Inaccuracies in the "CyberNOT search engine"

The "CyberNOT search engine" was created in March 1997 and is located at The form on that page says that the user can type in a URL and be told whether that URL is blocked by Cyber Patrol.

However, the results returned by the CyberNOT search engine are often incorrect. When our "Blind Ballots" report was released in November 2000, a reporter installed Cyber Patrol and confirmed that all ten sites listed as blocked by Cyber Patrol were in fact blocked, even though the same article confirmed that the "CyberNOT search engine" was returning results saying none of the sites were blocked. Most of the blocked sites listed in our Amnesty Intercepted report were also listed by the CyberNOT search engine as "not blocked" at the time the report came out.

According to our experience, if the CyberNOT search engine says that a URL is blocked, then it is. But if the site says that a URL is not blocked, then this may or may not be true.

The CyberNOT search engine was originally created less than a month after Declan McCullagh, a frequent critic of Cyber Patrol, set up the Censorware Search Engine ("CSE") site on in February 1997. The CSE (which Pathfinder later took down as part of a site overhaul) was created by McCullagh with the help of Seth Finkelstein, who decrypted the lists of sites blocked by Cyber Patrol, SurfWatch, and other censorware programs, and gave the lists to Declan. Using a form on the CSE site, a user could enter a keyword and get a list of URL's and newsgroups matching that keyword which were blocked by the different censorware programs.

Cyber Patrol's decision to create the CyberNOT search engine was widely regarded as a "response" to the Censorware Search Engine, as well as to longstanding criticisms that Cyber Patrol kept their blocked-site list secret from customers. Susan Getgood, Vice President of Marketing for Cyber Patrol, said in an MSNBC interview:

[Background: MSNBC was discussing the fact that Peacefire had recently released a program for decoding the list of sites blocked by CYBERsitter, another blocking program that doesn't let the user see the list of sites that is blocked.]
Susan Getgood: I think that the interesting thing is we do share what sites are on our list. We publish a search engine that people can use to come to our web site and check out to see if a site is on that CyberNOT list of inappropriate sites.
- MSNBC interview, April 1997

Of course, even if the CyberNOT search engine had reported correct results, it still wouldn't have been very useful, since it only tells the user whether a particular URL is blocked. (The Censorware Search Engine was more useful since it provided a keyword search of the URL database; McCullagh's page suggested for users to search on words like "gay" and "feminist" to turn up some of the more controversial examples of blocked sites.)

But since the CyberNOT search engine doesn't even return correct results anyway, there is no reason to use it, except to get confirmation of a site that Cyber Patrol has agreed to add to their list.