Hot on HuffPost Tech:

See More Stories
Free Switched iPhone app - try it now!
AOL Tech

Yahoo! Messenger now censors the links you share

Yahoo Messenger Big Brother censorshipWe've all thought it, but never dared think it could be true: what if Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL actively monitor our instant messenger chats? What if mentions of 'bomb' and 'underage' are tracked and sent to law enforcement agencies? What if chat providers don't agree with the things we say, or the links we share, and filter or censor the content of our transmitted messages?

Well, it looks like our fears may actually have some basis in reality: Yahoo Messenger strips FilesTube links from instant messages. It doesn't tell either party that a URL has been removed from chat -- it just deletes it. Poof. FilesTube, in case you were wondering, is one of the largest file hosting meta search engines on the Web -- it indexes RapidShare, Megaupload, Mediafire, and many other 'cyberlocker' services.

It's fairly obvious why FilesTube links are being removed -- the Censor General at Yahoo is probably one of those perplexed primates who think all uses of BitTorrent are illegal -- but this situation poses a far more important question: is Yahoo censoring messages on the client side, or the server side. Does the messenger client itself maintain a list of 'blacklisted' words -- and if so, why are we not told that FilesTube links are banned? What other words and terms does Yahoo protect us from?

If the filtering is done on the server, then we have a much larger problem: Yahoo is parsing every message we send and removing content that it deems illegal. Why is chat not encrypted? What else is Yahoo censoring? Who decides what is illegal, and what isn't? Is a governmental agency involved -- a lobbying group, like the MPAA or RIAA?

If you value your privacy, and you want to chat without the Yahoo Big Brother looking over your shoulder, we suggest you use an IM client that supports encryption, such as Adium for Mac, and Pidgin with Pidgin-Encryption for Windows.

Tags: apps, censorship, chat, file sharing, FileSharing, filestube, filtering, IM, instant messaging, instant messenger, InstantMessaging, InstantMessenger, privacy, security, web, yahoo, yahoo messenger, YahooMessenger