Join Now!

Blocked Site of the Day

Blocking Software Reports

Cyber Patrol
Net Nanny
X-Stop / 8e6

About Peacefire
Join Peacefire
Blocking Software FAQ
Press information

All contents
©1996-2010 Peacefire


HomeAbout PeacefireCensorwareContact

Net Nanny Examined

Net Nanny is one of the lesser-used blocking programs; very few Peacefire members have indicated that it is being used at their school, and a survey of 24 libraries using blocking software did not include any that were using Net Nanny. However, in 1997, a student at Central Texas Community College reported that the software was being used on campus computer terminals. Then, in February 1998, Friends University installed Net Nanny on their campus computer system. In the latter case, staff at Friends University reported that the software blocked information on sexually transmitted diseases, the politics of prostitution, and even a site about Adam and Eve.

Net Nanny was one of the four blocking software programs criticized in the 1996 article "Keys to the Kingdom", which listed some of the sites blocked by Net Nanny, CYBERsitter and Cyber Patrol. Although the authors wrote that the list of blocked sites used by each program was encrypted and could not be read by the user, Net Nanny comes with an unencrypted list of about 3,500 blocked sites -- making it the only program so far that allows the administrator to see the list. It also blocks much less than any of the competing programs (which usually come with "blocked site lists" of about 100,000 Web sites). Net Nanny has claimed that they give more control to the administrator (i.e. parent, teacher or librarian) by not encrypting their list; however, Peacefire members whose schools are using the software have reported that the default sites selected by Net Nanny are blocked in the overwhelming majority of cases. Because filtering software companies usually encrypt their blocked site lists to protect them from being used by competitors, Net Nanny has less motivation to encrypt their list, since it represents an investment of much less time and money.

Although the blocked site list is short, Net Nanny employes a more severe word filtering mechanism than most other programs. It is often reported that blocking software will block an entire page based on the occurrence of a single word. This is not usually true; Cyber Patrol and SurfWatch will block pages only if a banned word appears in the URL, and CYBERsitter will simply remove the word from the page. Net Nanny, however, blocks all pages by default that contain the words "sex", "drugs" or "pornography", and can even be configured to hang up the modem or lock up the computer if a banned word appears on the screen. This was the default configuration reported to be in use at the Central Texas Community College. For example, the Net Nanny FAQ (which has since been removed from the Web) states:

"So if your kids do a lot of e-mailing or go into chat rooms within IRC you can still take action. Say your kidís friend e-mails him a pipe bomb recipe. If 'bomb' is in your dictionary Net Nanny goes to work."

Although Net Nanny blocks fewer Web sites than any competitors, it does block access to about the same number of newsgroups, including:

  • bit.listserv.aidsnews
  • alt.feminism
  • soc.feminism
as well as the Banned Books page at Carnegie Mellon and, which describes itself as a "comprehensive, searchable directory of links to female friendly sites and information on the World Wide Web".

While the Banned Books page and are blocked because the URL's exist as entries on Net Nanny's blocked site list, more Web sites are blocked because they contain keywords which activate Net Nanny's word filter. TIME journalists reported in an August 1997 article that Net Nanny blocked the National Organization for Women Web site (which was the source of much more controversy when the same Web site was blocked by CYBERsitter). A Friends University professor also described being denied access to information the Episcopal Church's position on homosexuality, at an unspecified Web site.

Net Nanny is the only program which includes the names of mailing lists on its list of banned keywords, including:

  • -- according to a description at, this is the "discussion list is for the distribution of AIDS statistics from various agencies", mainly the Center for Disease Control's monthly AIDS Surveillance Report
  • -- the mailing list of AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power
  • -- described as a "discussion list for scouts, scout-masters, and former scouts who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual"
  • -- the mailing list of the "National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals", whose web site describes the group as an organization opposing discrimination and stereotyping in the sciences "Keys to the Kingdom" also reported that Net Nanny blocked all mailing lists run by the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Said the authors of the article, "Guess those computer geeks talk blue when they're not pumping out C code."

    More articles in the news about Net Nanny