According to Slashdot (and it’s on the Internet, so it must be true) Microsoft’s Messenger service has been blocking messages which include Youtube URLs. Some users suggested that the blocks might have had something to do with Microsoft’s new “Messenger TV” service, but others suggested that it was more likely a glitch in the anti-phishing scanner Microsoft uses to “protect” its users from phishing sites.

Whatever the real reason (my money is on incompetence rather than malice), Messenger now seems to be back to normal, with Youtube URLs no longer being blocked. For that matter, I’m not sure that any URLs are being blocked, phishing or not. In my tests using a couple of spare MSN accounts I happened to have lying around, I couldn’t get any URL blocked — including such verified fake banking sites as http://www.emtmalumni.org/greymatter/eppi/. If you’re looking for an open list of phishing sites to perform your own experiments, check out this database of user-submitted and verified phishing URLs: the Phishtank.

Personally, I have little time for such measures to “protect” people unless, at minimum, there is full disclosure of what is being blocked, and whenever feasible provision for people to opt-out. Otherwise, even when done with the best intentions, or with unintentially funny results, it is still censorship and unacceptable. Censorship doesn’t cease to be censorship merely because it is not done by a government.

    Here in the US, we are so schizoid and deeply opposed to government censorship that we insist on having unaccountable private parties to do it instead. — Bill Cole
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