How A Major Web Filtering Company Smears the IHR
and Unfairly Censors Its Website
By Mark Weber
Institute for Historical Review
Websense company, a major US supplier of web content filtering software, says that the Institute for Historical Review promotes "racism and hate," and blocks access to the IHR website, on the basis of an unfair standard that deceives the public and its own customers.
In a letter to the IHR, Websense Senior Legal Counsel Eric Proul makes clear that the company has no objective basis for its claim that the IHR promotes "racism and hate." In an attempt to justify this claim, Proul cites three "Holocaust revisionism" items -- out of hundreds posted on the IHR website -- but he is unable to show any connection between these three items and "racism and hate."
Reproduced below are the texts of the Institute's letter of October 1, 2010, the Websense company's letter of October 11 by Eric Proul, and the IHR's reply of November 11, which was never answered or acknowledged. This exchange of letters of part of an ongoing IHR campaign against online censorship.
The Websense company of San Diego supplies software used by businesses and agencies across the US to block website access to on-line gambling sites, pornography sites, and so forth. The company also blocks access to websites that present merely unfashionable or "politically incorrect" views.
Standards of online censorship by Websense and some other web filtering companies are unprincipled. While they block access to the IHR site, the software of such companies permits free access to sites of Zionist groups, such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League, that have long and well-documented records of support for Israeli policies of oppression and discrimination based on ancestry.
The Websense company claims that its characterization of the IHR website, and its definition of "racism and hate," are "based on feedback from Websense customers." But research by the IHR suggests that most people do not accept this standard. In fact, the overwhelming majority of schools, libraries and businesses across the US, even those with webfiltering software, permit free and unfettered access to the IHR website.
The Websense company smears websites and restricts what people read and view on the basis of a standard that does not appear to serve the authentic interests of its customers. Instead, this standard appears to reflect the views of partisan special interest groups.
Like any other website or periodical, the IHR site should be judged on the totality of its content, and on its principles and outlook. No reasonable person would characterize the IHR's stated mission or principles as supportive of "racism and hate."
Far from promoting "racism" or "hate," the IHR has a long record of staunch opposition to hate, bigotry and censorship. It reaches out to, and receives support from, people of the most diverse racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The IHR, which is recognized by the IRS as a 501 (c )(3) public interest educational enterprise, has itself been a victim of hate and bigotry.
INSTITUTE FOR HISTORICAL REVIEW
P.O. Box 2739 Newport Beach, CA 92659 USA
Mark Weber, Director
October 1, 2010
Legal / Public Relations Departments
10250 Sorrento Valley Rd
San Diego, California 92121
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing because your company provides software or contractual services to businesses that block access to our website, and because, in doing so, your company claims that our website promotes "racism" or "hate."
For example, when a patient at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California, tries to access our website -- ihr.org -- a notice appears on screen stating that access is blocked because the site promotes "Racism and Hate."
We take this matter very seriously. Your assertion that our website promotes "racism and hate" is untrue, defamatory and harmful.
During a conversation on Sept. 28, Hoag Hospital's General Counsel Terri Commerano explained to me that access to our IHR website is blocked for patients at Hoag Hospital due to a program or service provided contractually with your company. She told me that it is not possible, or at least it's quite difficult, for the Hospital to unblock access to our particular site.
Terri Commerano expressed understanding for our concern, and in particular for our unhappiness that our website is not merely blocked, but that it (and our Institute) is castigated or defamed. She told me that, based on our complaint, the Hospital will raise this matter with your company when its contract with your company comes up for renewal. She added that our concern would be a factor in considering whether or not Hoag Hospital renews its contract with your company.
Please modify your service so that our website is not blocked, and please remove your online statement that our website promotes "racism" and "hate."
Far from promoting "racism" or "hate," our Institute has a long record of staunch opposition to hate, bigotry and censorship. We are proud of the support we've earned from people of the most diverse political views, and racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The IHR, which is recognized by the IRS as a 501 (c )(3) public interest educational enterprise, has itself been a victim of hate and bigotry.
