Sean Bonner has just posted an almost "too weird to be true" story about a guy who works at SmartFilter, a web filtering company that "protects children" from dirty content. They have been the target of a lot of blogging recently after Boing Boing ended up on their filter list and have been trying to be removed. It looks like the guy that they have been interacting with at the filter company is an Adult Baby or AB. (ABs like to dress up and act like babies.) Sean cites Violet Blue, a noted sex educator who thinks it is probably a bad idea for an AB to be in the business of "protecting children".

I personally don't like digging up trash on people and generally believe that people's sexual preferences shouldn't be "outed" in public. However, I think that bad filter companies really hurt the Internet and if someone's motivation to "protect children" is possibly driven by a fetish, it should probably be noted.

UPDATE: A balanced post about this from Xeni on Boing Boing.

22 Comments

I'm strictly against censorship on the net, but I don't agree with the publication and emphasis of this connection between business and private issues of a company employee.

I agree to criticize this company in every possible way (and I think there's enough to criticize about them) but not to discuss their private sexual life.

best regards,
gulli

The problem with a fetishist playing censor for millions of people is that the fetsishist's gaze is a sexualizing one, and so much material which is not inherrently smut will look dirty to someone viewing the world through that lens. I had an unsatisfactory correspondence with TFL on the subject of what material about breastfeeding would make it through their censorship. Many things I could do in the lunchroom of my son's elementary school or in broad daylight on the streets of NYC would not have made it. I find this unacceptable, and I attribute part of the problem to the point of view (and arrogance) TFL brings to the issue.

I think this stinks.

If he felt this guy was a danger to anyone, he should have gone through the proper channels and given his "evidence" to the police or the guy's company.

What little I know of the "Adult Baby" fetish, I find distasteful personally. The whole idea frankly creeps me out. But as far as I can tell, it's a legal activity carried out by consenting adults, behind closed doors. I believe it in no way involves actual children, it being rather a bizarre form of fantasy that may not even involve sexual or scatological acts. (There is a decent bit of background at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adult_baby )

Sean Bonner, in writing the article, has possibly destroyed this guy's career and his reputation, based upon some ten year old (unverified, but plausibly real,) usenet postings. He doesn't like what the guy does for a living, so heads a smear campaign against him personally? Slimy.

I do read BoingBoing and while I do enjoy many of the links, the more outlandish stories and links are hardly suitable for everyone.
I would be upset if I had young kids and this site was on the "approved" list for their schoolroom. Parents should be able to control what their minor children see and these companies aim to provide that protection as a service. That said, I do not support filtering technologies when they are inflicted upon adults, except as a part of a corporate network's policies. (Companies do, after all, have a lot at stake and are at risk for lawsuits over this kind of stuff.) If a person wants access to BoingBoing from the office and , they can invest in a portable computer and a way to connect it on their lunch break that doesn't involve their company's infrastructure. Either that, change the company's policy or find a new job. (Filtering software typically includes a manual whitelist where a sysadmin can override the default list of blocked sites.)

Should Secure Computing Corporation be selling this for countries to filter for their citizens? No. American companies who provide the tools that empower oppression should be penalized. Those penalties should be meted out by courts and governments. That's a different issue from attacking an employee in such a vicious manner.

Sure, this is "public" information they've dug up on the guy, but it's unethical to do what they've done.

I'm personally not particularly in favour of morality filtering, whether it's for the purpose of 'protecting' kids or the world at large - but regardless, I think it's truly shabby that people with a specific axe to grind (whether or not I agree with their point of view on principle) should feel a need to out this guy. I've known a couple of people who have this fetish, and whether or not he is part of the AB scene, I utterly fail to see how it has any relevance to his job. As another poster has noted, the adult baby community almost invariably has nothing to do with actual children. Whilst I appreciate Violet Blue's commentary most of the time, I really feel that she dropped the ball on this one.

"Sean Bonner, in writing the article, has possibly destroyed this guy's career and his reputation" is quoted from Jim O'Connell's comment.

Kathryn, frankly I don't know what this guy's career or family or even his hobbies are, aside from some usenet postings from ten years ago. Whether careers in censorship should exist is not a matter for you or Sean Bonner to decide. It's something you work through legal channels to change, not through intimidation and humiliation.

