The McAfee Internet security corporation has promised a fix after describing WND, the leading independent news site on the Web, as “blogs/wiki” and “controversial opinion” in a database of website URLs, triggering a number of systems to deny users access to the site.
The company also has begun an investigation into how the changes were made, after numerous reports were documented over the last 48 hours citing a sudden denial of access to the WND site.
The denial messages specifically mentioned the “blogs/wiki” and “controversial opinion” classifications McAfee had applied to WND in its “sites” office that reviews and categorizes Web operations for customers.
“The change was made by somebody working on the Web security product,” spokesman Joris Evers told WND. “We are currently investigating what led to the change.”
He said the company had restored WND’s description to that of a general news and opinion Web site.
McAfee’s customers routinely download the McAfee database of site descriptions to determine what sites system users are allowed access. They also can modify those lists, but in this case a spokesman in McAfee’s technical division confirmed to WND that it was the company itself that had applied the two descriptions.
Those key words then triggered blocks for many Internet access systems, such as at corporations and school districts.
A school teacher sent WND a screen capture of the warning:
McAfee block warning
The warning said, “Your request to URL ‘http://www.wnd.com/’ has been blocked by the Webwasher URL Filter Database. The URL is listed under categories (Blogs/Wiki, Controversial Opinions), which are not allowed by your administrator at this time.”
“I am an avid reader of your site. I frequent it at least 2-3 times a day and read many of your commentaries on the site. I love Molotov Mitchell! He is my favorite,” wrote the teacher, whose identity was being withheld.
He found WND.com blocked.
“I then checked www.moveon.org. Of course, it was unblocked and running just fine. Another fine example of shutting down any information resource that doesn’t agree with our current political administration,” he said.
“I already requested our technology director to unblock it and he did. The problem is what other sites are they choosing to block? I told him I think blocking ‘controversial opinions’ is a form of thought control. If they were going to block that, we wouldn’t be able to get to global warming, abortion or anything debatable,” he wrote.
“Keep doing what you are doing for the 60 percent of America that reads your site. The other 40 percent is just a bunch of robots falling in step with the new socialistic agenda,” he said.
WND reported recently when President Obama created a stir in the news media as the White House tried to exclude Fox News from a pool-interview opportunity.
Fox News, like WND, has reported on the numerous controversies involving President Obama, including his choice of extremists for his team of czars. WND has gone further, reporting Obama’s unwillingness to provide documentation to prove he is a “natural born” citizen and thus, under the U.S. Constitution, eligible to be president.
A spokesman in the technical-support division pinpointed the problem for WND quickly. He said it had to do with the labels applied to WND in the company’s “sites” office. The division creates a database which customers download to be used to censor specific sites or topics.
“[WND] It’s currently categorized as ‘Blogs/Wikis’ and ‘Controversial Opinions’, which is incorrect,” said Nate Kautz in an e-mail to the company’s sites office, which was copied to WND.
Among the institutions in which access to WND was affected were Raytheon and Veterans Affairs hospitals.
“I tried to read your site but it has been blocked here at the VA for being controversial,” said another reader. “Daily Kos … there were no problems.”
From a VA hospital, one worker wrote, “While the U.S. government filters were once used to block pornography and social networks, a wise decision given the large amount of Internet use by government employees, they are now going after conservative and ‘politically incorrect’ websites.
“Eventually it will extend to all those sites that oppose the current political administration. Ironically, the Council on American-Islamic Relations web page is NOT blocked,” he wrote.
WND has reported on a multitude of such situations, often when WND is misclassified.
For example, not long ago a “Web Guard” option offered by T-Mobile on its cellular telephone service disconnected access for some readers to WorldNetDaily.com by mistakenly classifying it as a course of “adult” material.
Another case arose in Minnesota when a reader told of getting a response of “inappropriate” when he tried to access WND through the Wi-Fi services at a Dunn Bros. coffee shop.
The coffee shop was using software from DansGuardian.org. 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.”
That company has told WND it now “has made the necessary changes.”
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 later was resolved. A block by American Airlines also was lifted, as were blocks by several other filtering companies.
WND was launched more than a decade 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.