November 13, 2008

LodgeNet Censoring

So, here I am at this hotel, using their network to browse the web as one does, and I suddenly see this web graphic notifying me that my network access has been blocked for ten minutes because "[the] server has detected questionable traffic originating from this computer".

At first I was concerned that perhaps I had unwittingly picked up some virus or other malware, so I made a call to the "support" team to see if they could tell me what was wrong with the traffic. Of course, I might as well not have bothered, since they couldn't tell me anything about why this might have happened without me being "naughty" in some undefined way. After ten minutes the service came back on again, only to be lost once more as soon as I retried a web access. So it seemed to me there was something extremely significant about the URL I was trying to access, which was actually the documentation for the PIL ImageDraw module.

A further support call elicited the information that the help desk couldn't do a bloody thing about anything, had no idea why the content was being blocked, and weren't interested in helping to change whatever bizarre piece of policy was responsible. Several times they mentioned that "the server will cut you off if you are downloading, there's nothing we can do about that", leaving me somewhat perplexed about what they thought the Internet was for, but of course I assured them that I had only been "browsing," which is apparently different.

It would have remained a curiosity had I not then received the same response when I tried to visit the Python programming language home page. Now suddenly the position is different, as I am the chairman and an officer of an organization whose web site is being subjected to censorship. So I have sent the customer service department at LodgeNet the following snotty letter. We'll see whether I get any response, but I am not holding my breath.

As a resident at the Town and Country Resort Hotel on San Diego, California, I have been a consumer of your company's service. Several times I have had my service blocked, seeing the attached graphic.

Calls to your customer service department elicited no useful information as to how I could stop this unwarranted blocking of my service, and the staff involved, while sympathetic, were completely unable to help (and indeed appeared to know nothing at all about the policy responsible for this). The only suggestion they could make was that "downloading" would cause the service to be blocked: hardly helpful, since I was merely browsing the web and handling email.

My fourth call to your support desk was put on hold and then unilaterally terminated. This is completely unacceptable.

Experimentation demonstrated that your service blocker appeared to come into play when the certain URLs (among others: my patience was limited) were accessed. I would emphasize that my use of bandwidth was *not* excessive; the previous evening I had transferred a couple of PowerPoint and PDF files, but no malicious content of any kind was involved. (documentation for a graphics package) (the home page for the Python programming language).

This last site is of particular concern to me as I am the Chairman and a Director of the Python Software Foundation, the organization responsible for the site.

I would like to know why you are censoring our web site, and what you propose to do to make sure that its content is available to all who wish to access it.

Steve Holden
Chairman, Python Software Foundation


Calvin Spealman said...

I blame

LuizGeron said...

That might be because of, which is certainly blocked in a number of proxies. They probably have a rule for a domain url containing the word python.

ΤΖΩΤΖΙΟΥ said...

Could it be, perhaps, they have some dumb URL filter installed? Perhaps they filter out any "*python*"-related domain because of (a porn site, unfortunately).

Unknown said...

If my Force powers worked over HTTP, there would be a lot of unexplained strangulation deaths among web content filter company executives.