Sure, he's in a job that you find distasteful, as do I in some applications, but as far as I know, what he's doing is legal. (Even the AB stuff, which, though incomprehensible for most, sounds harmless.) They make a product for which there is a legal demand and rightful use. (Blocking offensive sites from families and corporations.) If they are providing it to governments to send dissidents to jail, targeting one employee and publicly humiliating him is hardly the way to change the situation.

This is a Bad Thing they've done.

He's hardly a public figure. He's not a movie star or royalty. He's not running for public office. He's a guy who does some job at some company most people have never heard of. For all we know, he may not agree with his company's views and be there for economic reasons.
As a person, he has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Now he's been very publicly humiliated and I find that disgusting.

If you reread the quoted portion of his email to Xeni, he seems to be sincerely trying to work with BoingBoing to have it not be filtered completely. I doubt that it's him that even makes the decisions about what gets blocked or not. I'd actually like to be able to filter out some of the crap on BoingBoing myself. It's a great site, but there's a lot of puerile, juvenile, needless garbage mixed in.

Is the matter that BoingBoing is classified as an offensive site, or that the company provides filtering to governments? If it's the latter and they stopped doing that, should BoingBoing still be blocked in schools, families and corporations that don't want it?

This absolutely sickens me. I had always thought of these people as being a somewhat clueful bunch of people, but to see this happen, I am truly disheartened.

How will they feel if this guy goes home and puts a gun in his mouth over this?

Until today, I was an author on Sean Bonner's Tokyo Metroblogs site, but I have resigned over this matter. I don't want to have any association with someone who would do this.


I'm completely with Jim and Gulli on this one - it's condemning somebody for their sexuality, pure and simple. And I'm disappointed that anybody is willing to make that kind of attack.

[a previous comment of mine got eaten by the spam-blocking monster. Feel like fishing it out, Joi?]

Until today, I was an author on Sean Bonner's Tokyo Metroblogs site, but I have resigned over this matter. I don't want to have any association with someone who would do this.

Good for you Jim.

Although I never read Metroblog nor knew that guy had any relation to it, when I first saw this post my immediate reaction was extreme disapointment in Ito and rethinking if I want to patronize his blog anymore. On the one hand, this is an interesting discussion, but on the other hand, I wonder how much more damage has been done now that it has been further publicized here. Maybe its best sometimes just to let such irrelevant reputation damaging talk rest, rather than further propagating it in the name of "news" or whatever this was supposed to be.

Of course, being a creature of habit, I'm sure I will be back to read tomorrow. I just hope no one uses it against me in the future in some totally unrelated context.

Daniel: I look for past comments from your email address and couldn't find it. I'm sorry. I don't know what happened to it. I did put you on the "trusted" list (using your typekey account) so you should have any trouble in the future.

Gulli and Jim, you make good points. I did feel a bit weird posting this item for the reasons you cite... maybe I'm just getting a bit numb from spending too much time on the Internet. I can't remember how many times I've seen references to alleged "sexual preferences" of mine on 2ch in Japan... and yeah, I probably have an axe to grind against these censor types. My blog is regularly blocked and put on various "adult only" lists. I had always been curious about just what kind of people spent their day deciding which blogs should be blocked or not... and I do think there is a plausible connection between the sexual preference of the person in question and the suitibility for them in the position that they are in. So that the extent of my defense/rationale for posting.

At a meta-level, I think this is a very interesting and important discussion... Whether information that harms a persons reputation should be made public in a situation like this. In a court room, I'm sure they would allow this to be admitted as evidence since there is an expert arguing that their past influences their suitability for their role. On the other hand, as Jim points out, this is NOT a court room and that maybe this is something to take up in the courts. On the other hand, it's not really feasible to take every filtering company and comment spammer to court and public humiliation is about the only "sticks" bloggers have. I wonder if the fact that it is a sexual preference makes this distasteful for more people. Would it be less of a privacy violation if it had something to do with a gun permit, a criminal record, former comments not about sex, etc.? Do you really think this is going to permanently destroy this guy's reputation? I'm sure we'll all have forgotten about it a few weeks from now and the primary damage will be that Sean's posts will show up along with the guys usenet posts in the future...

