How can I get websense to undo a nonsensical "sex" block on my boring blog?
September 23, 2008 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Websense has apparently blacklisted my personal blog (my whole domain, in fact) for adult/sex content, which is pretty strange. What can I do about this?

My blog is geeky and banal. The only thing I can think of that'd even be in the neighborhood of "adult" content is a short chapter of a several-years-old NaNoWriMo novel I was posting in real-time, which featured among other things some not-very-sexy sex between two characters.

But that has been on the site since 2005, and I only started getting anecdotal reports of websense trouble in maybe the last year or so. Which has me all the more boggled.

Is there any way to find out what triggered the listing, when, why, or by what mechanism? Any channel for appealing this with the company? Anybody know a guy who knows a guy?
posted by cortex to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Here's an example of what people have reported seeing:
Your organization's Internet use policy restricts access to this web page at this time.


The Websense category "Sex" is filtered.
posted by cortex at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2008

When I go to their webpage and click on "Suggest a Category Change", it takes me to here. I shall dig a little more to see if I can come up with something more directly on point.
posted by WCityMike at 10:43 AM on September 23, 2008

Welcome to my world! You can write them via the "suggest a site" contact form suggesting that your site be unblocked. This has middling results but works better than shaking fists in the air. What you'd like to do is figure out what category they are blocking your site as and then protesting that directly. Websense is used by a lot of libraries and is notorious for overblocking particularly around issues concerning sex.

WebSENSE can be contacted at 1 (800) 723-1166 or at
posted by jessamyn at 10:45 AM on September 23, 2008

I wrote to websense and made a plea for them to unblock at my work. Fortunately, they acquiesed. Whew. Good luck. BTW, don't feel bad, cortex, they used to block, an innocuous crafts site.
posted by Lynsey at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2008

Also, Cortex, it could be because you share a host with a sex-strong site. From the reply this guy got:
Your inability to reach the site requested was due to a virtual hosting arrangement. The site you requested is hosted on the same IP address as another site in our database that contains categorizable material. ... Now that we know the requested site is hosted on a shared IP address, WebSENSE will treat requests for it as special cases. Please allow 48 hours for the changes to be included in the database updates.
He sent his inquiry in through the "Suggest a Site" link, which, again, seems to require signing up for an account, but is here. Also, see this guy.
posted by WCityMike at 10:50 AM on September 23, 2008 is also on that IP, and it is blocked too.

So whatever block they have in place appears to be IP based, not content based.

From just trying to get to the naked IP:

The Websense category "Sex" is filtered.

Changing to a dedicated IP that isn't blocked, and pooling on your projects to just be vhosted on there may work best.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2008

Here's everyone hosted at that IP, Cortex — since I'm at work, I'll leave it to you to see which one of them is worthy of the "zomgSEXXXXX!" Websense ban.
posted by WCityMike at 12:37 PM on September 23, 2008

You Get Signal lists some more websites on that IP address. (via mathowie's delicious - I thought you were already using this to catch self-linkers?)
posted by Pronoiac at 2:41 PM on September 23, 2008

A note from an Evil IT Guy Who Hates Freedom and Runs Websense (TM): keep in mind that Websense the company doesn't "block" anything. Their whole purpose in life is to act as a giant repository of "what category does this site belong to?" It's the local IT administrators at your company/school/library that decide to block category Sex (or Violence, or Political, or whatever).

I'll be the first to admit that Websense mis-categorizes sites (they have a ginormous queue of sites to review every day), but they do have an established process for submitting sites for review. In my case, have always gotten back to me in 24-48 hours with either "you're right, we should have put that in category X" or an explanation why they don't agree. One thing to note is that they tend to respond much faster if your Websense admin(s) submit the request through their support portal.
posted by Bluecoat93 at 2:56 PM on September 23, 2008

Good leads all around. Thanks for the help so far, everybody; I feel a lot less omgwtfhelpless about this than I did 6 hours ago. I'm going to try setting up an account so I can hit the Suggest form that WCityMike noted, and if that fails I'll try and contact them by email and phone per jessamyn.

You Get Signal lists some more websites on that IP address. (via mathowie's delicious - I thought you were already using this to catch self-linkers?)

I've never seen that or the one WCityMike noted—we've got a lot of other tools for IDing self-linkers already, actually, but those might be handy to add to the toolset for some weird edgecases. Thanks for the heads up. I checked the chummy domains from WCityMike's already with nothing obviously Sexy going on, I'll check the You Get Signal list as well when I get home.

keep in mind that Websense the company doesn't "block" anything.

Totally granted. My beef is entirely with the miscategorization in this case—cheesed-off site owner, not cheesed-off dayjob websurfer. My dayjob employs a different, competing nannyware solution, as far as that goes.
posted by cortex at 3:19 PM on September 23, 2008 is your problem, decidedly NSFW in a sexual way.
posted by Mitheral at 8:14 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have personally used the "suggest a category change" form, and my site went from "sex" to "personal" which was definitely an improvement.

It only took a week or so, if I remember right.

(just heard this on the podcast...but I thought I'd chime in)
posted by device55 at 8:10 PM on October 6, 2008

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