MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

VOLOKH CONSPIRACY

Mostly law professors, blogging on whatever we please since 2002 · Hosted by The Washington Post, 2014-2017 · Hosted by Reason 2017 · Sometimes contrarian · Often libertarian · Always independent

Which Businesses (or Which Filter Manufacturers) Are Blocking Our Blog?

A customer reports that he was blocked from accessing us at a Nordstrom coffee shop; have you had similar experiences?

A reader writes:

Eugene,

I'm at the Nordstom E-Bar coffee shop located at the Americana at Brand in Glendale, California. I am using the "Nordstom_Wi-Fi" public WIFI. I just tried to access the Volokh Conspiracy website. I got the message:

This website is blocked by your network operator.

If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact your network operator with the following information:

URL: http://reason.com/volokh

Category: Hate and Racism

Server: 54.187.56.219:80

Interestingly, I get that result only for the Volokh Conspiracy part of Reason.com. In other words, I can access the main Reason.com website using the "Nordstom_Wi-Fi" public WIFI. When I click the "Volokh Conspiracy" link on the Reason.com homepage, I not surprisingly get the same "blocked" message.

Also interesting, I can access the Volokh Conspiracy part of Reason.com if I switch and use "*Americana at Brand Wi-Fi*" public WIFI.

I thought you would want to know. I was shocked.

Of course private businesses that provide WiFi have the right to block whatever sites they want to block, and I think they should have this right. But I would like to know which businesses seek to control what their customers are allowed to read while buying coffee there, and also what filter manufacturers are choosing to block people of our ideological stripe. If something similar has happened to you, whether with our site or some similar sites, please let us know in the comments below.

I e-mailed the Nordstrom media relations people about this yesterday evening, but haven't heard back from them yet; if I do, I'll of course post their reactions.

UPDATE: The culprit was apparently the blacklist run by a company called Brightcloud; I asked them to review their categorization of our site, and within a few hours we were unblocked. Please let me know if any of you continue to have problems with this, and thanks to commenter TwelveInchPianist for pointing me to this!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • KevinP||

    Nordstrom's media filters must be run by the South Poverty Law Center. I would load up an extra magazine if I were you.

    Southern Poverty Law Center Gets Creative to Label 'Hate Groups': Principled conservatives are lumped together with bigots.


    Quote (but read the whole story):
    In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Family Research Council a "hate group" because of its orthodox position on homosexuality, and its occasionally incendiary defenses of that position.

    In 2012, Floyd Corkins showed up at the Family Research Council headquarters with a gun.

    I don't mean to imply that these two things were connected. I'm telling you that they were connected. We know because the shooter told the FBI where he got the idea.
  • Stormy Dragon||

    The FRC openly advocates in favor of violence toward LGBT people. Hate group is an accurate description.

  • tkamenick||

    You'd think the SPLC would note that in their commentary on FRC if it were true. They don't.

  • Scrotie_McB||

    Do you have any evidence at all for your assertion?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    They are in favor of legal bans on homosexual behavior, including filing an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas and lobbying in favor of the Ugandan death penalty bill.

    Having armed men bust into your home in the middle of the night and either kidnap or murder you is violence. The FRC is in favor of unleashing such violence on LGBT people.

    The FRC is a hate group.

  • Joe_dallas||

    Stormy - As Scortie requested above - please provide evidence of your claim - Since you did not provide any evidence in your response -

    Google should help -

    Or do you consider FRC a hate group because they are opposed to the killing of innocent babies (Pro-Life).

  • Naaman Brown||

    Hate to be put in the position of defending FRC but criticism should be fair.

    FRC lobbied against language that asserted "that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right" in a Congressional resolution condemning the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill. FRC also stated ""FRC does not support the Uganda bill, and does not support the death penalty for homosexuality ..."

    SPLC is rather reckless in slapping hate group labels on groups that simply are not the next Aryan Nations, KKK, Stormfront or Westboro. Some people just need hate groups to hate.

  • Joe_dallas||

    Comment from - :Stormy Dragon|5.16.18 @ 11:18AM|#
    "The FRC openly advocates in favor of violence toward LGBT people."

    The FRC is a conservative "right wing" organization - they must be racists and bigoted - at least in the delusional mind of a typical progressive.

