Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Apparently, Nova Scotians have delicate sensibilities.

OK, that title's not quite fair -- it's apparently only people travelling through Halifax Airport that need to be protected from literary intemperance, as an e-mailer points out:


I just thought I'd drop you a quick note to let you know that your blog is content filtered at the Halifax airport.

There is free WiFi in the departure lounge (and elsewhere I presume) but surfing to your humble corner of the tubes comes up with a shiny splash page warning.

Now let's understand something -- I have no problem with certain entities or organizations filtering based on content. Certainly, private corporations have the right to do whatever they want with their equipment, and so on.

But (and correct me if I'm wrong) isn't Halifax Airport publicly funded? It sure looks that way from a quick invocation of Teh Google:

March 3, 3005

Tourism Funding To Help Attract European Air Traffic

The province and the Halifax International Airport Authority are joining forces to bring more European visitors to Nova Scotia.

Tourism, Culture and Heritage Minister, Rodney MacDonald, announced today, March 3, an investment of $600,000 to increase air capacity out of European markets, especially the United Kingdom and Germany.

And if that's the case (and I stress if, since I might be misreading the above badly), then what exactly gives Halifax Airport the right to decide what its paying travellers are and aren't allowed to read?

The last time I checked, we here at CC HQ weren't doing anything illegal -- no file sharing, no copyright infringement, no child porn, etc. And, as far as I know, there's nothing unlawful about using any of George Carlin's seven words (or any of their variations). And if this blog is being filtered, I'm guessing a whole lot of other blogs are getting the same cold shoulder.

So, given that the public is paying for Halifax Airport, I think it's reasonable to ask why the public shouldn't be allowed to use that (publicly-funded?) WiFi to read whatever the fuck they want. Because if they can't, well, that's just a hideous violation of my right to free speech to say things that offend people as long as I don't break any laws, isn't that the way it works?

I'm sure Ezra Levant and his coterie of yipping cocker spaniels will be over here shortly to show their moral support. Yessir, any minute now ...


Lindsay Stewart said...

be interesting to have some eastern brigand spend an hour or two surveying the limits of the filter. i know that a certain company's censorware has universally nuked boingboing after being outed as a purveyor of cruft and malicious wares. and i've also read of incidents that spiked content on ideological lines (both left and right). any volunteers?

Sheena said...

Don't worry. Raymi is filtered too.

Ti-Guy said...

Does your blog occasion just a warning, CC, or is it restricted completely?

I don't have a problem with warnings (except perhaps with how their worded).

As for getting the free speech warriors on this, good luck. Ezra would of course defend you, but only if he were made aware of it. And from three feet up his own arse, I doubt that's likely to happen with him.

Rosie said...

yah, i was there a few weeks ago and was checking my email from wireless and noticed this site was blocked too. In their defense, its FREE wireless that they provide (I have been to quite a few airports and this is pretty rare), and you have to agree with a terms of service beforehand that states something about profanity and/or nudity. Although this blog doesn't really show a lot of nudity (thank god ;) I'm pretty sure it scores high in the profanity category.
The Rogers and Aliant hotspots are not monitored for content, so I guess if you don't agree with their terms and conditions you can pay for it.

I am sure its content filtered because we are surfing in public and there are kids around and they want to make sure no one is surfing inappropriate content. Although I don't believe this blog is inappropriate, it probably contains a few of the key words that get filtered.

Personally, the fact that they are providing the service for free is good enough for me, its saved my butt a few times when my flight's been cancelled and I had to rebook. As the line of 200 people shrank, so did the number of available seats, and I was able to get one right away instead of waiting for hours on the phone or in line.

I know I'm rambling but one more thing: The publically-funded hospital I worked at also blocked your site for a long time. It also blocked any page with the word "breast" (keep in mind this is a MATERNITY hospital where people do research on BREASTfeeding). So I agree these filters can be a little overzealous.

Red Tory said...

Maybe Mikey could find his way out of the "Socialist Gulag" for a while, borrow mum's car and drive down to Halifax to check it out. Finally, something useful for him to do!

Ti-Guy said...

So I agree these filters can be a little overzealous.

And in a sense, kind of useless. They can't filter images for content and if a site avoids the tagging or other text that engages filtering, I can see a kid in public area getting a screen full of images he or she shouldn't be seeing, as opposed to a couple of fuck words (which all the kids know, anyway).

