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UN Cites Outsourcing to Defend Blocking Web Sites of its Critics, Censorship Alleged

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 --  Following its exposure that the UN blocks access by its employees to websites such as and, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Marie Okabe to justify the censorship. She responded "an answer is in the works for you, the UN is no different than any other organization in that it does have a management policy for its website." She provided a half-page printout of an email, stating that

"I read the Inner City Press article and there are three sites mentioned..., this site is blocked and is in the 'Spam' category;, this site is blocked and is in the 'Pornography' category... We have equipment installed in between our internet connection and the internal UN network which has a 'web content filter.' This company that provides this filter collects information from thousands of web sites throughout the world and categorizes them on a daily basis. The UN currently filters sites that are categorized as gambling, pornography, anonymizers, malicious sites, peer-to-peer and personal storage, remote access, spyware, hacking, spam."

            But, for example, the web site "" is blocked.  Attempts from inside the UN, by staff or in the library, to read the site results in a message from the "ICT Security Unit" that "you have been redirected to this page because the site you are attempting to access is blocked according to the policy as detailed in ST/SGB/2004/15.

            This Secretary-General's Bulletin allows staff "limited personal use of ICT resources" unless these involve "pornography or engaging in gambling" or would "compromise the interests or the reputation of the Organization."

Ban Ki-moon and Global Compact, critics not shown - or viewable

            But whether or not the UN Organization agrees with the critique offered, for example, by, it is neither pornography or gambling. If this site "compromise the interests or the reputation of the Organization" then any number of other sites could be blocked. Inner City Press has asked the Chinese Mission to the UN about the blocking of We will not publicly criticize it, was the answer, but they shouldn't criticize us. Inner City Press early on April 21 asked UNESCO's spokesperson in New York

"On deadline, this is a request for a comment from UNESCO on the fact that within UN Headquarters, web sites such as, and, reportedly,, are blocked and cannot be accessed by UN staff. Is UNESCO aware of any other non-gambling, non-pornography  sites which are blocked within UN headquarters?  Does UNESCO monitor this?  If not, why not? If so, please name the sites. If the response is that filtering sites has been outsourced, is that a response that UNESCO would find acceptable from governments?"

             We'll continue to follow this issue -- watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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