CYBERSitting On Your Rights

New! The folks at Solid Oak (It's what their heads are made of, evidently) software have decided to start blocking anyone who tells people what sites they block! Sheesh. I mean, if you're selling censoring software, letting people know what you block seems to be free advertising....unless, of course, you're a bunch of lying, deceitful, lawsuit-happy ultra-conservative book-burning fascist funnydementedalist bastards who are selling something that most assuredly is not what you claim it is.

They claim that "CYBERsitter includes a bad sites list of 1000's of World Wide Web sites that are not suitable for children. Any site that focuses on topics such as adult or sexual issues, illegal activities, bigotry, racism, drugs, or pornography are included in the list. "

OK. That's fair enough. I am, above all things, a capitalist, and I believe that he who pays the bills, calls the shots. If you're using Mommies computer, and paying for your Internet on Mommies credit card, then Mommy has the right to decide what you are going to see. (And if you're too stupid to know how to disable software like Cybersitter, you are too young to be on the net unattended anyway.)

However....when a company claims their product does something, but it actually does something different, that's fraud -- a violation of the fundemental principle of non-initiation of force. And when you try to sic lawyers on someone -- a teenager, no less -- who has the balls (or, as us Red Sea Pedestrians say, the chutzpah) to point out in public that you're committing fraud, then you have gone way over the line.

Let's back up for a moment.

First off, I have no particular objections to selling censorship software to private citizens. Anyone has a right to put out their own eyes, and if the good (hah!) folks at Solid Oak can make money by selling Oedipus his needles, so be it. A fool and his money, etc.

A young man named Bennett Haselton, representing an anti-censorship youth group called Peacefire, downloaded their demo software and tested it out to see what it blocked. He found it did a lot more than just block the sites described above. It also blocked sites which dealt with radical politics, feminism, abortion, and gay rights -- none of which are mentioned in the advertising copy I quoted above. It's like buying a pesticide guaranteed to kill ants, and discovering it kills your kids as well!

OK, so they're lying cheating bastards. Well, shoot. I'm a graduate of the Ferengi School Of Business Ethics, and, as such, I confess to a slight soft spot for lying cheating bastards, especially ones who are basically just ripping off redneck Christian idiots who are terrified of having their innocent little children see a nipple or two our of wedlock. Seperating the religious from their money is a time honored tradition going back to the moneychangers at the temple. (Sure, that hippie Jesus threw a hissy-fit, but he ended up nailed to a tree, and that's the last we've heard of him!)

Then they went too far.

They threatened to sue Bennett, and his ISP, and probably a bunch of random strangers on the street, for nothing more than telling the truth! It would be one thing if Bennett had said 'Cybersitter will give your cat the runs'. But he didn't. All he did was run the program and note what sites he could and couldn't access. And then wrote about it.

So why are the goose-steppers at Solid Oak so upset? Because he caught them with their hand in the cookie jar...or rather, with the lit match and the bucket of gasoline at the library. And then he made it public. He told their customers the truth about what they were actually buying, and they couldn't take it. So they did what anyone in America does when confronted with the truth -- they hired a lawyer.

This, folks, is where I got royally pissed.

You see, rule number one for us anarchocapitalist types is:THOU SHALT NOT INITIATE FORCE. Wanna smoke cocaine, worship Satan, and have sex with sheep (all at the same time)? No skin off my back, just keep the noise down. But when you start using force -- a gun, a bunch of thugs, or the US government (which is a bunch of thugs with guns) -- you have placed yourself outside of the rules of civilized behavior.

When you summon forth the lawyers, knowing that your lawsuit is without legal merit, knowing that the person you are suing has neither the time nor resources to adeuqately defend himself, knowing that this is the only reason you are filing at all -- you are committing an initiation of force as surely, clearly, and directly as if you had gone to his house with a gang of mobsters and threatened to break his kneecaps. Solid Oak has comitted an act of blatant, direct, deliberate, purposeful aggression. It is seeking to use force (government agents) in order to silence a critic. Not a pornographer. Not a drug dealer. Not a terrorist. Just someone who used their software and wrote a report on what it did.

