Sunday, January 06, 2013

Pentagon Blocking LGBT Sites, Responds to Criticism

There is an interesting dust-up going on between AmericaBlog and the Department of Defense. Blogger John Aravosis recently criticized the Pentagon for blocking LGBT-oriented web sites on DOD computer networks. Rightwing blogs are accessible, but even such a mainstream, G-rated site as AmericaBlog itself is blocked for DOD employees, because Aravosis is gay and the site's content reflects that. The Pentagon has responded.

I must admit that Internet censorship is something I hate. I am a grown-up person, and also a productive worker, and I can decide for myself what is good for me. I don't expect everybody to agree with me; I am happiest with the most complete freedom to indulge my wondering mind, and do not think that some other person has better judgment than me about what information I should have access to. Call it a personal quirk if you must, my curiosity has served me well over the decades.

There is not much of an objective case to be made for censoring certain Internet sites so that people don't waste their time at work. One, people can surf the web on their phone, tablet, or laptop, so it's not like they are being stopped from wasting time. Two, if you are going to crack down on time-wasting at work then you will need a more comprehensive approach than just blocking web sites carrying taboo content; you'll have to set a time limit for lingering at the drinking fountain, sitting in someone else's cube, reading, etc. -- I saw a lady once who watched soap operas on a television set on her desk, another was working on a big jigsaw puzzle. And three, there is only one way to make sure you comprehensively block all of any category of content, whether it is porn, games, LGBT content, hate speech, or whatever, and that is to block everything.

If management decides they want a workforce of numb-minded, incurious zombies with no outside interests, then they can just pull the plug on the Internet and let everyone with an active intellect and desire to participate in the modern world find work somewhere else. At least you wouldn't have people using their work computers to waste time surfing the web.

Most companies, including government offices, have some sort of filters on network computers that attempt to funnel employees' attention into a socially acceptable subset of the Internet. There is pretty wide consensus about blocking certain things, for instance, I have never heard anyone complain about hate-speech sites being blocked, or pornography. But, for instance, sometimes the category "pornography" is extended to all sexual topics. Someone once told me that their workplace blocked access to the Wikipedia chapters "Penis" and "Vagina," which are medical terms for body parts that almost all of us have. People complain but accept that gambling and game sites are blocked. Even humor is blocked in some offices.

After AmericaBlog complained, the Pentagon released this statement:
Statement by George Little on Internet Information Access

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little
Recent reports have suggested that the Pentagon is blocking access to LGBT related websites. The Department of Defense does not block websites based on LGBT content.

The Department of Defense strongly supports the rights of gay and lesbian men and women in uniform to serve proudly and openly.

With Internet technology constantly evolving, the Department of Defense is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security.

There are a number of different Internet tools used across the department to ensure that adequate cybersecurity and information security standards are maintained, and in certain instances, access may limited to content not directly related to carrying out mission or professional duties.

In order to help maintain adequate levels of information security in support of DoD policy, some components employ commercial tools that may allow users to visit “news” sites while disallowing pages categorized as “personal sites and blogs”.

No filter is perfect and some sites may have unnecessarily been blocked. The Department Chief Information Officer will work with relevant components to address these situations. DOD to investigate complaints that gay blogs, news sites are censored on Pentagon computers
Listen, none of this has to do with "cybersecurity and information security standards." There is simply no security risk with "personal sites and blogs." Let's call it what it is: it is about authority and control.

One thing that makes this issue difficult is that there is no precedent for it. The Internet is like having the Library of Congress in your pocket. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that all knowledge is available to everyone, all the time. And no one really knows what their rights should be regarding that easily accessible body of knowledge. Employees will feel vulnerable sticking their necks out to argue that medical, or fashion, or sports information should be accessible from their desks at work, because employees' rights in this domain have not been established.

There is a kind of assembly-line supposition that goofing off at work is bad, but white collar office workers are not doing repetitive work on an assembly line. They are expected to use their minds to solve problems, they are expected to think outside the box, and there is no box sealed as tightly as a government agency or office. An active, intelligent, problem-solving mind goes off-topic sometimes.