  • ShipFixer||

    A couple weeks ago Volokh Conspiracy was blocked by DoD content filters. I couldn't reach it from Navy networks for the same label. The rest of Reason was unblocked.

  • BillyG||

    Hit refresh a few times. It sometimes takes a dozen tries but you can get through eventually. I'm not sure why.

  • nonzenze||

    Username checks out.

  • BigHands||

    Not a blocking issue, per se, but when I use Bing and search for "volokh conspiracy" the "Official Website" link in the search summary box points to WaPo rather than Reason. Could be worse, could have gotten "Rick-rolled."

  • gormadoc||

    So going to the server address supplied brings me to America's Longest War, a 2013 drug war documentary partially made by a Reason contributor (Alex Manning). That's a little weird to me, but whatever.

    I find it weird that the Conspiracy is blocked while the rest of the site isn't. Maybe they don't block national magazines but you're fair game?

    If your reader at Nordstrom is still there they should try seeing if it's blocked in another browser, just to be on the safe side.

  • Eidde||

    "Category: Hate and Racism"

    Can a blog sue for defamation?

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    Brightcloud, a company that filtering makers use, has the category "hate and racism" assigned to you. You can check here: .

  • RoyMo||

    Thanks for the link, trying other websites it looks like someone has it in for you personally.

  • gormadoc||

    Interestingly it's just the Conspiracy, not Reason as a whole and not Stossel.

  • KevinP||

    Good find.

    I probed into who these people are, and they are naturally all white people:

    https://www.webroot.com/us/en/about

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    KevinP: "they are naturally all white people:"

    With an overabundance of bald guys (not that there's anything wrong with that).

  • BadLib||

    You can, as I did, suggest a change of category from "Hate and Racism" to "Legal" via the left hand side of page at that link.

  • BadLib||

    The categorization is now "News and Media" at that site.

  • Careless||

    yes, someone seems to have fixed it today. Well, yesterday, at this point

  • Jon S||

    Interesting. The volokh.com website does not have that and neither does reason.com. Just reason.com/volokh

    I'd imagine some low level person there read something on the site that enraged them for some reason and they assigned it that.

  • TGGP||

    I had noticed this site getting blocked at my work, as was Scott Aaronson's blog. But Brightcloud just labels his url under "Entertainment and Arts", which is an atypical way to categorize writing on Quantum Computing.

  • SimonP||

    Clearly, they should be classified under, "Oversensitive crybabies with martyr complexes."

  • ||

    This happens at my work too and I know for a fact we don't individually blacklist websites, I can walk down the hall and get the site whitelisted. So it probably isn't Nordstrom. This is coming from our provider's default blocking. Our web blocking is ControlNow - Web Protection if that helps.

    Same deal, I have no problems with the rest of the reason site.

  • regexp||

    The filtering company we use classifies this site as "News". Others have a different classification. They are heavily influenced by customers of the product and mistakes happen all the time. Data quality is all over the place. And companies like Nordstrom just turn on categories that are automatically updated so if something gets misclassified they inherit it automatically without known it.

    But I'm sure everyone will get all fake outraged over it anyways and yell out conspiracy where there is none to be had.

  • RoyMo||

    But as it stays blocked the outrage becomes less fake.

  • KevinP||

    Classifying anyone under "Category: Hate and Racism" is libelous.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Well, it could be, if it weren't true. But the VC is loaded with hate and racism, and proudly defends that sort of content as free speech, which it is, legally. It isn't even clear from EV's own advocacy that if he were editing the commenters' content he would bar the hateful and racist speech he does publish now because he (mostly) doesn't edit. So no libel publishing the truth that the VC is a forum for hate and racism. It is.

  • M.L.||

    Hateful and racist comments are far more numerous at the Washington Post. Should that site be categorized as Hate and Racism, rather than News Media or something else?

    Of course, categorizing a website as primarily Hate and Racism is vastly different from observing that some hateful or racist comments get posted there (which will happen on any open forum especially so long as there are people provoked by it). But you already knew that.