We are glad to comply with all reasonable corporate standards. Therefore please let us know your standards with regard to "racism and hate" so that we may comply with them. In that regard, please let us know precisely which IHR website item or items, in your view, promote "racism and hate."
We understand that your company's characterization of the IHR, and its decision to block access to our website, may have been made without careful consideration of all the relevant facts, or on the basis of inaccurate input from an outside person or group.
I look forward to your prompt and considered response to this letter.
From: Proul, Eric
To: weber @ ihr.org
Monday, October 11, 2010
Subject: Websense classification of ww.ihr.org
Dear Mr. Weber,
At your request, we have re-reviewed the site http://www.ihr.org/,and due to the content available on the site, we have decided to maintain the existing classification of Racism and Hate. The Websense category Racism and Hate and its definition were created based on feedback from Websense customers and their ability to control access to non-business related online content that may be offensive to end-users within their organization. The Websense category Racism and Hate includes the following topics:
r Holocaust Revisionism
r demeaning ridicule of a racial or demographic group
r supremacist music groups
r religious groups which promote intolerance or ethnic supremacy
The content of the site was reviewed as Holocaust Revisionism because it contains content challenging the existence and/or revisionism of the known historical event related to ethnic cleansing. Some examples on the site relating to Holocaust Revisionism include:
Please note, however, that if a customer would like to grant access to this site and others within the category, the customer may permit access to the category or just to specific URL(s) within the category. Our product is configurable by the customer, at their discretion.
The site's content complies with the category Racism and Hate definition and therefore it is currently classified as such. Should you remove materials related to the above from the website, the categorization of the site can be revisited and changes made if necessary and appropriate. This categorization is also consistent among other web content filtering providers.
Sr. Legal Counsel
From: Mark Weber
To: eproul @ websense.com
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 2:43 PM
Subject: An Unfair Standard - Reply to your message of Oct 11
November 10, 2010
Sr. Legal Counsel
Dear Mr. Proul,
Thank you for your e-mail letter of Oct. 11 (below), responding to our letter of Oct. 1 to your company.
In response to our expression of concern, you have re-reviewed your classification of our website ( www.ihr.org). We are disappointed by your decision to continue to characterize the IHR website as supporting or fostering "Racism and Hate." Your explanation reinforces our view that this characterization is unfair, inaccurate and defamatory.
Websense holds the IHR website to a standard to which no reasonable person would normally hold any website, periodical, or bookstore.
As you explain, Websense justifies its classification on the basis of items of "Holocaust Revisionism" posted on the site. In that regard, you cite three posted "Holocaust Revisionism" items. You offer no evidence or rational explanation to support the view that "Holocaust Revisionism" is a form of "Racism or Hate," or even that it has any objective relationship to "Racism or Hate." You simply assert or assume this. A skeptical or dissident ("revisionist") view of Holocaust history, however offensive it may be to some, is inherently no more racist or hateful than a skeptical or dissident view of any other chapter of history.
It is only on the basis of a prejudiced notion of "Racism or Hate" that the three cited items can be regarded as promoting "Racism and Hate." No reasonable, open-minded person would accept, for example, that the item by Canadian attorney Barbara Kulaszka (posted at http://www.ihr.org/leaflets/denial.shtml ) , which you cite, supports or promotes "Racism or Hate."
Regardless of whether "Holocaust Revisionism" should be considered a form of "Racism or Hate" (which we do not accept), no website can or should be derogatorily characterized merely on the basis of a few posted items. Even though "Holocaust Revisionism" items constitute no more than a very small percentage of the many hundreds of items that have been posted and presented on the IHR website, your company regards them as sufficient to justify classifying the entire site as a "Racism and Hate" website.
