The Pentagon yesterday issued a memo apparently intended to at least partly “fix” the problem whereby a number of Defense Department computers were banning access to gay and trans Web sites, in addition to other liberal political content, while not banning similar conservative and anti-gay Web sites. The problem is that the new Pentagon memo doesn’t really fix a thing.
You can find the new DOD memo at the end of this story.
AMERICAblog had uncovered last month that for several years DOD computers, depending on where they were located (different areas of the Defense Department apparently have different censorship policies), were censoring/banning gay and progressive Web sites, while leaving some conservative and anti-gay sites out of the ban.
For example, popular gay blog Towleroad was banned on some DOD computer networks for being: “Blogs/Personal Pages;LGBT.”
AMERICAblog, on the other hand, was banned for being: “Political/Activist Groups;Blogs/Personal Pages.” But we were not banned for being LGBT, which we are.
Pam’s House Blend was also banned for reasons other than “LGBT.”
Other gay sites that were banned included Bilerico, Good As You, HRC’s blog, and the Advocate.
On the other hand, conservative and anti-gay sites that aren’t banned include: Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, AFA, NOM, FRC, Red State, Glenn Beck and Breitbart. Here are a few screen shots of those sites via DOD computers.
What we noted, from the mix of sites that are banned and not banned, was that there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to why certain sites are allowed and others are not. For example, while Towleroad was banned for being gay, AMERICAblog and Pam’s House Blend were not categorized as LGBT, but rather may have been banned for being “blogs” or “political activism.” But other conservative blogs were not banned (Red State, Breitbart, Ann Coulter’s blog), and other conservative political activists were not banned either (FRC, AFA).
It’s important to note that the Pentagon, all along, claimed that it was not banning sites for being LGBT, but rather for other reasons. The Pentagon memo issued yesterday reaffirms that policy of not banning LGBT sites for being LGBT. And that’s great, for what it is – a reaffirmation. It doesn’t, however, fix the problem.
The problem is that a lot of gay and progressive sites aren’t categorized as LGBT by DOD’s filter, yet they were still banned. And even if they are marked as LGBT in the Internet filtering software used by the Pentagon, they’re also marked in other categories that the DOD still may block, such as “blogs” or “political/activist groups” or “personal pages.” So simply telling DOD information technology employees not to turn the “LGBT filter” on isn’t enough. We can still be banned via other category filters.
And just as big a problem, a number of conservative sites were not banned even though they would appear to be similar to the gay and progressive sites that were banned. This means that the categorization process itself appears to be flawed.
It’s a bit confusing, but the way the DOD’s filtering software works is by taking sites on the Internet and marking them with category classifications. In AMERICAblog’s case, as noted above, we were categorized by the filtering software as:
“Political/Activist Groups;Blogs/Personal Pages.”
The person leasing the filtering software can then decide which if any categories they want to ban access to. They can, for example, click the box that says ban all “political” sites, and any site categorized as “political” will be censored on DOD computers. The problem is that since the categorization of sites appears so haphazard, simply ensuring the “LGBT” category ban isn’t turned on isn’t enough. AMERICAblog and Pam’s House Blend were banned via other non-LGBT categories. And even sites marked as LGBT, like Towleroad, can still be banned for allegedly being “blogs; personal pages.”
So simply telling DOD employees not to click the LGBT ban isn’t enough.
The Pentagon has been contacted for comment. Stay tuned.
Here’s DOD’s new memo: