AOL-owned DMOZ Directory promotes child pornography?

Many of you have probably never heard of DMOZ, also known as the Open Directory Project. Originally an offshoot of the Mozilla open-source group associated with Netscape, it fell under the America OnLine (AOL) umbrella when AOL purchased Netscape some years ago. The Directory has some influence in the world of webmasters primarily because it feeds the Google Directory, part of the mighty Google Search Engine empire. 

There is a very long thread at DigitalPoint Forums running to some 60 pages and almost 1200 posts as of this writing with the title “DMOZ supports child porn?“. The thread discusses the listing in certain DMOZ categories of websites which promote child pornography and pedophilia via pro-pedophilia forums and chat rooms, and in the course of those almost 1200 posts includes debates with several DMOZ editors who support the practice in the name of free speech as well as several DMOZ editors and ex-editors who express disgust with those among their colleagues who support it.The appalling thing about this debate, to me, is that it exists at all. How anyone can justify, on the basis of free speech or on any other grounds, endorsing and promoting sites dedicated to justifying or rationalizing (“neutralizing” as the criminologists term it) child molesting is astounding. I can only assume that to date the parent company, AOL, and Google, who between them prop up and legitimize the DMOZ Directory, are unaware of some of the practices of its editors.

Maybe it’s time to change that.

AOL, DMOZ, ODP, Google, child pornography, pedophilia

4 Replies to “AOL-owned DMOZ Directory promotes child pornography?”

  1. In the recent migration from Blogger to WordPress, I lost the comments posted to this blog. However, there were a few that linked to this particular entry. Notable among them was Jim Clancey’s DMOZ Won’t Remove Child Porn Sites:

    I have started sending the following message out to major media outlets in an effort to bring attention to a serious issue. Please feel free to edit this with your own thoughts and get it out to people in government and the news media.

    While the internet gives us the power to share ideas. Sometimes we still need to go beyond that to rattle the cages of big business and force them to bring irresponsible behaviour to an end.

    There is a massive discussion going on at a forum for webmasters called DigitalForum. This discussion is taking place under the title:

    DMOZ Supports Child Porn?

    The discussion has been raging for several weeks and as of today has around 1,200 posts. People discussing the issue include web masters from around the North America and elsewhere, as well as numerous of the volunteer editors at DMOZ. As you may know, DMOZ was purchased by AOL when it took over Netscape. DMOZ also feed the Google Directory with site listings.

    Some comments in the thread suggests the debate within DMOZ centers around the issue of free speech and censorship. Some of the sites listed in the adult sections of the DMOZ directory allegedly include forums for pedophiles along with sites with images.

    An individual identified as an editor at DMOZ said on February 14: “I’m disappointed that there was even more than a one or two day debate over this, I’m disappointed that many of my colleagues feel that censorship is a more important issue than protecting children from potential molestation, and I’m disappointed that the category was not left in Test after I moved it – if it is going to take who knows how long for a decision to be made (maybe in an hour, maybe a week, maybe a month) then a category that is so heavily disputed, and affects so few sites anyways should be moved to test until a final decision is made, IMO.”

    The issue was recently discussed at length by D.J. Baxter of Ottawa, Canada in his blog entry:

    I am sending you this email message in the hopes that some media interest can be brought upon this issue and that those sections of the directory will be shut down and, perhaps, those AOL executives who are responsible for allowing this to persist are also brought to account.

    I do not question the fact there is an adult directory section. I question the fact it contains links to sites which promote pedophilia.

  2. While I couldn’t agree more with the final statement (“Maybe it’s time to change that.”), I suspect the problem here is a lack of a mechanism.

    So perhaps the question needs to become: “How can that be changed?”

  3. I’m not sure that for DMOZ the problem is the lack of a mechanism so much as it is the lack of a will to activate it. Following the publicity generated by that thread, the Admins at DMOZ got together and “thought about the problem” for over a month, trying to decide what to do (why they had to think about it at all still baffles me – the solution should have been obvious).

    At the end of that time, we saw some minor changes to the Guidelines for adult, the deletion (at least for now) of a couple listings of pro-pedophilia sites (it took over a month to do that?), and the renaming of a few other categories (without changing the contents of those categories).

    My suspicion is that this is a strategy primarily aimed at trying to cool the negative publicity and that when interest dies down a little bit the Adult editors will go back to business as usual.

  4. It appears that my fears about the true intentions of the Adult editors at DMOZ were not unfounded.

    Those pro-pedophilia web sites and chat rooms used to be listed in a category titled “Top: Adult: Society: Sexuality: Activities and Practices: Pedophilia: Affirmative Views”. This morning, a DMOZ editor reports here that as of today that category has been emptied of all listings.

    That sounds encouraging.

    Until we learn from another DMOZ editor in that same forum thread that it’s all just smoke and mirrors:

    It would have been nice, if it [were] true.

    Look at [the] Google cache [for the] “affirmative view” category here:

    You will notice that the 5th site listed is Pedaloog with p-loog(.)info/english.htm as the URL.

    Now look at DMOZ adult in the pedophilia category: What do you find in the 11th position? Our old friend from the “Affirmative_Views” category Pedaloog. Check the cache of Google for [the] pedophile category and this site was not there before.

    Nice solution for having zero sites listed in the “Affirmative Views” category, moving the site one level up to the Pedophilia category, so it won’t be so easily detected.

    The editors listing those sites are doing so for a reason – either because it’s financially lucrative or because they are themselves among the pro-pedophilia group, or both. Anyone who thinks they are going to give up willingly on these abhorrent practices is living in a fantasy world.

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