The USPTO's Reality Distortion Field: Web Filter Blocks Critics Like EFF, Welcomes Maximalist Lobbyists

from the but-techdirt's-available dept

Updated: At 5pm ET, the USPTO called Jamie to say that a contractor had set this up, and after reviewing their policies, they had stopped blocking such sites...

Well this is bizarre. Jamie Love from KEI was over at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a meeting about "global negotiations on intellectual property and access to medicine." The meeting itself was held in a room that it uses for the USPTO's Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA), and there is free WiFi for people to use. Love tried to log onto his own website... and found that it was being blocked as a "political/activist group."
Access Denied (content_filter_denied)

Your request was denied because this URL contains content that is categorized as: "Political/Activist Groups" which is blocked by USPTO policy. If you believe the categorization is inaccurate, please contact the USPTO Service Desk and request a manual review of the URL.

For assistance, contact USPTO OCIO IT Service Desk. (io-proxy4)
Love then checked a bunch of other sites... and noticed a rather distressing pattern. For public interest groups who advocate that the existing copyright/patent system is broken, the websites were all blocked. ACLU, EFF, Public Knowledge, Public Citizen, CDT... all blocked. However, if you're a lobbyist for maximalism? No problem! MPAA, RIAA, IIPA, IPI, PHRMA, BSA... come on through. They do allow Creative Commons. Thankfully (for us, at least), they don't seem to block blogs that talk about this stuff. Techdirt is allowed, as are things like BoingBoing, Groklaw and Larry Lessig and Michael Geist's blogs. Though, oddly, a bunch of political sites (DailyKos, TPM, RedState, Rush Limgaugh's site) are blocked.

It may be an "over active" filter -- but it does seem particularly disturbing that all those groups who fight for the public's rights on the very issues the USPTO is dealing with on a regular basis have their sites completely blocked.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Eric Goldman (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 1:06pm

    Of course, unblocking the sites would only solve part of the problem. There may not be much interest among USPTO employees in reading websites so antithetical to their existing views. Eric.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 3:28pm

      Re:

      You mean to antithetical to their campaign contribution and revolving door favors.

       

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      Paul Keating, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      Eric, I am both glad you were the 1st comment and saddened by your response - unless I take it as tongue in cheek. I am absolutely shocked at this filter message. I personally do not care what the F the individuals in the USPTO think or do not think about their particular political or other views. I DO want them to have access (even if just in case there are a few enlightened souls). I cannot believe this does not become viral. It is absolutely shocking to the senses. It also explains a great deal about the disconnect between politics and reality.

       

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 1:08pm

    The USPTO is a real government organization, right? Not like the US Chamber of Commerce who are just a bunch of assholes who want to pretend they're part of the government.

    A US government organization not only blocks sites like the EFF and the ACLU, they have an entire category labeled "Political/Activist Groups". That's not an overactive filter, that's intentional. I'm fairly sure that qualifies as a true violation of the First Amendment. Plus that shows bias to one group of people over another, something the US government should not be doing.

     

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      Chosen Reject (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 1:28pm

      Re:

      The first thing I thought was "Why are they blocking political/activist groups at all?"

      Blocks on porn at work? Sure.
      Facebook and other time wasters? Fine.
      General blocks on all things not directly related to work? Okay.
      Political/Activist sites? Wait, what?!

       

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    6, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 1:23pm

    It is actually a third party company called "blueshield" iirc that does the filtering.

     

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      E. Zachary Knight (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 1:25pm

      Re:

      I have heard of them. However, they only block what they have been told to block. So the USPTO is still the one doing the blocking.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 1:44pm

      Re:

      6...Just curious if the USPTO has such a WiFi policy and where a copy can be found.

       

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        6, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 4:25pm

        Re: Re:

        What do you mean "such a WiFi policy"? I'm not sure what you're asking about WiFi for.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 8:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I mentioned it only because the person posting the article mentioned that the notice appeared when trying to use a WiFi system at the USPTO. Frankly, I would have been very surprised if the USPTO actually had such a policy. As it turns out, apparently things have been resolved to the person's satisfaction.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 1:29pm

    why would it be disturbing when it is to be expected? as with almost everything, if it speaks out in public interest, it's subversive behaviour. wont be long before all rights that were fought for are removed and the public are treated as they were 100+years ago, as slaves to the rich. the difference will be that colour will not be a prerequisite.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    Blocks

    > A US government organization not only blocks
    > sites like the EFF and the ACLU, they have
    > an entire category labeled "Political/Activist
    > Groups". That's not an overactive filter,
    > that's intentional. I'm fairly sure that qualifies
    > as a true violation of the First Amendment.

