Cybersecurity Firm Apologizes After Parental Controls Block Conservative Sites for ‘Hate' and ‘Violence’
An Internet provider's parental controls contractor restricted access to a wide assortment of conservative sites on the premise that their content contains "hate" and "violence." The restriction is not unique to conservative sites, but liberal sites are not branded as "hateful" or "violent." The company responsible has apologized and is working to clear all the sites wrongfully restricted.
"There is no conspiracy," a spokeswoman from Frontier Communications, the Internet provider that uses F-Secure, a cybersecurity firm tasked with monitoring the parental controls, told PJ Media.
When a customer of Frontier Communications, who used the parental controls provided by F-Secure, accessed PJ Media, for example, she ran across this message: "Web site blocked. This web site contains restricted content. Access to this type of content has been blocked." Below the message were two yellow dots for "Hate" and "Violence," with the option to "Allow web site" at the bottom.
PJ Media was far from alone. The Christian news and opinion site First Things received the same distinction. Rod Dreher reported that The American Conservative, Front Page Magazine, and other sites were also blocked.
F-Secure also blocked Christian Headlines for "Hate."
The Weekly Standard was marked "Hate."
The page restricting RedState added a third concern, "Weapons."
Even nonprofit organizations like the Family Research Council (FRC) were blocked for "Hate" and "Violence."
Some Leftist sites, including the Daily Kos, NARAL, and Advocate.com, have also been blocked, but not for "Hate" and "Violence." Most liberal sites did not get blocked, however, including Mother Jones, HuffPost, The Nation, Salon, and others. Neither Planned Parenthood nor the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was blocked.
"Frontier does not censor websites, period," a Frontier Communications spokeswoman told PJ Media. She insisted that "this is a parental control," but also noted that Frontier Communications is not responsible for any errors involved in these controls.
While the Frontier Communications logo appeared on the "blocked" messages, the parental controls were developed by F-Secure, a separate entity. "Frontier Secure" is the product F-Secure developed for Frontier Communications.
F-Secure issued an apology to PJ Media, and promised to recategorize it and other conservative news sites to avoid the filter. "In this instance, our automation process failed to correctly categorize PJ Media as a news site. As a result, it was blocked by our content filters for 'violence or hate' due to some keywords in the subpages. These keywords are common to any news site and were flagged in error," F-Secure said.