A fun story of Internet Blowup came about this weekend when a nice blogger, who was not me for a change, wrote that he had used Boston's free municipal WiFi service in Quincy Market. There, he discovered that the free WiFi had gone and blocked Boing Boing, everybody's favorite source for DRM arguments and earwax stories. So instead of reading about how Cory Doctorow found yet another hilarious Unintentional Goatse picture involving two hands placed vaguely somewhere near an O-shaped object, our erstwhile WiFier got a very pretty notice informing him that the site had been blocked, with the official Seal of Boston, Thomas M. Menino Mayor, lovingly placed on the top of the whole thing.
Well! Anybody with two neurons in their head to bang together could easily draw the same conclusion that Boing Boing, Slashdot, and any number of digital reactionaries did: that BOSTON MAYOR THOMAS M. MENINO PERSONALLY BANNED BOING BOING BECAUSE IT MADE FUN OF HIM FOR THE WHOLE MOONINITE THING! Surely any other scenario besides this self-important theory of personal vendettin' could not be plausible!
Fortunately, one saner head prevailed, and that saner head belonged to Seth Finkelstein, who took a look at the blocking software that the muni wifi uses and discovered the real reason behind this whole froo-frah. Boing Boing had included a link to a Google search with the Safe Search feature disabled in the URL. The automated blocking software caught the portion of the URL that disables Safe Search, red flags went up, and hey presto Fanueil Hall is all the safer for it since nobody can be laptopping any prurient Google searches around here, no sir no how.
Kind of anti-climactic, don't you think? Isn't it more fun to imagine that, since the mayor's name was featured in the screenshot, he was the one who ordered the hit? Of course it is. I mean, can't you just see Menino in his office, all fired up and hopping mad, tapping at a keyboard?
"Whazsis?" Hizzoner asks an aide.
"Uh, that's the mouse," the aide says.
"No, whazsis onna computah?"
"That's a website called Boing Boing."
"BOINGBOING!" the mayor seethes, eyes narrowing down to narrower than usual. "They wrote bout the hoax 'vices, right?"
"Yes, sir, I believe they did."
"Well. Lettuzban this Bang Bang. Nobody calls Mayuh Menino a... whad they call me?"
"I'm not sure, sir, I haven't read the site."
The Mayor smashes a mayoral fist on the mayoral desk, which resounds with a mayoral thud.
"BAN IT ANYWAY! ...in QUINCY MAHKET! That'll showem!"
"Very well, sir, I'll have IT ban it from the free WiFi hotspots right away."
Satisfied with a job well done, Menino next tries to order out for lunch but somehow manages to get a singing telegram instead.
And that's how city politix is done, childrens.