Tunisia, SmartFilter & DailyMotion



Tunisia uses commercial filtering software called SmartFilter , which is produced by the U.S. company Secure Computing, to filter Internet access in Tunisia. This software is configured to blocked pre-defined categories of content – content classified by SmartFilter – including at least four SmartFilter categories: Anonymizers, Nudity, Pornography, and Sexual Materials.

Tunisia’s Internet filtering is done in a non-transparent way. When users attempt to access a blocked page, they are not informed that the page is filtered, but instead merely receive a standard error message, a 404 “File Not Found” error. However, the actual HTTP header, is not a 404, but a 403 Forbidden error generated by the filtering system SmartFilter, in conjunction with NetCache caching servers. SmartFilter can be configured with a blockpage that indicates to users that the site has been blocked and why, however, unlike other countries using this exact same filtering system, Tunisia has copied the text from the Internet Explorer 404 page, and used this as a blockpage to make the filtering appear to be an error.

(See Astrubal’s detailed explanation here).

Recently, the video-sharing web site dailymotion.com was blocked in Tunisia. It was blocked because SmartFilter categorized the web site as pornography, and, since Tunisia blocks the pornography category the web site was blocked. Some time bewteen April 4, 2007 and April 9, 2007 SmartFilter removed dailymotion.com from the pornography category.

It is being reported that access to the site is available through at least one ISP in Tunisia. Depending on how frequently the various filtering and cache server’s update there wil likely be some variation acroos ISPs for sometime. Eventually, full acess should be restored. (Tunisia could, as they do with a varity of other content including humrn rights information, add the website as a custom url on top of their SmartFilter categories and intentionally block the site if they choose to do so).

This is a very significant case as it demontrates how the decisions made by filtering companies affect Internet access in entire countries.

12 comments.

  1. [...] friend Nart Villeneuve believes the Tunisian block of DailyMotion wasn’t political, but was a consequence of their use of SmartFilter, which characterized the site as [...]

  2. [...] et utilisé pour filtrer l’accès à l’Internet en Tunisie. Dans un article intitulé : « Tunisia, SmartFilter & DailyMotion », le directeur technique de Citizen Lab explique que la configuration du logiciel permet de bloquer [...]

  3. Tunis-online.net
    Unsere Internetseite“ http://www.tunis-online.net“ ist seit über zwei Wochen von der tunesischen Regierung gesperrt worden. Wir haben zahlreiche E-Mails von glaubwürdigen tunesischen Bürgern, in denen sie uns informiert haben dass die Webseite nicht mehr zugänglich in alle Regionen Tunesiens.
    Es ist kein wunder dass die internationalen Menschenrechtsorganisationen das tunesische Regime als größter Feind des Internet klassiert haben.

    In Tunesien kontrolliert die Familie des Präsidenten Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali den Internetverkehr. Sehr viele Nachrichtenseiten oder Seiten der Opposition wurden komplett gesperrt. Ebenfalls gesperrt ist die Internetseite der Reporter ohne Grenzen.

    http://www.tunis-online.net

    info@tunis-online.net

  4. [...] Or, au-delà de la censure scandaleuse, on va également chercher à la masquer par la fabrication d’une sorte de faux électronique, en la forme d’une page identique à la page d’erreur 404, affichée par défaut par Internet explorer. En effet, le logiciel de filtrage ne se contente pas simplement d’interdire l’accès, mais il pousse encore plus loin le vice en faisant croire à un dysfonctionnement permanent du site interdit. En somme, plutôt que d’annoncer que l’accès n’est pas autorisé à cette page, en lieu et place une fausse page est fabriquée, puis servie pour faire croire à une éternelle absence de sérieux des auteurs du site. ([MAJ-12/07/07] Cf. également sur le même sujet Nart Villeneuve : Tunisia, SmartFilter & DailyMotion) [...]

  5. Hi Nart,

    It looks to me like the SmartFilter database query always returns the current date as “date created.” Has that been your experience as well?

    Also, has anybody done research to determine whether or not they harvest these queries (as opposed to “suggestions”) for potential inclusion?

    Yours,
    -Chris

  6. [...] et utilisé pour filtrer l’accès à l’Internet en Tunisie. Dans un article intitulé : « Tunisia, SmartFilter & DailyMotion », le directeur technique de Citizen Lab explique que la configuration du logiciel permet de bloquer [...]

  7. Forget about filtering…apparently Dailymotion has buckled under the desire to have a “one size fits all” video filing site as they’ve taken down their “Sexy” Channel—probably as a result of the damned Tunisians. Probably afraid the militants over there will bomb their headquarters for showing some sex and nudity. What a shame that the honchos at Daily couldn’t have had the cohones to “hold their own,” as it were. Now, I won’t even bother to view, I’ll just stick with Youtube. Daily had a nice venue, now I won’t give them the time of day, not “daily” or weekly or monthly…

  8. [...] Brièvement et en citant l’exemple des proxies utilisés pour passer outre le bocage, les censeurs n’ont aucune difficulté à les neutraliser de la même manière qu’ils le font avec un site web. Et ceci est d’autant plus vrai lorsqu’il s’agit d’utiliser la technique du filtarge à la “SmartFilter”. [...]

  9. [...] – the filtering software produced by Secure Computing, a US-based company andused by Tunisia- as pornography: “It was blocked because SmartFilter categorized the web site as pornography, and, since Tunisia [...]

  10. [...] France-based video sharing site, which was blocked in Tunisia in April, then was available, is apparently blocked again, according to GVA. It is possible that this block is not directed specifically against the company by the Tunisian authorities, but is a result of the imprecision of SmartFilter, the filtering software produced by the U.S. company Secure Computing, which may have categorized the site as pornography. [...]

  11. [...] – the filtering software produced by Secure Computing, a US-based company andused by Tunisia- as pornography: “It was blocked because SmartFilter categorized the web site as pornography, and, since Tunisia [...]

  12. [...] effet, comme l’a expliqué Nart Villeneuve dans son article intitulé « Tunisia, SmartFilter & DailyMotion », (voir le résumé en français), si le site Dailymotion a été inaccessible en Tunisie c’est [...]

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