A few items -- even if offensive or wrong-headed -- on a website, in a newspaper, on a television broadcast, or in a bookstore, do not necessarily reflect the general or overall outlook of that site, periodical or broadcast. For example, no reasonable person would characterize the prestigious French daily Le Monde as a newspaper that promotes "Racism and Hate" because it has published items of "Holocaust Revisionism." Similarly, no reasonable person would characterize The New York Times as a pro-Communist newspaper because it has published a number of essays or opinion pieces by Soviet officials.
If a bookstore with many thousands of titles includes two works of "Holocaust Revisionism," is it fair or reasonable to characterize the entire store as one that supports or fosters "Racism and Hate"? By your company's standard, your answer would be Yes. Is the posting of just one item of "Holocaust Revisionism" on a site of thousands of posted items sufficient for Websense to conclude that the entire site is a "Racism and Hate" website? In your view, apparently, the answer is Yes.
The IHR website, like any website or periodical, should be judged on the totality of its content, and on its principles and outlook. The IHR's mission and principles are laid out on the site's "About Us" page ( http://www.ihr.org/main/about.shtml ). No reasonable person would characterize these as supportive of "Racism and Hate."
The "Holocaust Revisionism" items you cite do not necessarily represent the view or policy of the IHR. In fact, many other items posted on the IHR website are critical of "Holocaust Revisionism," or present a "non-revisionist" view of the Holocaust. Indeed, the IHR website presents divergent and sometimes conflicting views on a wide range of issues, including the Holocaust.
Your customers and the general public have a right to assume that your "Racism and Hate" classification is based on a standard that is clear, consistent and reasonable. But Websense blocks the IHR website, and castigates it as supportive of "Racism and Hate," in a way that is misleading and deceitful. When someone tries to access the IHR site through the Websense filter, he is not informed that your company's standard for classifying it as a "Racism and Hate" site is based on a prejudiced view of the nature of "Holocaust Revisionism."
An additional indication that your company's standard for determining "Racism and Hate" is unfair and capricious is the fact that Websense specifies only one form of "revisionism" -- "Holocaust Revisionism" -- as supporting "Racism and Hate." You have no "Racism and Hate" standard for revisionism regarding, for example, the Armenian genocide of 1915-1918, or the Palestinian "Nakba" ("catastrophe") of 1947-1949. Revisionist writings about genocide in history are regarded by Websense as a form of "Racism and Hate" only when they are about genocide of Jews in Europe during World War II. It would be just as arbitrary and senseless to label as "Racism and Hate" only derogatory or demeaning writings about people of one racial group, but not others.
You write that your company's classification of our website, and its definition of "Racism and Hate," are "based on feedback from Websense customers." It seems, however, that your company has given undue weight to input from an unrepresentative but insistent minority with a partisan agenda of its own.
Our research shows that most people do not accept your company's standard of "Racism and Hate." Across the country, the overwhelming majority of schools, libraries and businesses permit free and unfettered access to the IHR website. A few weeks ago, for example, we wrote to the Anaheim Union High School District to ask it to unblock access to the IHR website, and to remove the online statement that the IHR site supports or promotes "Intolerance." We explained why that label is inaccurate and unfair. The District responded by unblocking the IHR website. Similarly, a few weeks ago a local resident of Columbus, Georgia, asked that city's library system to unblock access to the IHR site. After looking into the matter, the library system unblocked access to the IHR site.
As I wrote in my letter of Oct. 1 to your company, the General Counsel of Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach told me that she took our expression of concern about your derogatory characterization so seriously that it will be a factor when the Hospital decides whether or not to renew its contract with your company.
The way that Websense derogatorily labels websites and restricts what people read and view does not serve the authentic interests of its customers. We are convinced that the more the public knows of your company's policy in castigating the IHR website, and presumably many others, the more that people will agree that your company's standard of "Racism and Hate" is inaccurate, unfair, arbitrary and misleading.
I urge your company to take into account the points made in this letter, and to carefully review once again the standards by which it castigates the IHR and its website.
Institute for Historical Review