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* Solid Oak Software's extremist, fascist behavior

Solid Oak Software's extremist, fascist behavior
Fredric L. Rice (frice@skeptictank.org)
The Skeptic Tank, 1:218/890.0. (626) 335-9601
http://www.skeptictank.org/index.htm

Right-wing extremist groups operating in the United States have been using the rhetoric of "Save the children!" to advance their occult agendas for decades. Now, with the help of technology, a new fascist business called "Solid Oak Software" has managed to rise above all the rest and get noticed.

As described below, their Internet-access software limits the information that the company's leader -- Brian Milburn -- wants his customers to access. Even though customers are told it "saves the children!" the company doesn't advertise [1] the fact that the parents who purchas the software have no say-so in what it will allow access to and what it will not; the buyer unthinkingly purchases the extremist bias of the company's leader.

Indeed, it gets worse: Mr. Milburn refuses to divulge the sites that the software won't access and has implimented very weak encryption to make sure that parents never learn about his extremist bias. He gets upset when people publically report on some of the sites that he doesn't want anyone to access. (If he's embarrassed by his prejudices, he shouldn't expose them, I opine.)

Buyer beware.

As for myself, I've asked to have my web pages included in the list of banned sites. The cult _does_ provide a highly valuable service to educational organizations like mine by limiting the access to their web pages to educated, intelligent people. As more and more people become aware of what the software does, only people who share the company leader's bizarre bias will use it -- and I don't want those types of people accessing my materials any way. Do you?

[1] This may change. The company may have to start publically admitting that customers can't select what they can or can not access (perhaps the company has already started.) People who purchas Internet-censoring software have the right to at least know that in addition to limiting the access to pornography, the software also limits access to educational systems and charity organizations.

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CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1996 // December 20
Jacking in from the "Your Agenda is Showing" Port:

Washington -- It's a long held maxim that technology is "agenda neutral." Until now.

As an earlier Dispatch investigation proved, the so-called "blocking software" industry, praised for enabling parents, teachers and corporations to block porn from being sucked into the computers of those trolling the Web, often comes with a shrink-wrapped, encrypted agenda in the form of the database of web sites and newsgroups these programs actually block.

Porn sites aren't the only ones blocked. Sites with decided political or activist agendas, such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) or animal rights groups, also are blocked. Trouble is, these blocking software programs don't make this known to the user. For some companies, shedding a spotlight on their underlying agenda, makes them sweat bullets or foam at the ascii mouth. Such is the case with Brian Milburn, president of Solid Oak Software, developer of an insipidly named blocking program called "Cybersitter."

When confronted with his agenda ridden software, Milburn isn't shy about it, indeed, he was outright indignant when he originally told Dispatch: "If NOW doesn't like it, tough... We have not and will not bow to any pressure from any organization that disagrees with [our] philosophy."

So when Bennett Haselton decided to put a sharp edge on this subject by focusing on Cybersitter with laser like precision, Milburn went off the charts.

Milburn wrote to Media3, the ISP that houses Haselton's website , saying he was adding the entire domain of Media3 to the Cybersitter blocking database, in order to keep anyone using his company's product from gaining access to Haselton's article.

Milburn ranted to Media3 that Haselton had made it "his mission in life to defame our product" exhibiting "extreme immaturity," by "routinely" publishing names of sites blocked by Cybersitter. Milburn claimed that Haselton may have "illegally reversed engineered" the Cybersitter database. Milburn has threatened legal action. Haselton, however, found a white knight.

After hearing about Milburn's actions, Mike Godwin, legal counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, decided to represent him.

In an Email to Wired News correspondent Rebecca Vesely, who wrote about Milburn's beef with Haselton, Milburn said he was swamped with "geek-mail" from Wired News' "loyal following of pinhead idiots."

Milburn characterized Haselton, "an aspiring felon" and said that he had confirmation that Haselton was the "ghost writer" for the original Dispatch article that broke the story of the hidden agendas in blocking software.

All this bluster over Haselton, an 18-year-old with too much time on his hands. If right about now you're thinking that Milburn should pick on someone his own size, well, he's already "been there, done that" and got his ass kicked in the process.

You see, after the first Dispatch article, Milburn sent us a saber-rattling Email. His Aug. 15th Email claimed that "your willful reverse engineering and subsequent publishing of software code is a clear violation" of copyright law. And although he claimed he was sure he could win a case in civil court, he was instead seeking "felony criminal prosecution" by going to the FBI with his beef.

I referred Milburn to my lawyers at Baker & Hostetler, who promptly pointed out that Dispatch hadn't been the one to hack the cybersitter database. Further, our article was "protected by the full force of the First Amendment," our lawyers said.

