Microsoft's 'Threat Management Gateway' Blocks Free Software Foundation Donation Page As 'Gambling'

from the well,-for-microsoft-maybe dept

Via Slashdot, we learn that Microsoft’s “Threat Management Gateway” (which some companies apparently use to protect against malicious websites) has classified the website for donations to the Free Software Foundation as “gambling,” meaning that it’s blocked for many users. This was first discovered by a user on Reddit who received the following notice:

The page you are trying to browse to is categorized as “Gambling”

If you believe you are getting this message by mistake, try contacting your administrator or Helpdesk.

Technical Information (for support personnel)

Error Code: 403 Forbidden. Forefront TMG denied the specified Uniform Resource Locator (URL). (12233)
IP Address: [IP Redacted]
Date: 6/14/2012 6:31:39 PM [GMT]
Server: [server name redacted]
Source: proxy

You can confirm this at Microsoft’s site if you type in the box. Currently, it shows the following:

What’s amazing is the regular FSF page just shows “Technical Information” and “Shareware/Freeware.” So it seems that the “Gambling” designation was just added to the donate page. Amazingly, the Reddit user noticed this nearly two weeks ago, and as I type this it’s still showing up classified as gambling, though FSF has put in a request to change it.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: free software foundation, microsoft

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Comments on “Microsoft's 'Threat Management Gateway' Blocks Free Software Foundation Donation Page As 'Gambling'”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Give Them Credit

In retrospect, I suppose the whole spending money to support something given away freely has Microsoft’s algorithm crying in a corner.

So what you’re saying is Microsoft is gambling on people not realizing that the reason they are blocking is because they suck at CTF:RTB and hope that nobody will catch them?

I suspect you are right, given their previous actions in the anti-trust front.

Anonymous Coward says:

i didn’t think there were ever false accusations or recognitions by anyone/any company on the internet and in the ‘almost never happens’ scenario, i thought corrections were ‘almost instantaneous’, not purposefully delayed, which this example seems to be. why block the FSF in the first place but no other similar site? i wonder what Microsoft could possibly be afraid of?

Anonymous Coward says:

When has that system ever gotten a classification right? I have seen perfectly innocent websites blocked as pornography. I have seen websites that has nothing to do with gaming blocked as gaming. I have seen news websites blocked as gambling. This is just another example of the system classifying a site incorrectly.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

This is why closed-sourced security isn't

(security, that is.) As the FSF astutely observes, “If you need to provide evidence to someone else to illustrate why using such software is a bad idea, feel free to use us as an example. If your workplace uses the software currently, please point to this post and ask them to drop it. Proprietary security software is an oxymoron — if the user is not fundamentally in control of the software, the user has no security.”

Given that we are now presented with an obvious and egregious false positive error, there is no reason to think that equally obvious and egregious false negative errors also exist. Since the source code isn’t available for public inspection, there’s no way to know how many or how persistent they are.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No. It is not Windows that is doing this. It is a piece of network security software that many companies use to prevent their public facing network users from navigating to potentially dangerous or unsavory websites.

As a windows users, you don’t have to have this. However, since it is falsely flagging websites, it seems that it is practically useless for real use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I haven’t used a pc in decades.”

You haven’t used a PC* (Personal Computer) since (at least) 1992? How did you survive this long?

* I swear, if you say that you have/had a Macintosh, I’ll stab you**. Many times!

** Not really, but I’m just tired of he old “Mac isn’t a PC” thing.

technomage (profile) says:

According to Microshaft’s Category Definition page, “Gambling : Gambling Web sites are sites where a user can place a bet or participate in a betting pool (including lotteries) online; obtain information, assistance or recommendations for placing a bet; receive instructions, assistance or training on participating in games of chance. “

It’s obvious Microshaft believes FSF’s own definition, “The FSF advocates for free software ideals as outlined in the Free Software Definition, works for adoption of free software and free media formats, and organizes activist campaigns against threats to user freedom like Windows 7, Apple’s iPhone and OS X, DRM on music, ebooks and movies, and software patents.” is a gamble.

As we’ve seen in the past, activism can sometimes hurt as much as it helps, but it does do what it is supposed to do, get the message to the general public, so in this case, it is a “powerball lottery”. Too bad Microshaft stopped at the word “power” and forgot the rest for themselves, while classifying everyone else as a lottery.

/end slightly sarcastic rant

JP says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There are multitudes of cases where Shareware / freeware have been infected with viruses or trojans. This normally happens on the less savory sites, but unwanted junk has even crept into CNet or Tucows downloads from time to time too…. Therefore, with a category that broad, I’m certainly not opposed to a “downloader beware” warning.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

The party line

This is just one Microsoft product sticking to the party line.

Microsoft has been claiming for years that using open source software, such as Linux, is a gamble – a gamble of being sued for patent infringement. And Microsoft should know – they’re the ones that claim (although will never show evidence) that they have (ridiculously over-broad) patents (on obvious ideas).

So of course they’re labeling FSF’s website as falling into the gambling category.

Anonymous Coward says:


FSF’s provider is TowardEx ( who happens to host several online gambling websites (such as

So this is almost certainly an accident. As clumsy as MS is in some regards, even Ballmer isn’t stupid enough to purposely block the FSF.

Of course, the FSF has a massive anti-Microsoft bent (not entirely unjustified after all) that is keeping them from seeing the obvious, and everyone else is raging about it for the sake of rage…

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