STOP! Do not drive your car because you MIGHT get into an accident!
STOP! Do not enter your home because a burglar MIGHT be in there!
STOP! Do not eat the food in this restaurant because it MIGHT be contaminated!
Silly, isn't it?
Well, that's exactly what StopBadware.org, Google.com, Firefox.com, et al., are doing on the internet! They put various notices on certain web pages warning users that the page doesn't meet their standards! Of course, users have a choice of continuing to view the page or not, but the "continue" option is usually hidden or very tiny in comparison with the "Get me outta here" or similar huge buttons.
And what are the standards set by these companies that gets some websites into trouble?
Too many links (except Google.com, of course).
Banner advertisements (which means just about every retail site, and many free web hosts).
Infinite animated images (i.e., images that run repeatedly; on one site of mine, that means a one square inch animation showing a cartoon page of a book being turned, as if someone were reading it!)
And many more, some of which webmasters wouldn't understand, much less be able to change, much less by non-computer programmers and website amateurs who use automatic templates to create their web pages, given to them by their web hosts.
You might be thinking, "What's the harm? Aren't they protecting us from potential evil?"
Never mind that by putting a "wall" between you and the website you want to visit they are, essentially, doing exactly what they claim to be targeting: Blocking the internet with the equivalent of pop-ups! According to Verisign, Inc., an international company that verifies and secures websites, as of Sept 2010, there were approx 196,000,000 websites in the world for all top-level domains (i.e., .com, .org., .net., et al., some of which you've never seen or heard!).
Yet, StopBadware.org claims that about 850,000 websites are "bad" (n.b., they claimed to have "helped" fix or white-list 125,000 of those - - even though there is no recourse for webmasters, except to beg for mercy via StopBadware.org and Google.com, et al., but they will not deign to send a personal response to the webmaster's plea - - so the number is currently less than 725,000, but let's use an even one million figure, shall we? Why not? If StopBadware.org can lie about websites' alleged malfeasance, I think that gives me license to stretch the numbers a bit!).
One million out of nearly 200 million domains are bad!
That's a mere 0.05% (i.e., .0005!) of the internet! That isn't even statistically significant (generally accepted as 5% or more)! And who are these .05% ne'er-do-well websites? Mine and my clients, for some: A friends-of-the-library website, an education-based website, and my own, personal websites! What's wrong with them? Fair question! Despite being a webmaster for over a decade, and a computer programmer for over 30 years, I have absolutely no idea! Why? Because, although StopBadware.org and Google.com list potential issues, they do nothing to contact or help webmasters trace the alleged problem(s)! I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with any of my or my clients' websites - - and, certainly, nothing that deserves to have a "warning" plastered in front of it, like the Scarlet Letter as seen above. And, even if there were something wrong with my and my clients' websites, who are StopBadware.org, et al., to tell webmasters to fix them? They are private companies, who aren't even contracted by any government! That's right: They are the equivalent of web vigilantes!
If StopBadware.org, et al., did this the right way, by creating a free or pay-for anti-malware/virus-like service for users to use on their own computers, then that would have been fine. But, they should not be allowed to malign and censor websites to the rest of the world without valid cause.
So, unless you like the notion of a virtual equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition, having your web surfing interrupted with these malware-like warnings, that are, given the above, erroneous, libelous, treading on USA Constitutional Rights of Free Speech and unfettered trade, et al., then, please, sign my petition to stop them.
For further details, please visit my blog:
P.S. For the record, recently, StopBadware.org, et al., no longer display the warning message in front of my and my clients' websites. No reason was given for this and I made no significant changes to any of those websites. Apparently, if enough people click, "This isn't an attack site" or similar, or if a certain number of days elapses, then the warning is dropped. So, let me get this straight: Websites that were alleged to be malware were targeted, and then, based on the say so of anonymous users or after some time period, that warning is dropped. However, there are 750,000 potentially innocent websites still afflicted by StopBadware.org, et al., and I want them to stop harrassing those websites, as well.
While you may believe that you are doing so for the good of the web as a whole, you are, in fact, doing, precisely, as the malware you seek to prevent, by blocking users from reaching their desired websites/pages, and giving little or no obvious way for the web surfer to avoid it, vis-a-vis, ominous posted warnings.
Even though you may give webmasters a list of items that can be corrected, most are so arcane that even highly knowledgeable webmasters would be hard pressed to understand them, much less correct them. Furthermore, some of the "corrections", such as "too many links", are subjective, while some, such as "too many ads" may not be in the purview of the website owner to correct (e.g., non-HTML literate web page owners who use free hosts who, in turn, require the ads to be placed on the owners' pages). Worse, your review process takes too long (e.g., Google claims "several weeks"), thus causing otherwise legitimate website owners to suffer the consequences of your errors.
Respectfully, you are not the defender, judge, jury, and executioner of the web. You are not customers, clients, or contractors of any government, or otherwise a government installation or agency. You are a private or public commercial enterprise. I do not know whether StopBadware.org charges your company to use their database or mechanisms to spot alleged bad websites on the web, but, if they do, isn't it in their best interest to make sure there are lots of such websites around? If all websites are eventually deemed "clear", wouldn't that ruin their business?
Speaking of business, how ironic is it that "errors" such as "too many links" or "too many ads", are precisely what web search engines and browsers present to surfers? But, does StopBadware and your site indicate those as being "bad"? Of course not. Those who are without sin . . .
If you truly wish to make the web more secure, then work with existing anti-virus/malware software companies. Consider this: If someone stumbles upon a website that has a virus on it, but you failed to warn them of it, are you willing to accept responsibility for the outcome? Worse, on how many legitimate websites, including my own and those of my clients, have your alarming, and, potentially, libelous, warning messages appeared, which may, potentially, be blocking legitimate businesses from conducting their trade? Freedom of Speech issues, aside, you have, knowingly or not, created a restraint of trade, which is illegal in most countries.
While browser users can de-select the "Block reported attack sites", or similar, security options, they have to know to do that, and, even if they were aware of it, most amateur users would not be willing to do so, for fear of being affected by a genuine virus or malware.
In conclusion, as a computer programmer of over 30 years (over 10 as a webmaster for myself and others), while I understand, and even appreciate, your initiative and reasoning, you have designed and executed the process in a way that is, arguably, illegal, if not immoral, not to mention that some would consider your actions to be similar to that of a hacker, virus, or malware.
The web was meant to be unfettered and uncluttered. Unless you intended to charge people for the "privilege" of having their website "cleared", I do not believe that you meant for your warnings to inhibit legitimate website owners and surfers. So, please, stop what you're doing, if only to prevent the inevitable Freedom of Speech, Libel, or Restraint of Trade lawsuits from, at the very least, disrupting YOUR business, or worse, bankrupting you with multiple and protracted class action suits.
Thank you for your time.