Jul 2, 2008

Star-News no longer attacking

The Pasadena Star-News Web site has apparently shed itself of any malicious software and is no longer being flagged as an "attack site" as of this morning.

However, a random click on a "bookmarks" link revealed there is another troublemaker out there. The American Spectator is being called an "attack site" by Mozilla Firefox, which appears to be making the determination in conjunction with Google. I'm told, but haven't verified this independently, that the newest versions of Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer are somehow communicating with Google to check pages for malicious software. One can ignore the warning and go on to visit the site, but I wonder how many people turn away, afraid of mucking up their personal computers with viruses and spyware?

Is this the best way to go about protecting us Internet surfers? As I said before, it does raise some free press concerns for me. They may be mostly theoretical in nature, since the Web is not an open forum in the way that a public space is, but shouldn't we be troubled by the fact that a publication can be thrown behind a wall without immediate recourse? Even if the Internet providers have the best intentions, the result is a kind of censorship.

If papers are going to migrate online - a domain largely controlled by private corporations - shouldn't we be concerned about what happens to the protections print newspapers enjoy in the public square to be distributed freely? Do only the big papers with the money and staff to ensure they're clean of any suspicious code get to be distributed online without risking a scarlet letter? Smarter people than I are probably thinking through these issues, but the "attack site" labels should serve as a warning for the rest of us.

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