Blocking Software Reports
SafeSurf ExaminedSafeSurf announced their ratings system in a press release on June 25, 1995 entitled "SafeSurf Unveils Plan to Save the Internet". Under their ratings system, Web authors can label their Web pages according to content in nine categories.
One category for "age range" ranges from 1 ("all ages") up to 9 ("explicitly only for adults"). SafeSurf recommends a rating of 3 or higher ("teens") for "pure information services like reference databases, dictionaries, CNN News or an AIDS awareness site" according to the rating system documentation.
SafeSurf also has two separate categories for "homosexual themes" and "heterosexual themes". To answer the question of why straight and gay pages are classified differently, the SafeSurf FAQ states: "By grouping everything together, we take the choice away from everyone. We are in no way stating that one group is right or wrong, good or bad, but that they contain different types of resources and information, and should be classified per those differences."
SafeSurf has proposed the Online Cooperative Publishing Act, introduced at the July 1997 Internet regulation summit in Washington, which would make it a criminal offense to rate a site incorrectly, and make it a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, to publish a site without a rating.
The SafeSurf rating categories are:
The MIT Student Association for Freedom of Expression Web site includes an archive of a USENET discussion (part 1 and part 2) on the merits of the SafeSurf rating system. Filtering opponents (led mostly by the MIT SAFE webmaster, Seth Finkelstein) discussed the problems inherent in applying ratings to works of literature such as the Bible. Colin Gabriel Hatcher, director of the Cyber Angels whose job is to monitor Web pages for compliance with the SafeSurf rating standard, gave the Bible the following SafeSurf rating:
SS~~000 1 SS~~001 5
SS~~002 5 SS~~003 5 SS~~004 5 SS~~005 5 SS~~006 5 SS~~007
5 SS~~008 1 SS~~009 5 SS~~00A 5 SS~~100 1
In addition to their self-rating system, SafeSurf offered the Internet Filtering Solution from October 1996 until the discontinuation of the project at the end of 1997. Unlike the self-rating system, the Internet Filtering Solution is implemented via a proxy server, which blocks pages based on the ratings that SafeSurf itself has assigned to the pages.
The SafeSurf proxy server blocks pages if any of the following criteria are met:
The vast majority of blocked pages are blocked due to keyword filtering, as in the following examples (in each of these cases, the proxy server either does not load the page or stops loading the page part of the way through):
More articles about the SafeSurf rating system and the SafeSurf proxy server filter
If your site is blocked by SafeSurf, feel free to display one of these graphics on your page: