A “Web Guard” option offered by T-Mobile on its cellular telephone service has disconnected access for some readers to WorldNetDaily.com, the Internet’s leading independent news source, apparently by misclassifying it as a source of “adult” material.
“I use T-Mobile Internet access for my smart phone … They have an optional product called ‘Web Guard’ that keeps children under 18 from accessing adult material,” wrote the reader identified only by his initial, D, because of privacy concerns.
“Somehow, this ‘Web Guard’ option was mistakenly activated on my account and I could no longer access WorldNetDaily,” he continued. “I could access Matt Drudge, CNN, Fox News, CAIR, etc … but not WorldNetDaily.”
Nielsen Online’s March statistics ranks WND among the top 25 news websites in both unique visitors and sessions per user.
The results reveal WND is topped in traffic by only three U.S. newspapers: The New York Times, USA Today and the Washington Post.
But WND, over the past year or so, has encountered numerous similar reports, in which such Internet filters mistakenly classify the news site in one of the categories for objectionable material.
At one point a WND reader from Minnesota told of getting a response of “inappropriate” when he tried to access WND.com through the wi-fi services at a Dunn Bros. coffee shops.
“I was, however, able to get onto Drudge. I tried to get to your site back-door by clicking on the Joseph Farah link but, again, foiled…” Paul Basil said then.
The coffee shop was using software identified as DansGuardian.org, which explains it was developed by Daniel Barron and bans Internet pages based on phrases and other factors.
“DansGuardian is an award winning Open Source web content filter which currently runs on Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, Mac OS X, HP-UX, and Solaris. It filters the actual content of pages based on many methods including phrase matching, PICS filtering and URL filtering. It does not purely filter based on a banned list of sites like lesser totally commercial filters,” the company explains.
However, the website posts a disclaimer about any problems.
“If you have come to this website wondering who to e-mail to complain about the filtering used at your establishment, then you are looking in the wrong place. DansGuardian can be configured to filter as much or as little as required and it is up to the end user administrator to configure it for your exact needs. Please do not e-mail the mailing list or the author as its (sic) not their fault. You need to e-mail your administrator with the problem.”
A spokesman for the coffee shop said the blocking was being researched.
“As a franchisee we use the appointed vendor from corporate and really do not have much say in what is blocked or not,” said the note that was signed Mike Klemesrud.
Multiple WND calls to the corporation elicited no response, but an e-mail to Basil from the company’s “compliance specialist,” reported she was going to contact the store.
Other questions were raised by WND readers over the work of one of the larger filtering companies, ContentWatch.com, which has a product called Net Nanny that has been cited by readers several times for blocking WND for having “hate and violence.”
The company told WND it now “has made the necessary changes to our Net Nanny and ContentProtect programs to ensure that www.worldnetdaily.com is not blocked for Hate and Violence.”
After the first complaint about Net Nanny, the company promised to reconfigure algorithms in order for WND to be accessed. When told of the second episode, spokesman Scott Cleghorn said he had checked, and his version of the Net Nanny program allowed access to WND.
Early in 2007, WND finally resolved a blocking situation involving the military provider that makes Internet services available to U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine bases worldwide.
The U.S. Navy launched an investigation into blocking of WND at WND’s request after the news site received a flood of e-mails from readers.
An undefined “security” issue between the web-hosting location WND uses and the Navy computer existed later was resolved. A block by American Airlines also was lifted, as were blocks by several other filtering companies.
A T-Mobile spokeswoman who identified herself as Amanda told WND the situation would be researched. She said she was unsure whether the company’s “Web Guard” operations were an in-house filtering system, or whether that had been subcontracted.
“We are trying to look into it to get an answer to your question,” she said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
By the end of the day, WND had not yet had a response from the company.
But “D” said it appeared to be a specific blocking.
“Whenever I would click my shortcut to your site, a message would pop up telling me that I could not access this type of material because ‘Web Guard’ had been activated on my account and to contact T-Mobile to have it removed,” he wrote. “I was insulted because I had to convince the rep that your site was not an ‘adult website’ and that I had never had a problem accessing it before.”
T-Mobile says its “Web Guard” is “an optional add-on feature which restricts access to adult-oriented (over 18) material on your phone while using the T-Mobile network.”
WND, a fiercely independent news site, was launched a little more than 11 years ago by Joseph and Elizabeth Farah, and for nearly 100 weeks in a row was listed as the No. 1 most popular website in the world by Global 100.
WND also has been consistently ranked by several major Internet ratings agencies as the “stickiest” news site on the Internet – meaning readers average more time on it than any other.