Thursday, October 13, 2011

Montgomery County Censors Gay Newspaper "The Metro Weekly" // Chinese Censorship Wall for Rockville Employees

Earlier this week, a Montgomery County employee emailed Maryland Juice about workplace censorship on the Internet. They complained that the County uses a service to "filter" employees' use of the web, resulting in many innocent sites being blocked. They also sent Maryland Juice a screencap from their monitor, which showed an environmental website ( being blocked and labeled as "pornography." Today a second employee raised the same issue, only now it is an LGBT newspaper that is being censored. Can we fire this company or just stop filtering the results?

When we first discussed this issue, we noted that librarians and the ACLU despise these filters, because they are run by stupid robots that block much more content than they are intended to. Today, we discover Montgomery County's censorship robots are not just stupid, they are bigots, too. Montgomery County blocks employees from visiting the Metro Weekly, a local news publication that caters to the LGBT community. Sadly, the employee in question was researching a Montgomery County resolution on marriage equality. Check out this screencap, followed by another screencap of the scary content the County doesn't want its employees to see.

I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it...

Does this website look pornographic to you?

Does anyone know what service Montgomery County has outsourced its censorship to? There are only a few companies/services that do this, so I would be curious to know which one we are using.

In the meantime, here is some information from the ACLU's "Don't Filter Me Campaign" - which works to stop schools from blocking positive LGBT websites from search results. Sad that we are treating government employees the way we treat children (not that we should be censoring them either):
Many public schools use web filtering software to block students’ access to pornographic websites, in accordance with federal law.  Unfortunately, many of the most commonly used web filtering software packages include a special category for websites that contain information about LGBT issues and organizations, even though the websites are not sexually explicit in any way.  
When public school districts block these LGBT categories, preventing students from accessing websites for positive LGBT rights organizations, they often still allow access to anti-LGBT sites that condemn LGBT people or urge us to try to change our sexual orientation.  This viewpoint discrimination violates students’ rights under the First Amendment.
I know the youth/student rights arguments apparently do not move everyone, but hopefully the censorship of the adults who are writing our laws will spark some sympathy (or at least self-interest)?

"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." -- John Gilmore

Once again: If you want to avoid the MoCo employee web filter, just jump on one of the County's free WiFi networks in Rockville. If you don't work for MoCo and are facing workplace Internet censorship, check out this website. :)

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