Corporate Censorship of Political Speech and Organizing Online

On Friday, the Media and Democracy Coalition stood with SEIU, the Teamsters, UFCW, Healthcare for America Now, small business owners, Greenpeace, PennEnvironment, AFSCME, Change to Win, the Sierra Club, and many other groups in denouncing the regressive policies of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at its meeting in Philadelphia.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been fighting healthcare reform, climate change legislation, and President Obama's attempt to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of expression online. I spoke of the growing threat from the giant corporations like Comcast that control the Internet to our freedom of speech online, and the need to make net neutrality the law.

My short speech and an example of the almost unbelievable new tactic of online union busting are below; please go to and and join the campaign.

OpenNet Initiative: Bulletin 010
Telus Blocks Consumer Access to Labour Union Web Site and Filters an Additional 766 Unrelated Sites
August 2, 2005
Last Updated: August 2, 2005

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On July 25, 2005, Canadian Internet Service Provider (ISP) Telus blocked subscribers' access to a Web site set up by an employee labor union intended to publicize the union's views about its dispute with Telus. In addition, the OpenNet Initiative's (ONI) research shows that Telus's decision to block traffic to the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the site caused collateral filtering of at least 766 additional, unrelated Web sites. Telus restored access to the IP address hosting the sites on July 28, 2005, while appearing to maintain an option to block any sites it chooses.


Telus is one of Canada's largest ISPs, with over one million customers. The company temporarily blocked its subscribers from accessing a union-run Web site in an escalating labour dispute with the Telecommunications Workers Union. Subscribers attempting to access the site were not given a message informing them that their ISP was blocking the site, but rather found it simply inaccessible, as if the site itself had been taken down or a network error had prevented a connection. Telus confirmed that it blocked access to the Voices for Change website (, on the basis that the "website ha[d] posted illegal information." (1 ) Telus blocked access to the site on July 25, 2005 and restored access on July 28, 2005.

Tests undertaken by the ONI on July 27, 2005 showed that Telus's blocking extended to far more than the single targeted site. Telus's filtering also blocked 766 additional, unrelated sites with domain names hosted on the same server as the blocked site. These sites included, an engineering company;, a breast cancer fundraising site;, an alternative medicine site based in Australia; and, a Colorado based electronic recycling company.

While there are a number of different ways to block access to Web sites, the method Telus chose to block the Voices for Change site -- blocking its IP address -- produced massive collateral filtering. Filtering by IP address is efficient since ISPs can quickly and effectively block access to the target site using their existing routing technology. Many ISPs already block certain IP addresses to combat spam and viruses. Large networks, like Telus, have mechanisms in place to block IP addresses almost instantaneously, simply by updating their routers with a "block list" of addresses.

However, it is common for many different, unrelated Web sites to share the same IP address. As a consequence, IP-based blocking has the side effect of restricting access to every other site hosted at the same IP address as the blocked site. Thus, the standard practice of Web hosting providers to maintain many sites at one IP address can result in collateral damage when an ISP, like Telus, blocks one of those sites by filtering the shared IP address.

The ONI has investigated cases of collateral blocking in the past that demonstrate the unintended consequences of Internet filtering. For example, in an effort to block access to 31 North Korean sites, ISPs in South Korea also blocked 3,167 unrelated sites hosted on the same servers as the targeted sites. In India, when the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology ordered ISPs to block the Yahoo! Group kynhun, many providers blocked access to the entire domain, resulting in the collateral blocking of thousands of newsgroups. A similar situation occurred when India attempted to block a Hindu extremist Web site and simultaneously blocked at least 8 other unrelated websites. (2 )

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