Joi –

"Do you really think this is going to permanently destroy this guy's reputation? I'm sure we'll all have forgotten about it a few weeks from now and the primary damage will be that Sean's posts will show up along with the guys usenet posts in the future..."

I think that is a blase attitude Joi, which is unbecoming. You're probably right that we may have forgotten about it in a few weeks, but what about his employers, friends, and family? Do you think they will forget about it so soon? Something like this could easily cause this guy to lose his job. It even gives the company something of an excuse for firing him over what should be his private sexual preferences.

I personally abhor censorship, but I also abhor the way this one employee has been singled out using tactics worthy of most politicians. As Jim mentioned above, there are proper channels for dealing with these kinds of things. Anything else is just an online version of bullying, and vigilanteism.

Brian: Yeah, you may be right. I guess I am being a bit blase. I guess I assume that if he was posting it with his real name it couldn't have been THAT private... and I guess maybe I'm not being sensitive. I make my employees dress up as anime characters and post their pictures on the web for heaven's sake. I guess I'm projecting too much of my own, no-big-deal-ness into it.

I think Xeni did a great job framing the argument and balancing the discussion in her post.

Kathryn:
The problem with a fetishist playing censor for millions of people is that the fetsishist's gaze is a sexualizing one, and so much material which is not inherrently smut will look dirty to someone viewing the world through that lens.

I'm not sure that it's fair to imply that his (alleged) fetishism is responsible for his over-sexualizing online photos, whether that's of breastfeeding (you are so right on this one) or tattoos. Most of the fetishists I interact with, from your average "hip sex-positive" San Franciscan to my often way conflicted clients (I'm a professional domina, and part of my work is to make fetish fantasies come to life in a safe, contained context) are not SO overpowered by their fetish that they can't make distinctions between how most people might respond to, say, a Manolo Blahnik kitten heeled pump (my fetish, among others) and how their hearts pitter-patter over the same.

The lens at fault here is a sexually protectionist lens, one crafted by good old fashioned sexual fear and autoerotic-loathing. I belive the question is, should people with serious hangups about sex, sex education, and the human body, whether or not they've got diaper fetishes, be so involved with the production of technologies utilized by governments to censor anybody's access to information?

Joi,

In the corporate world, these sorts of allegations, (proof aint actually needed) really can be enough to put somone's career on the short bus. If this guy's private life really should be private, there is no need to bring attention to it in such an irresponsible way. Who's to say that he is personally in charge of the filter lists or that he's not capable of separating his personal life from his profession? I dont know the guy and so I wont say a thing one way or the other.

Also you should know that by bringing more attention to this bullsh*t story, you give it more support. Your site will be referenced and linked to by other sites building up on the "well if everyone says it, it must be true" effect. A little shame on you for this.


To the boingboing team (if you read this page)

Its pretty well known that I think the two star posters (cory and xeni) are soft skulled fools. Y'all have your opinions and whether I agree or not dont mean a hill of beans. This story however is the last straw. From now, I wont support any of the boingboing advertisers, I wont buy anything from companies which pay you to publicize pseudo-journalistic rot like this. Oh, by the way, so much for y'all's little routine about bloggers and citizen journalism being morally above Big Media. Welcome to the sludge pit boingboing.


Boilerplate Note: I do not agree to the CC BY 2.0 licensing terms. Permission is not given to reproduce my comments anywhere else without permission, blah blah blah.

The people who wrote about this all have at least some level of reputation online for being knowledgeable about something but more importantly for being pretty stand up on social matters. I'm not sure why covering this topic has caused people to instantly assume the worst motives.

I'm actually pretty shocked that anyone who knows Kathryn, Violet, Joi, Xeni or me would ignore everything they know about us and assume that this is nothing more than a smear campaign based on a vague connection. Do any of us have a history of doing that in the past? Why would this be any different?

Tomo's quote appeared in the New York Times on Monday and the Usenet posts came to light almost immediately there after. Kathryn posted the links on Tuesday night (along with some e-mails) and Violet posted on Wednesday morning the very detailed reason why this specific fetish is a concern in this situation. If the guy was into bondage or skat or bukake or something unrelated to children it would not be an issue and none of us would have ever written about it.

