Friday, October 14, 2011

Montgomery County's Government Blacklist of LGBT Websites // Search Term "Transgender" Was Not Acceptable

UPDATE: Blacklisted LGBT news site Metro Weekly has this coverage of Chairman MoCo's firewall:
Jedediah Millard, an employee of Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, says he was searching the Internet in March 2011 for sources detailing a county resolution regarding marriage equality. When Millard clicked on a link to go to Metro Weekly, the browser blocked the site and listed a description reading, ''Website contains prohibited Pornography/Nudity content....'' 
After some additional searching, Millard says he realized that many LGBT-related sites that are neither pornographic or show nudity had been blocked, so he notified a technician from the county's Office of Technology Services.... 
Information is like water. This week, Maryland Juice published three instances of Montgomery County's workplace Internet filter blocking employees from reading about legitimate policy issues. The screencaps keep coming in. The previous sites in question were an anti-SUV environmental website, an LGBT news site, and a seniors community calendar. But make no mistake, the LGBT censorship is rarely an accident on the part of the censorship robots. They are usually programmed to operate exactly as they do. As a result, we called Montgomery County's censorship robot a bigot, and it turns out we were right.


A MoCo gov't employee has emailed a list of several more instances of blocked LGBT-related websites (some have since been unblocked -- but it appears this has to be done manually). All were marked as pornography by Chairman MoCo (I'm not posting all the screencaps anymore, but if you want copies or other verification, email me):

Blacklisted Sites Include:
  • International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (iglhrc.org): A global LGBT anti-discrimination group.
  • Victory Fund (victoryfund.org): A PAC that supports LGBT candidates for office.
  • National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (thetaskforce.org): An LGBT grassroots activist group.
  • CNN.com news article about a transgendered basketball player.
The CNN.com blockage is particularly troubling, because MoCo didn't just block the one website -- they appeared to be blocking search results and websites that simply had the term: "transgender." This is one of the censorship rules that was quietly changed in the past, but an employee felt strongly enough to keep a screencapture for weeks after the unblocking. See below:


Whose decision was it to block access to these sites in the first place? This is a sensitive topic in Maryland right now, due to a recent hate crime in Baltimore. In the meantime, the fight continues:


URGENT: Marriage Equality Call and Lobby Day Monday Oct. 17
This Monday, October 17, the Maryland General Assembly returns to Annapolis for a 3-day special session -- their last meeting this year -- so your participation is absolutely critical.  
Progressive Maryland and the statewide coalition Marylanders for Marriage Equality are launching a call-in campaign beginning Monday. We strongly urge you to call your State Delegates to make sure they know that you, their constituent, support all loving and committed couples' right to share their love and commitment through civil marriage. Tell them it is about loving couples being able to go to the courthouse to get a government-issued marriage license.
It’s quick, it's easy, and it works. So Monday please
1)  Go to http://mdelect.net
2)  Enter your full home address.
3)  Click the name under “State Delegates” 
(if you have two or three delegates, please call each separately).
4)  Say, "My name is _________.  I live at [address, city, state, zip] and I’m a  voter in your district who strongly supports civil marriage equality   because all loving and committed couples should be able to marry, including gay and lesbian couples." Please add anything personal to   the conversation or message.  For instance, do you know a gay or lesbian couple who wants to marry? Are you gay or lesbian? Do you have a gay or lesbian son, daughter, coworker, neighbor? If so, please add that personal detail.
5)  Finally, please thank the Delegate or staff person for their time and/or relaying your message to the Delegate.
6)  Then, please email us back to let us know whom you called and their response. 
That’s it!  If you know of other Marylanders who support marriage equality, please ask them to join you Monday  in calling for equality.
Elbridge James     PM Logo
Elbridge James
President, Progressive Maryland
--------------------------------------------
P.S. - Please also join us in Annapolis for Marriage Equality Lobby Day, Monday 10 AM.

Progressive Maryland is a proud member of Marylanders for Marriage Equality Coalition, the coalition organizing this lobby day. Other members of the coalition include the NAACP-Baltimore Chapter, SEIU, ACLU-Maryland, Equality Maryland, Maryland Faith for Equality, Maryland NOW, PFLAG, Human Rights Campaign, National Black Justice Coalition, Catholics for Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Family Equality Council.

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