    Furthermore, Hate is of course a very different category than Racism. Hate may sometimes be an entirely acceptable and even appropriate emotion. But, in my opinion, it should not be directed toward people, either individually or as a group. In politics there is definitely a lot more hate coming from the left side these days and they don't do well at all with avoiding directing it toward people.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    That's the reasoning the left uses to declare any forum that takes freedom of speech seriously "hateful". The only way they'll accept that you're not a monster is if you're a censor.

  • Eidde||

    Let's mess up their algorithm and get the site de-hated.

    Shiny Happy People Holding Hands

    Theme song from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

    Those loving vibes should cancel out the hate.

  • Eidde||

    If that doesn't work, give them a dose of the Barney song.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm really happy that Nordstrom is validating what I have to keep telling people. That Libertarianism isn't racism.

  • SIV||

    Lol!

    Reason is woke.

  • James in Perth||

    It's definitely a conspiracy. Welcome to 1984.

  • Allen Garvin||

    If they're just blocking it based on the URI portion containing "volokh", you could bypass their checks by changing the protocol portion of the address to https. I don't know why Reason doesn't do a blanket redirect of all traffic to the TLS site.

    They'll still be able to see the IP, of course, and the domain name via SNI, but nothing further.

  • Eidde||

    As BadLib noted above, the Brightcloud site changed the classification to "News and Media."

    I'm curious how many sites *not* run by lawyers get unfairly classified without the mistake being corrected.

  • Eidde||

    I mean, they get a letter saying "we're a group of law professors wondering why you called us racist haters" - they might be like "uh oh, better fix it."

    But they get a letter from Joe Average, how much attention will they give him?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Oftentimes they'll correct at the slightest pushback, be it by lawyer or Average.

    Whether this is better or worse, YMMV.

  • theobromophile||

    Exactly. If this happens to someone as prominent and eternally reasonable as the Volokh crew, it's a bit worrying to wonder what happens to other people.

  • BigHands||

    Perhaps the quasi-sentient, nearly omniscient, inherently flawed AI that oversees the Net has taken offense at something Eugene has said about AR/VR? ;-)

  • Kazinski||

    I hate to point fingers, but you can blame yourself and Bernstein.

    You are always harping on free speech which is very controversial, and Bernstein is always slamming BDS which makes it more difficult for them to restrict access to bad ideas.

    Criticism of Antifa and BDS for trying to no-platform views they disagree with is tanamount supporting the worst of the ideas they are trying to suppress.

  • Doug Huffman||

    This is hardly different from the IP hosts 'blocking' the Alt-right while tolerating the entire spectrum on the left. They too are private enterprises with the proper power to do business with whom they will.

    Here is a business opportunity; found a Right Web.

  • Jerryskids||

    There's nothing mysterious here - Volokh is obviously a Russian name and you actually identify your site as a conspiracy. I'll bet whoever blacklisted the site over at BrightCloud got a good laugh at how dumb these Russian trolls are.

  • Naaman Brown||

    Yes, it does not take a bright thinker to conclude that a site named "Volokh Conspiracy" must be assumed a nest of Russian collusionists unless proven otherwise.

  • arch1||

    @Jerryskids: Agree this seems the best guess as to the rationale for BrightCloud's original classification (which was obviously incorrect and - if the guess is right - also quite superficial).

  • ||

    usac.org, a federal government nonprofit dominated by the FCC, blocks nra.org, the firearmblog.com, and anything else gun related, like full30.com.

  • Strobe||

    I have met blocking at Target stores in Queens. Volokh was blocked for a few days around April 30th, and again last week. Target 'Guest wifi' uses Cisco routers with a Meraki filter. In each case I think you had a page reporting or commenting on cases of actual hate, BDS or antisemitism. Crude filter software has a problem distinguishing between reporting and supporting. Other sites that now seem permanently blocked are Hurryupharry and ElderofZiyon. Fighting anti-Semitism seems to lead to blocking. On the other hand, the same Meraki filter allows me to access a HAMAS website and the current DailyStormer!

  • Andrew Hyman||

    Volokh Conspiracy is blocked by Verizon. I keep turning on my television to see the VC, but FIOS won't show it. Seriously, I would bet that China and many other countries blocks VC on the internet, though I have not tested it out. But I volunteer to travel the world (first class, all expenses paid) to find out. :-)

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online