Microsoft Flags Free Software Foundation as “Gambling Site”


Charity group left puzzled by blocks on its donation page.

Potential donors to the Free Software Foundation have recently been greeted by an odd notice – Microsoft’s Threat Management Gateway service, used by some employers to filter corporate Internet access, had somehow marked the group’s donation page as a gambling site. The flag caused a number of companies to automatically block their employees from accessing the page. FSF, a non-profit organization that campaigns against DRM and sponsors the GNU project, has said that the block (now lifted) had prevented a large number of users from making donations to the foundation.

Executive director John Sullivan was understandably displeased by this turn of events. In a blog post on the FSF site, he took the opportunity to criticize the reputation system, saying that “If Microsoft’s ‘reputation’ database can’t tell the difference between a gambling site and an independently audited registered nonprofit public-interest charity founded almost 30 years ago, it is certainly doing you and your business more harm than good”. He also called upon readers to urge their employers to drop the filtering system, and labelled closed-source security software an “oxymoron”, stating that “if the user is not fundamentally in control of the software, the user has no security”.

Though there’s no comment yet from Microsoft, it seems unlikely that the false flagging was deliberate. The blog post says that that the group will “avoid attributing this error to malice just yet”, but goes on to draw possible parallels with the BadVista campaign of a few years ago, which saw its pages being filtered from Microsoft’s search engine despite having a high ranking on Google at the time. This, too, was corrected after a string of complaints to Microsoft.

Sullivan stated that he had submitted a report to Microsoft Reputation Services, requesting that the site be moved into the database’s “Non-Profit/Advocacy/NGO” category. At time of writing, this had not happened, but the “Gambling” flag has been removed from the site.

Source: FSF Blog via BBC News

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