Don’t filter me, Bro!

American schools have been warned to stop censoring educational queer websites.

If you’ve got a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) club at your high school, can you access the sites of major LGBT civil rights and advocacy groups? If not, the American Civil Liberties Union wants you to report the blocking to its Don’t Filter Me campaign.

"Gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups must have the same access to national organizational websites as other groups such as the Key Club and the chess club," the ACLU’s advisory page on the problem explains. The civil liberties outfit says it was alerted to the blocking problem when a student sent the group a screenshot of his attempt to access the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network site. "You have been denied access as it is characterized as LBGT," the page warned. "Your Internet usage is monitored and logged." More at Ars Technica & Pink News

  

6 thoughts on “Don’t filter me, Bro!”

  1. So,

    Not only are these schools filtering access to sites that provide information and resources to LGBT students, or anyone who just might want to access these sites for research or educational purposes, but these same schools aren’t bothering to filter sites that have information or ‘education’ on them about how Accepting Jesus Christ can turn you straight, or can cure you of your Gayness.

    I suppose I could go to these same schools and access the website for the Family Research Council as well, even though the organization has been listed as a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. I suppose at these same schools I could access the various websites maintained by Neo Nazi Groups, and the KKK as well? Or, would those sites be “Denied access as it is characterized as Defamatory”?

    No?

    Well golly gee wilikers! Why wouldn’t that surprise me ar all if that were true?

    Because this is America. Fuck yeah!

    1. It seems that your sentiment is echoed by many people in the world, but as such, it appears grounded more in supposition and speculation than actual fact. Perhaps a few reality checks are in order…

      1) A public school, or any public entity that maintains a computer network, is governed by strict laws that demand logging of activity on or through that network. Standards of practice dictate that rather than being sneaky about it, they make it well known to the user, so they may police themselves. This way, nobody can say “I didn’t know I was being monitored.” One might hope, in this day and age, that computer users should know by now, nothing is truly private on any network, and records are permanent.

      2) Most public schools are poorly funded, and as such, stretch their IT staff very thin. With hardware, software and hundreds of needy users to support, very few of them have time to sit and monitor usage and access of the internet. Thus, they turn to web-content filtering appliances or software that do this automatically. Most of these systems come out of the box with absolutely everything blocked, so that administrators can build policies and start unlocking certain categories of sites based on access groups. Most of these systems use a subscription service which classify websites en mass by crawling them and looking at keywords and other meta data. Some of these services even use human inspectors to review sites. Given the enormous amount of websites out there, these inspectors can to do little more than give each site a passing glance before rendering a classification and moving on. As a result, it is almost comical how often websites are miscategorized. Since the average school administrator might worry that sites appearing under LGBT categories might end up showing content inappropriate for school-age children (its been known to happen), they may choose to keep that category blocked. Most schools and network administrators have a policy in place that allows students to anonymously ask that certain sites be white-listed.

      3) Public schools in the US in particular, are not allowed to enforce filtering policies which deny access to sites which are educational or present controversial points of view. In my experience with many public schools, the administrators are very sensitive to the fact that LGBT youth are becoming a more visible populace, and they actually wish to make sure they are provided with a positive learning environment. It is all very easy to burden the administrators and teachers with this or that demand, when they are accountable to their respective communities, who may have differing values or opinions. Every administrator and teacher I know has expressed frustration with how difficult it is to keep things balanced and fair.

      4) To suppose that sites promoting conservative christian or radical, racist points of view are automatically allowed, just because gay friendly sites may be blocked, is quite simply unsupportable; one does not follow the other. The plain truth is that such sites would fail the appropriateness test on many levels and would never be purposefully allowed in a school setting. Of course, if the school is a private entity espousing it’s own dogma, then all bets are off.

      5) It always amazes me when people suffer righteous indignation upon discovering their network activities are not at all private. Network monitoring has been around as long as networks. The owner of a network has a right and a legal obligation to keep logs of what goes on and through their infrastructure. If a person uses a school network to commit a crime against your child, I guarantee you or your lawyer will be among the first to demand those logs be placed in evidence.

      I understand the ACLU’s position here, and believe their mission is to ensure that LGBT students are not barred from getting the information they have a right to see. It just bothers me when others take up the rallying call, start shouting slogans and making wild suppositions when a sober, intellectual conversation is more suited to finding a solution.

  2. “Your internet usage is monitored and logged”
    What is that supposed to mean? Is the police coming? What are the repercussions of this action?

    Your internet usage is monitored and logged. This action constitutes a transgression from your individual rights and duties. Please report to a local law representative within 3 days, or an officer will be sent to your listed adress with a warrant for your arrest. Thank you for your cooperation, citizen.

    timestamp:
    18:27 3-31-1984

    1. While I don’t agree with what this article is talking about (well..I agree with that article that its subject is disagreeable :D) there is a place for monitoring internet usage at places like school and work. Of course the Police are not going to show up, but you can be fired, or suspended for looking at inappropriate things. My mother is a human resources lawyer, and is often dealing with employees who have been caught watching pornography at work.

  3. I wonder if the ACLU would consider looking at Google’s, and others’, decisions to arbitrarily close down ‘gay’ blogs and picture sites as seems to regularly happen to Blogger sites on an all too regular basis, even those with an 18+ warning in place.

    Just wondering,

    fb

    1. Google is a private company so, as wrong as it might be, they can do whatever they want on their servers, especially when we’re talking about a free service. Sucks but then again nobody gets forced to use the crappy blogger platform in the first place.

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