The Pentagon faux pas demonstrates the weakness of a system that allows management to filter information. I can just see a roomful of brass saying, "I don't see why those queers need to read about their perverted lifestyle while they're working for us," and then being told that this Negro liberal President is telling them they have to treat gay people like they were goddamn spotted owls or something. When you control people's access to information you impose your own values on them, and that is the problem.

Here, try this. If you're at home, click this link: Transadvocate. Now imagine that you are a person who has had the courage to transition your life from the sex that was assigned at birth to the one you really are. You have dealt with identification, name change, and legal matters; you have dealt with weeping relatives, outraged friends, creeps hollering at you on the street, the constant threat of violence. Here is a web site with articles that speak to you, they address the actual issues you deal with as a unique person but not one who is all alone. They speak your language and understand your perspective.

Next, when you're at your desk at work, click on this same link. If you work for the government, I would guess you are not allowed to connect to Transadvocate (let us know in the comments section). How do you feel -- even as a straight cis-person -- when that "Site blocked" screen comes up, along with the knowledge that your name has probably gone onto some list of moral-code violators? It is a humiliating insult to those who have had the fortitude to struggle through all the personal battles involved in making a difficult transition. And never mind the poor person who is considering making the transition, they have suffered with a mistaken identity through their entire life and are nearly ready to start out on the difficult journey -- what is the message to them, when they can't even read about people like themselves?

There are groups that advocate for computer users, for instance they lobby for the privacy of users from surveillance and eavesdropping. There are also, of course, groups that advocate for the rights of LGBT citizens to be treated fairly. These two need to get together and bring this issue of biased Internet filtering to the top of the list. I will be interested to see how this one plays out as we create the future we will live in.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on Jim. If one is at work, one should be working, not surfing. If one has that much time on their hands then perhaps their job is not necessary and should be eliminated. Govt needs to save money.

January 06, 2013 7:52 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

So are you suggesting that government workers have their access to the Internet removed? Maybe a couple of computers in the CIO's office for "work-related" browsing? Good luck with that. Think it through.


January 06, 2013 8:17 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Bad anonymous said "If one is at work, one should be working, not surfing.".

Wow, that is the height of hypocrisy coming from you, virtually all your posting and surfing is done at work. It takes one very messed up mind to condemn others for something you do every day.

January 06, 2013 8:28 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Not to mention that saying people at work shouldn't be surfing means all internet access should be blocked, not just LGBT web sites. If its okay for employees to surf non-lgbt sites at work its only fair that they be able to surf LGBT sites as well.

January 06, 2013 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are 24 hours in a day. People should deal with their personal business on their personal time, not when they are on the clock, unless their boss approves. Most people are not paid to develop their "active, intelligent, problem-solving mind" at work, most people are paid because they have an "An active, intelligent, problem-solving mind," which they use to conduct their business.

January 07, 2013 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the feeling that our usual rightwing troll, "Anon," will have little to say on this issue.

January 07, 2013 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

House Republicans have wasted no time in making clear their costly defense of DOMA will not stop by passing a resolution on the very first day of Congress committing the House to defending the federal gay marriage ban, including some provisions that Democratic legislators are calling outrageous.

House Republicans tagged provisions allowing their lawyers to continue to defend the Defense of Marriage Act to a document outlining the procedural rules governing this Congress and, in a 228-196 vote, the rules were adopted on Thursday, one of the very first acts in this the 113th Congress.

The lengthy document authorizes the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to continue its legal defense of DOMA in cases like Windsor v. United States, which will go before the Supreme Court this year, and to “take such steps as may be appropriate to ensure continuation of such civil actions,” and going on to say that BLAG can “intervene in other cases that involve a challenge to the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Furthermore, and even more controversially, the rules insist that BLAG “continues to speak for, and articulate the institutional position of, the House in all litigation matters in which it appears, including in Windsor v. United States.”

You may remember that in the 112th Congress, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group voted to take up defending Section 3 but it wasn’t a bipartisan move at all: there are five members on the panel, three of them Republicans who all voted in favor, and two Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), who voted against.