At this point, no actual lawsuit has been filed...the mighty silverbacks at Solid Oak are still thumping their chests and dripping testosterone. With luck, any actual legal action will be averted -- but that's hardly the point. The difference between threatening a baseless lawsuit and carrying out a baseless lawsuit is the difference between threatening to break someone's kneecaps and actually doing so -- both actions are immoral, one is just less painful.

Am I getting a little too carried away here? No. This is the proverbial you know what of the you know what. TUCOWS is being sued by Gateway Computer for...get this...having cows on their web page! Gateway thinks they can trademark a cow! And there's plenty more where that came from.

You see, the pseudosocialist entities which laughingly call themselves 'corporations' (as if we lived in a capitalist society!) can't deal with people being able to communicate about them. Free, total, and open communication about a companies products, services, and practices is the surest check on that companies activities. In the old world, when the only media which could reach a significant audience was liscenced by the government and funded by the advertisers, you'd never hear a peep about this sort of activity -- until the court case was over and the company would trumpet it as a warning to anyone else who might dare to criticize them, sort of akin to putting out the severed heads of your enemies, but less honorable.

But now, there's the Internet -- and a teenager named Bennett, or a loudmouthed anarchocapitalist named Lizard, can reach a worldwide audience of millions, and there's nothing they can hold over me. I spend 25.00 a month for my internet connection -- not millions of dollars. I don't depend on this for any income. I have no assets to seize (I don't even own a car). I have no fear of losing audience, because I don't give a damn if anyone reads this or not. I don't have an FCC liscence to be revoked. All the systems by which mass communication has been controlled have been destroyed and there is nothing which is going to replace them. Intel found out with the Pentium bug. The FBI found out with Ruby Ridge. And now, Cybersitter is about to find out.

By their oldstyle thinking, threatening someone with a lawsuit will shut them up. But all it has done is spread the word. Bennett's page would likely have languished in the backwaters of the Internet -- until they decided to make a fuss. Now Wired and a few other online mags with wide readership have covered it. I'm putting up a copy, and I'll bet other people will as well. Soon enough, they're going to need to censor the whole net to keep people from reading it. And I doubt even the inbred goobers who buy their product are going to believe that every single site on the Internet is 'obscene' or 'indecent'.

Here's my free advice to Cybersitter -- give up now. You've lost badly, and every day you delay your surrender simply spreads the story of your loss further. The feline is out of the sack, your dirty little secret is out. The entire net knows you are lying book burning bastards -- don't prove yourselves too stubborn to know when to quit.

Oh yeah...before you get your lawyers all hot and bothered over my characterization of you...check out the decision handed down when Carl Sagan tried to sue Apple Computer over their naming one of their prototypes "Butt Head Astronomer" in his honor. Characterizations like 'book burning bastards' and 'lawsuit happy ultraconservatives' are so obviously statements of opinion that they are not grounds for libel. If I were lying (and I am not), my accusations of fraud might be, but here's the facts:

This page, and all comments on it, are strictly within the law. You cannot silence me. To quote a great and wise man, David Barry of Florida, "Neener neener neener".

And here's the page that causing all the ruckus:CYBERSitter critique page (Local copy)

Addendum 1! Anyone wanting to check these claims out for themselves, can -- Solid Oak has freely available demo versions of their software. They ought to thank me for promoting their product.

Addendum 2! In the interests of fairness, I hereby offer to post any rebuttal from Solid Oak of length less than or equal to this page. Or link to any such rebuttal they may wish to put on their page. Lizard grew up with the Socratic method, and believes that truth is best determined by vigorous debate between equals, not by elites handing down the law from on high. (That Socrates rigged the dialogues to make himself look good and his opponents look like idiots is something else Lizard learned in Philosophy 101, but let's not go there.)

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