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.

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Companies: aclu, bsa, cdt, eff, iipa, ipi, kei, mpaa, phrma, public citizen, public knowledge, riaa

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

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32 Comments
Paul Keating (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

btr1701 (profile) says:

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”.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

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.

James Love (profile) says:

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.

Designerfx (profile) says:

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.

Ven says:

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?

6 says:

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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