Blocking Software Reports
"Congress shall make no law
abridging the freedom of sXXXch,
or the right of the people
peaceably to XXXemble,
and to peXXXion the government
for a redress of grievances."
"You can tell this is such a great club because
we always get in trouble for following our charter."
Peacefire.org was created in August 1996 to represent the interests of people under 18 in the debate over freedom of speech on the Internet. The Web site and mailing lists are maintained by Bennett Haselton, who is now a freelance programmer in Seattle. Peacefire has about 7,000 members on our mailing list as of February 2003; you can join Peacefire and get on the mailing list at no cost.
Peacefire is a "people for young people's freedom of speech" organization, not a "young people for freedom of speech" organization. In other words, you can join at any age if you are against censorship of students and people under 18 in general.
The first content to appear on Peacefire.org consisted of lists of some of the Web sites that were blocked by popular censorware programs such as Cyber Patrol and CYBERsitter. Since then, the information on Peacefire.org has been used by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, People For the American Way, and other anti-censorship groups to challenge Internet censorship laws in Congress and in several state legislatures. Since we cannot afford our own lobbyists or legal campaigns, our most useful contribution is to provide facts and research which is then used by larger organizations that can afford their own lawyers.
In October 1998, we added pages to Peacefire.org about how to disable the different censorware programs. The censorware-disabling instructions were linked from a page titled "WINnocence: Innocence-preserving software for Windows", a blocking software parody that was later taken down because many people thought it was not a joke. The original WINnocence parody page is here.
Since Peacefire was created, staff members have been invited to speak about blocking software at the American Library Association National Conference, the ACLU of Ohio annual meeting, the Maine Library Association annual conference, Computers, Freedom and Privacy, and Spring Internet World '99. Members have also been interviewed about Internet censorship on television on MSNBC, MTV, Court TV and CNN Financial News.
Peacefire first received attention in December 1996 when CYBERsitter added it to their list of "pornographic" Web sites and sent a letter to our ISP threatening to block all of their hosted sites if Peacefire were not closed down. Wired News ran a story about the controversy which was picked up by PointCast and some other news services. The usual response from people who hear about this now is, "Of course CYBERsitter blocked their site -- they have pages about how to turn the program off!" Actually, we didn't add information about how to disable CYBERsitter (and other programs) to Peacefire.org until October 1998, which is why it generated so much controversy when CYBERsitter blocked our site in 1996. The only content on Peacefire.org at that time that had anything to do with CYBERsitter was our original CYBERsitter page, which listed some of the Web sites that the program blocked, including N.O.W., Mother Jones and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.