If you or the company you work at use the Microsoft Threat Management Gateway, then you apparently can’t access the donation page of the Free Software Foundation. The reason for Microsoft blocking the donate page is because it has been classified as a “gambling” website.
A poster on Reddit has made an interesting discovery. While at work, he decided to browse to a Free Software Foundation’s donate webpage. The URL was donate.fsf.org. The user was blocked from accessing the webpage because the page in question was allegedly a gambling website. To verify the problem, the user points to a Microsoft webpage so that others can see for themselves that this is, indeed, the case. When we tested the page, the site was put under three categories: “Gambling” (exclamation mark icon), “Technical Information” (check mark icon) and “Shareware/Freeware” (‘x’ mark icon).
If Microsoft’s “reputation” database can’t tell the difference between a gambling site and an independently audited registered nonprofit public-interest charity founded almost 30 years ago, it is certainly doing you and your business more harm than good.
I have submitted a correction, asking that they remove the “Gambling” label and instead list us in their “Non-Profit/Advocacy/NGO” category.
We will avoid attributing this error to malice just yet, and wait for their correction. I will update this post if and when they respond to us.
It is debatable whether or not this is a mistake on Microsoft’s part. People who think it’s a mistake suggest that it’s because the donation page accepts BitCoins. Meanwhile, those who disagree that this is a mistake believe that this is Microsoft with a large amount of resources and that they are blocking a rival website.
Whether or not this was, indeed, a mistake, I think there’s an overarching issue that should be address. That issue is overblocking. Some countries have found themselves in a debate about whether or not websites should be blocked from all citizens (examples being Australia and Britain to name two). In Britain, the UK mobile industry have been, by default, adding in activated child protection filters with the promise that they are protecting children from the dangers of pornographic material on the Internet. What ensued was the blocking of several non-pornographic websites including news websites, political websites and advocacy organizations. The blacklist even went as far as to censor ZeroPaid in the midst of our coverage of the overblocking fiasco.
This latest incident is a golden example why government-based censorship is not only a slippery slope, but also a very bad idea. If a major corporation like Microsoft can’t even properly manage a blacklist for corporate computers, why do people think the government would be any better? Both have huge resources.