Peacefire throws Web-filter grenade

The free-speech insurgents throw another barb in the filtering wars, unleashing an application they claim can disable all seven of the most popular porn filters

Porn-blocking Web filters from Net Nanny, CyberSitter, and five other companies can be disabled with a program released Monday by antifiltering group Peacefire, the group claims.

The program, available as a free download at the Peacefire Web site, was released in reaction to expected federal mandates for Web filters on school and library computers.

"Peacefire" is actually an amalgam of the instructions for disabling filters that Peacefire has been posting on its site for months.

But instead of having to input lines of code, the download makes disabling filters a "one-click process," said Peacefire's Bennett Haselton.

Haselton claims the Peacefire program can disable seven filters. Aside from Net Nanny, the targeted filters are from Cyber Patrol, Surfwatch, Cybersitter, X-Stop, PureSight and Cyber Snoop.

"People have a responsibility to think about where their values come from," Haselton said.

For now, the program can only disable filters that reside on a personal computer. But the group is working on the next generation of disablers for filters that sit on networks, Haselton said.

Peacefire's release is contrary to what some of its own supporters believe is a better way to fight filtering software.

One group, the Censorware Project, decided it would disseminate information about filters, but would not release code or applications to disarm them, said Censorware member Jonathan Wallace.

A Net Nanny spokeswoman said the software did not disable the Net Nanny 4.0 version.

The release was met with a shrug of the shoulders from many of the companies that are targeted.

"I'd prefer they didn't. But that's part of the whole game," said Joe Field, text support for Pearl Software, the company that created Cyber Snoop. The program's main thrust is to monitor Web use, but it also has some blocking capability.

Field said Cyber Snoop hadn't been targeted in the past by Peacefire's efforts. "We're dealing with a different philosophy [monitoring as opposed to blocking]," Field said.

Bruce Taylor of the National Law Center for Children and Families, called the release a victory for the porn industry.

"The porn industry in this instance really loves [it]," he said. "It's a shame for kids and parents. It's a reason why Congress keeps passing laws." Net Nanny spokeswoman Nika Herford said Peacefire's efforts damage the group's cause.

"The more they do this type of stuff, the more it gives you impetus to legislate," she said.

Countered Peacefire's Haselton: "The government has the impetus to legislate regardless of what we do."

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