By: DAVID RICE
Re: Cybersitter #1
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 or 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
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
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
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
... Yes, and I'm an ex-negro who saw the light of Jezuz. --- DRice
* Origin: "She blinded me with science!" (1:124/9005)
Wired News: Cybersitter Goes after Teen
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
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
"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
"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
Copyright (c) 1993-97 Wired Ventures, Inc. and affiliated
All rights reserved.
... Godly love: "Repent or become fuel!"
* Origin: "She blinded me with science!" (1:124/9005)