When filtering systems fail -- Microsoft blocks news site TorrentFreak

When filtering systems fail – Microsoft blocks news site TorrentFreak

We have seen an ever-growing number of hits against free and open internet access, including porn and torrent blocking in the UK and, most recently, Turkey’s stifling of Twitter and YouTube, going so far as what amounted to a man-in-the-middle attack on Google DNS.  While Microsoft has also been in hot water lately, thanks to the whole email scandal, it is rarely accused of blocking access -- until now.

The word “Torrent” certainly could have ramifications, so this probably should not come as a complete surprise, but Microsoft has begun blocking the website TorrentFreak on its in-house network. The problem is that, the site doesn’t host or share files -- it’s a news outlet, much like WinBeta. The name stems from the genre it covers. In fact, it is a respected voice in the tech news community.

A company blocking certain types of sites isn’t unusual, in fact, it’s common. However, these systems can be overzealous -- blocking images of a breast in a story about cancer, for instance. Earlier today, TorrentFreak learned that it has been included in this, at least at Microsoft.

“As with all filters, however, there are false positives. TorrentFreak, for example, is often categorized as a file-sharing site, and blocked to prevent copyright infringement or other associated ‘threats’. Apparently this is also happening at Microsoft, where the filter managed by the local information security risk management department blocks TorrentFreak on the internal network. Microsoft employees who try to access our site are welcomed with the following message”, the site posts (the image is above).

The site is used to fighting these battles, and most of the time it wins them -- Sky lifted its blockade after the BBC became involved in the mess. It seems likely this is just another example of a security program over-reaching, and that Microsoft will handle it appropriately, but for now, the block remains in effect.

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