And because Dispatch only published "fragments" of the Cybersitter database (a word used first by Milburn in his own threatening letter), such publication "fits squarely within the fair use provisions" of the copyright act, our lawyers reminded Milburn.

Finally, Milburn was left to chew on this: "If you persist in accusing [Dispatch] falsely of copyright infringement and if you proceed with your ill-conceived threat to encourage the FBI to commence activities... you should understand that, unless the information you provide is accurate and complete, you and your firm may be incurring liability of your own."

Not a peep has been heard from Milburn since he received that letter, until he decided to pick on the kid.

Milburn is apparently operating in some alternative reality. His so-called "confirmed sources" about Haselton "ghost writing" our original story are utterly false.

Haselton had nothing to do with our article. Dispatch obtained the cracked code of Cybersitter and the other programs we mentioned from an entirely different source. Haselton did nothing but build on the work of our original story, but never wrote a single word of the article nor did he provide us with the hacked databases.

All of Milburn's heartburn has me confused. Rather than try and slay Haselton, he should pay him for the right to reprint his article and findings. Milburn makes no apologies for his agenda; indeed, he is proud that one of his major distributors is "Focus on the Family" a conservative Christian organization.

And for people that brook with the conservative, straight-arrow family values ideals that Focus on the Family advocates, Cybersitter is the perfect fit. Indeed, this is the free market working at its best. Products spring up in direct response to demand. Cybersitter fits that model for a particular segment of the society. You may not like it; I certainly wouldn't use a product with this built in agenda, but nobody is making us buy it. You would think that Milburn would eat up such "negative" press and wear it like a badge of honor. But he is too petty; too small minded. And when he discovers that Haselton did nothing more than run Cybersitter through its paces, much the same way that a reviewer for computer magazine might, and then report the findings, he'll have nobody left to harass. I hope he doesn't have a dog he can kick...

Have a Merry Christmas, Mr. Milburn. Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

Meeks out...

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Cybersitter Goes after Teen
by Rebecca Vesely

8:00 pm PST 9 Dec 96 - A teenager who founded a Net anti-censorship group could face a lawsuit from the owner of the popular blocking program Cybersitter, Solid Oak Software, on grounds that he illegally obtained the list of sites blocked by the program.

But the 18-year-old student at Vanderbilt University who founded Peacefire, Bennett Haselton, says that he merely ran the blocking software on his computer and kept track of which sites were blocked - such as the National Organization for Women, Mother Jones, and The Well.

"According to our sources, he has engaged in illegal criminal copyright violations to further his juvenile teenaged political agenda, and reduce the effectiveness of our product," said Brian Milburn, president of Solid Oak Software.

Solid Oak has added Peacefire to its list of blocked sites and has asked Peacefire's Internet provider, Media3, to remove Peacefire from its server. Milburn has also said he will block out all content Media3 hosts if it does not remove Haselton's site.

"It's pretty ironic that Cybersitter, which is supposed to help kids, is blocking a student-run organization," Haselton said. Peacefire was founded in August and now has about 100 members, of whom the average age is 15 years old.

Haselton wrote an article naming some of Cybersitter's blocked sites last month on the Peacefire Web site, but the site wasn't blocked until Friday, after Haselton contacted Milburn to discuss the company's blocking practices, Haselton said. The student was then told that Solid Oak had referred the matter to its legal department.

"There was no way he could have known who was on our list without breaking into our system," said Solid Oak spokesman Mark Kanter. "The filter had to be decoded by reverse engineering" - a process of taking a piece of technology and, without any knowledge of the techniques used to create it, making a copy.

In an email written to Media3 on Friday, and forwarded to Wired News by Media3's administrator, Joe Hayes, Milburn said that Haselton "has made it his mission in life to defame our product," and warned that all content to Media3 - some 2,500 domain names - would be blocked on Cybersitter if Peacefire was not removed.

"We realize this is an extreme measure and regret that our customers will no longer have access to any sites serviced by Media3. I am not sure if any of our current customers are Media3 subscribers, but as they will no longer be able to access their email and such, we will offer any affected customers complete refunds," Milburn said in the email.

Hayes said Solid Oak has given him no proof that Haselton has done anything illegal, so he would not remove Peacefire, and noted that among the content on Media3's server is a Mayflower Society Bulletin Board and "everything to do with Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock." Hayes added that Media3's attorneys have been alerted to the situation, and if the ISP is blocked, it will take legal action. Solid Oak does not normally inform sites they have been blocked.

Copyright (c) 1993-97 Wired Ventures, Inc. and affiliated companies.
All rights reserved.

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