passengers traveling through the Rocky Mountain hub... but some
have criticized the airport's decidedly Big Brother-ish approach to
determining what is "appropriate" content.
According to The Denver Post, those surfing on free Wi-Fi at DEN
aren't allowed to view such sites as VanityFair.com, due to that
magazine's often "provocative" content. Ditto such popular sites as
gossip column perezhilton.com, or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit
Airport officials say they're simply erring on the side of
caution, and note other family-friendly public places -- like
libraries -- block objectionable web content, as well. But others
say it amounts to the type of cyber-censorship one reads about from
countries like China, or in the Middle East.
"Give people some credit. And the more credit you give them, the
more they respond," said musician David Byrne, founder of the
Talking Heads, on a blog post detailing his trip through DEN last
month. He was blocked from logging onto the freeform news and
features website boingboing.net. "It's just trusting people's
A commenter to the ISP Planet blog was more succinct. "Software
designed for the prudery and rigidity of Sudan is determining user
experiences in the United States," the poster wrote.
Airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said DEN opted to install the
Webwasher filtering system when it converted from paid Wi-Fi
service, to the free network last year. The decision came down to
the question whether officials wanted to hear complaints from
disgruntled parents, whose children may inadvertently view
pornography... or from users opposed to the measure.
The family vote won out, and Cannon said the airport has only
received two blocking complaints so far. The system in place at DEN
also blocks anything displaying partial nudity... or even
suggestive underwear ads.
Critics of such
blocking at DEN note the apparent hypocrisy at work -- as hardcore
pornography magazines like Hustler are still available for purchase
from airport concession stands. They say discretion and public
responsibility dictate to most people they shouldn't thumb through
such magazines in a crowded concourse... nor should people log onto
suggestive or offensive websites in public, whether they're paying
for Internet access or not.
"This gets to the heart of what the Internet is all about and
whose responsibility it is," said boingboing.net editor Xeni
Jardin. "It seems particularly unfortunate that something as
symbolic as the city's airport, a gateway to culture, commerce and
the flow of ideas, would be blocked in such a fundamental way.
"The intent is understandable, but the outcome is bad for
Denver," she added. "This manner of policing the Internet has been
proven time and time again to be easily circumventable, with any
number of means.
"So what it does is just block traffic to legitimate sites. Like
the locks on your suitcase only keep the nice guys out," Jardin