    Homeland does the same thing. Ours also have blocked categories for "Sports", "Humor/Games", "Personal Pages" and most bizarrely "Educational/Research".

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

      Re: Blocks

      We talking Homeland the company or Homeland Security the government group?

      When you block "Educational/Research" do you block all educational and research pages or just the ones that promote evolution while allowing all the creationist pages threw?

      My point is that the USPTO is a government organization blocking one type political speech while allowing the opposing political speech. I could believe it was an oversight or just an over active filter, if it blocked all "political/activist" pages.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:06pm

    Probably set up to keep people from leaking information

     

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    James Love (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:15pm

    Update on USPTO web filter

    Update: At 5 pm the USPTO called and said that the public access wifi network was using a filter, provided by a contractor, to block "political activist" sites. This filter was not used by the network providing Internet access for the USPTO staff. After our meeting, the USPTO reviewed its policies, and has removed the filter. USPTO says the filter was implemented by a contractor, and no one we talked to at USPTO was aware of who was being blocked. In any event, the filter has been removed.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

      Re: Update on USPTO web filter

      Added an update to the post...

       

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      Designerfx (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 5:34pm

      Re: Update on USPTO web filter

      I find the excuse of a contractor being quite questionable. While people usually ignore filters since they have other sources of internet access (thus nobody complains/cares), it's not likely that a contractor would have set up network filters from opendns/websense unless the USPTO runs entirely off contractors for IT - in which case someone had to be given direction to do so - just as someone was given direction to remove the filters.

      I'm guessing there's a bit more to this story - I don't think it's likely a big deal, but I don't think the USPTO is being very forthcoming here.

       

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      Ven, Sep 19th, 2012 @ 6:44am

      Re: Update on USPTO web filter

      Why did they need contractors?
      I would think that if the USPTO had staff skilled enough to evaluate tech patents then they should have been able to ask to have one of them set up a wireless guest network.
      Should we find it concerning that the agency tasked with dictating what technologies a company can and can't use, does not have the internal knowledge to make basic use of this technology?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2012 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re: Update on USPTO web filter

        Clearly you've never worked for the federal government...

         

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        6, Sep 19th, 2012 @ 10:19am

        Re: Re: Update on USPTO web filter

        "I would think that if the USPTO had staff skilled enough to evaluate tech patents then they should have been able to ask to have one of them set up a wireless guest network."

        Obviously, and indeed I would have done so myself (for a modest fee). But that isn't how the government works bro. Everything must be official, everything must cost huge dollars.

        We need contractors for lots of things though, IT is just one thing. They are paid less than examiners also.

         

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          Designerfx (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 12:36pm

          Re: Re: Re: Update on USPTO web filter

          contractors do what they are contracted to do.

          So either there was an ambiguous directive given to the contractor, the contractor acted out on their own, or they were told to do this. The question is: which one?

           

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      techflaws (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 9:02am

      Re: Update on USPTO web filter

      "The intern did it." Pathetic.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 4:27pm

    "This filter was not used by the network providing Internet access for the USPTO staff."

    Yeah that's what I thought because it isn't blocked on my machine.

     

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    Scott, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 5:05pm

    Don't you just love insecure people who lobby so much to control the populace to find self-control. We shouldn't fear them only pity them.

     

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    Julio, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 6:34pm

    No wonder why they fail so much at research

    With limited information resources, no wonder why they are so bad at research and let anyone patent already implemented ideas (specially foreign technologies).
    In many cases you can find precious information in some weird places and it's our work to discern which one is correct.

     

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    Seegras (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 4:08am

    Polarized Glasses

    Splendid idea. Block out all dissenting voices, grassroots-efforts, groundswell and criticism. And then get totally perplexed when an issue surfaces on the mainstream press.

     

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    Bob Robertson, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 9:17am

    Not at all surprised.

    No one wants to be reminded that their job is actively destructive to innovation, the economy, and liberty.

     

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