I imagine part of this is to simply short-circuit the inevitable complaints of vocal prigs and prudes constantly on the lookout for offense, which can lead to not providing any free WiFi at all.

CC said...

Rosie points out that the WiFi is "free" so that might be a mitigating factor. I beg to differ.

As the saying goes, "There's no such thing as a free lunch," and if that airport is publicly funded, then someone is paying for that service and I'm betting it's the taxpayers.

If that's the case, then I believe I have a right to complain that my right to free speech is being violated and, no, it doesn't matter one whit if this blog contains bad words -- that's not my problem. If my tax dollars are subsidizing that WiFi service, then I have the same right as everyone else to be heard at that airport.

If Halifax Airport wants to put a little warning on some blogs with a little click-through, that's just fine with me. But it's not fine if they feel they have the right to decide who's readable and who isn't. That's just being a bunch of moralistic prudes, and isn't it the Right who are constantly whining about "the Nanny state?"

So who do I officially complain to about this?

Miss Cellania said...

You'll have to write a letter. I bet they won't get an email from you.

E in MD said...

Must be all the fucking foul ass fucking language on this site of leftie moonbats!


Rosie said...

Sure, write them a letter. Maybe then I can read your blog while I'm waiting for my flights :)

I guess I could point out that I have accessed your blog at public libraries, and now at work at a hospital, so there is no reason why it should be blocked-if publicly funded venues is the issue.

Personally, this type of "censorship" doesn't bother me, as I am getting a service that would otherwise not be available to me. If they want to restrict my access then thats their prerogative. If I had paid for it personally then I would have a problem. My tax dollars on the other hand, go to many things that irk me, like subsidizing oil companies, paying $1200 a year per child, and war. This is pretty far down on the list of things bought with my tax dollars that irk me.

Now, if the government was restricting my access to information in my own personal domain (my personal internet, or internet I personally paid for) then I would have a huge problem.

I'm not saying anyone is wrong to be mad about it, just that I personally am not.

Anonymous said...

Chances are they use a content filtering "service", and its not some staffer going through and blocking sites one by one.

I ran your blog through all of the services listed here

All had CC categorized one way or another. All were benign categories, but that category might trigger the warning about potential content being unsuitable. IE, its a generic warning, not aa specific targeting.

Unless you can determine that Halifax Airport staff have deliberately targeted your site, and not a 3rd party, I wouldn't complain much, or put much stock in it.

For fun, run through the filters. This is a prime example of how different 3rd party companies categorize different sites.

Scotian said...

What I would be curious to know is whether those filters were there before the federal government changed hands or not since if I recall correctly they are the ones running the airport. I can't speak to this myself not being a laptop owner nor flyer. It does sound silly and yet it also sounds like something I could see people down here putting in place to keep some of the shall we say overly zealous morality police from having an issue to beat the airport with.

I really don't know. I will say though when I first saw the title of this thread I was a touch irritated, but then I read the post and understood it. Speaking as one born and bred Bluenoser I think this restriction is idiotic.

Anonymous said...


This is where I feel sorry for the airport authority. I'm not sure if they have the same issue, but the airport may be partly liable if someone uses the wireless connection for unseemly purposes. I know corps can be sued by employees if they witness other employees surfing objectionable content. Its a major reason why companies filter content.

If one traveler were using the Internet and was viewing content another traveler found objectionable (and could see looking over their shoulder) the offended traveler might complain. At least its a nuisance and a customer service issue, at most a potential lawsuit. In either case its a hassle the airport doesn't want, even if it isn't legally at fault.

So possibly on recommendations on legal consul, they installed a filtering service to help mitigate the risk. The trouble with filtering services is that they are not 100%. Some sites are miscategorized, others are missed entirely. Combine that with the sheer number of web pages on the Internet and that it is humans at these filtering companies making judgments about the category of a page, well it gets messy. All filtering services are imprecise, and make you wonder if its worth the effort.

But every day, people demand that the Internet be controlled, so anybody providing free Internet service in a public area needs to filter Internet access to minimize chances of being sued. You can't keep everyone happy, you just have to do the best you can to cover your own ass.

Sheena said...

Or your own cunt. If you're a girl.