[funsec] Censorship in America, yet again

Richard M. Smith rms at computerbytesman.com
Fri Apr 4 12:50:28 CDT 2008

U.S. Funded Health Search Engine Blocks 'Abortion'


A U.S. government-funded medical information site that bills itself as the
world's largest database on reproductive health has quietly begun to block
searches on the word "abortion," concealing nearly 25,000 search results. 

Called Popline, <http://db.jhuccp.org/ics-wpd/popweb/>  the search site is
run by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland. It's
funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the
federal office in charge of providing foreign aid, including health care
funding, to developing nations. 

The massive database indexes a broad range of reproductive health
literature, including titles like "Previous abortion and the risk of low
birth weight and preterm births," and "Abortion in the United States:
Incidence and access to services, 2005." 


A librarian at the University of California at San Francisco noticed the new
censorship on Monday, while carrying out a routine research request on
behalf of academics and researchers at the university. The search term had
functioned properly as of January. 

Puzzled, she contacted the manager of the database, Johns Hopkins' Debbie
Dickson, who replied in an April 1st e-mail that the university had recently
begun blocking the search term because the database received federal

"We recently made all abortion terms stop words," Dickson wrote in a note to
Gloria Won, the UCSF medical center librarian making the inquiry. "As a
federally funded project, we decided this was best for now." 



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