Among the most popular filtering software programs is Smart Filter by Secure Computing in California, which was bought by Mc Afee in 2008.
Smart Filter has been used by Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran, and Oman, as well as the United States and the UK.
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The blocking of Daily Motion in early 2007 by Tunisian authorities was, according to the Open Net Initiative, due to Secure Computing wrongly categorizing Daily Motion as pornography for its Smart Filter filtering software.
It was initially thought that Tunisia had blocked Daily Motion due to satirical videos about human rights violations in Tunisia, but after Secure Computing corrected the mistake access to Daily Motion was gradually restored in Tunisia.
Nevertheless, blocking remains an effective means of limiting access to sensitive information for most users when censors, such as those in China, are able to devote significant resources to building and maintaining a comprehensive censorship system.
Technical censorship techniques are subject to both over- and under-blocking since it is often impossible to always block exactly the targeted content without blocking other permissible material or allowing some access to targeted material and so providing more or less protection than desired.
The companies sell products that are liable to be used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information. lawsuit filed in May 2011, Cisco Systems is accused of helping the Chinese Government build a firewall, known widely as the Golden Shield, to censor the Internet and keep tabs on dissidents. Cisco is also accused of aiding the Chinese government in monitoring and apprehending members of the banned Falun Gong group.
RWB said that the list is not exhaustive and will be expanded in the coming months. Many filtering programs allow blocking to be configured based on dozens of categories and sub-categories such as these from Websense: "abortion" (pro-life, pro-choice), "adult material" (adult content, lingerie and swimsuit, nudity, sex, sex education), "advocacy groups" (sites that promote change or reform in public policy, public opinion, social practice, economic activities, and relationships), "drugs" (abused drugs, marijuana, prescribed medications, supplements and unregulated compounds), "religion" (non-traditional religions occult and folklore, traditional religions), ....Organizations such as the Global Network Initiative, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amnesty International, and the American Civil Liberties Union have successfully lobbied some vendors such as Websense to make changes to their software, to refrain from doing business with repressive governments, and to educate schools who have inadvertently reconfigured their filtering software too strictly.Nevertheless, regulations and accountability related to the use of commercial filters and services are often non-existent, and there is relatively little oversight from civil society or other independent groups.Vendors often consider information about what sites and content is blocked valuable intellectual property that is not made available outside the company, sometimes not even to the organizations purchasing the filters.Thus by relying upon out-of-the-box filtering systems, the detailed task of deciding what is or is not acceptable speech may be outsourced to the commercial vendors.One difference is that national borders are more permeable online: residents of a country that bans certain information can find it on websites hosted outside the country.