There are a number of e-mails (both published and unpublished) that back up the claim that he feels it's his mission to "protect children", and it wasn't until Violet posted explaining clearly why that is a concern that I followed up with my article pointing to hers. The post on BB today explains things even better. It wasn't a quick or easy thing for any of us to write about.

(I also agree with Joi that these are posts made to a public forum using a full real name which certainly caused me to believe the author wasn't that concerned with keeping them private - there are comments made to this post where the authors have taken more precautions to cover their identities.)

I think a guy that want to be a adult baby should be because that done not kill me like other time like beer and smoke done and people do this all the time and they do that right in front of most company door.I am a adult baby myself and it is a lot safe they most time that I see use everyday. People do not understand this new thing but I know bcause I been doing it for years.

I think a guy that want to be a adult baby should be because that done not kill me like other time like beer and smoke done and people do this all the time and they do that right in front of most company door.I am a adult baby myself and it is a lot safe they most time that I see use everyday. People do not understand this new thing but I know bcause I been doing it for years.

What most people don't understand is that any one who is an AB has gone through years of their life trying to except them selves. Guilt regret and Humiliation are just a few things that most of us try to overcome and just be happy. The bigest fear for most AB"S is if any one ever found out their secret. Some would consider suicide or self harm. And just to clear things up Infantilism (adult babies)starts to occure when we are children ( I was only 9 years old) So any Idea that we in any way fancy children is absolutely ludacris.Exspecialy when All we wanna do is act like babies, yeah it might sound weird or crazy but we enjoy it. So furthermore in the future please refrain from judging or attacking someone for being an AB. We are people too and I promise that someone in your family or close to you lives this chosen lifestyle wether you except it or not.

Joi said "n? I'm sure we'll all have forgotten about it a few weeks from now " Well here we are 4+ months later and the comments are still coming in. Google sure has not forgotten.

I am a adult baby myself,i found this very hard to understand and accept why i was like this, i know i had a very mixed up child hood and i hardly had any love or attention when i was little,also i was sent away to a boarding school so i never seen my parents,i never really had plenty hugs kisses,i also had a lot of bed werring problem night mares.I also had to wear nappies untill a late age in my teens, then i was begin trainned to use the toilet but unfortunately still found it hard not to wet the bed. So i was then putting myself back in nappies and plastic pants this went on and on in out through my life,then i become unemployed no money, no job, no clothes, felt let down, not loved,hungry,bored,Then my life started to pick up,but the my life for wearing nappies has always been with me, now at the age of 38 i am now a adult baby,i wear nappies due to incontinence but also i feel a lot safer comfort nurtured when i am in my nappies and plastic pants,the baby side is kept out of the public eye, but my familly and friends know i am a adult baby it was very hard telling them i had this fetish if thats what its called,i dont feel this is a fetish,i just feel loved and cared for when im a AB.
The adult baby side is kept secret to the public eye becuse people give us all bad publicity there is some people that go to far, but we are not all the same,If more people would accept us the better, ab/dl has nothink what so ever to do with children we want to be children.but very young and nutured again.What is wrong with begin loved.Just by what we choose to wear.It is only materials.

Every member of the "adult baby community" wouldn't hurt a child in a million years. Sickos are sickos everywhere, doesn't mean that all AB/DL folks likes kids... that's like saying every member of the Jackson 5 is a pedophile.

This is a load off rubbish i am a adult baby and i have 2 kids. we have nothing to do with kids in this is just a thing we do to relaxe and rejuice stress i did it when i lost my mother and favorite uncle within 4 months off each other. it helped me no end to take away the stress that i had been going thru for the past 2 yrs.

we have nothing to do with Children we just wish we could be babies thats it

okay... now this is the drama that most people hate... look at yourself.

a AB/DL is part of a Censorship company...emphisis on COMPANY. he is not the only one there. and i would rather have the AB/DL be there than lets say...a Dominatrix who likes guys to dress and play as puppys or a ponygirl. (no offense)

being a AB/DL is not about sex. it is about careing and nurturing...a second childhood.
i know many AB that are still virgins that have a "mommy or daddy" to take care of them and nurture them.
but like with anything humans like to see the DRAMA behind it all...they point ans whisper at the guy dressed like a baby girl eating at a resturant but not at the polotition talking to congress. even though they may have the EXACT same lifestyle.

people before you comment on the splinter in my eye take the beam out of yours.

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