This is a fact Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill has been particularly keen to emphasize in the lawmaker’s staunch criticism of this latest GOP stunt.

Reports the Washington Blade:

“House Republicans will send a clear message to LGBT families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future,” Hammill said. “Republicans will take the extraordinary measure of including an authorization of their efforts to defend DOMA in the Rules of the House of Representatives and by doing so, continue to spend taxpayer funds, already adding up to $1.7 million, in their attempts to defend this shameful law in federal courts and the Supreme Court.”

Hammill took particular issue with language in the resolution saying BLAG speaks for the entire the chamber. As BLAG has defended DOMA, House Democrats have filed numerous friend-of-the-court briefs asserting the anti-gay law is unconstitutional.

Readers may note that the above excerpt quotes a figure of $1.7 million spent on DOMA, in excess of the $1.5 million (negotiable) cap that had been in place until late last year.

This is because House Republicans, in an undisclosed move made in September, found time enough to authorize a $500,000 increase for defending DOMA, allowing BLAG lawyers to surpass the $1.5 million mark. This was done without consent from Democratic legislators who only found out about the change, signed off on by outgoing House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren, during the run up to Christmas while the House was mired in dire talks over the fiscal cliff issue.

With the institution of these new rules the House GOP has made firm its desire to continue to act unilaterally to defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, 1996 legislation that has twice been found unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and in several more instances by lower federal courts.

That the House GOP has moved on this the very first week of the new Congress to once again throw money at the DOMA defense sets a depressing, though not unsurprising, tone that indicates that, in terms of LGBT rights, the House’s 113th Congress will be much like its predecessor: ideologically driven and shamefully unyielding with its conservative religious agenda.

January 07, 2013 9:36 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

Priya suggested:

“Wow, that is the height of hypocrisy coming from you, virtually all your posting and surfing is done at work. It takes one very messed up mind to condemn others for something you do every day.”


Montgomery County and Washington D.C. are home to the Citizens for Responsible Government, the Family Research Council, and Peter Sprigg. For all we know, our trolleriffic Anon could be ol’ Peter himself, or one of his less literate lackeys. This person could well be getting paid by one of these organizations to post that kind of stuff. Or it could just be another run-of-the-mill obsessive-compulsive conservative with signs of sociopathic tendencies.

I can tell you from having seen a number of the CRG folks myself, many of them are old enough to be collecting Social Security checks, and at least one of them is a minister. There is little reason to believe our beloved Anon actually has to work for a living.

Another possibility comes to mind because of the poor grammar skills and consistent lack of understanding about our electoral process. Consider that in both of the last two presidential cycles he consistently insisted that a 1% bump in some national poll for a day or two indicated the obvious imminent success of the Republican candidate, despite the fact that the Electoral College map consistently showed Obama significantly ahead. It could be that the FRC, the CRG, or some other portion of the Conservative Victim Complex has hired cheap labor from India or some other 2nd or 3rd world country to fill up these blogs and make it look like they have more supporters than they really do.

Have a nice day,


January 07, 2013 11:01 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Cynthia, Jim posted a few months back that he knew where bad anonymous worked and that he posted from a company computer. He's getting paid to work, but not to work posting anti-gay and right wing political propaganda. As Jim said at the time "No one is really anonymous on the internet.".

January 07, 2013 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well then, I guess that narrows things down to "another run-of-the-mill obsessive-compulsive conservative with signs of sociopathic tendencies."

January 07, 2013 11:22 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Right anonymous. At that time another poster suggeted Jim contact bad anonymous's employer and let him know he's using a work computer to post during working hours and Jim said he couldn't see costing someone their job just because they disagree with him politically.

January 07, 2013 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In his January newsletter, the hate group Focus on the Family founder, James Dobson comes out and admits that “Nearly everything I have stood for these past 35 years went down to defeat.” What he fails to understand, or more likely admit to, is why. In his newsletter he proceeds to lay the blame for his failures on the doorstep of President Obama, the Democratic Party and the disappointing Judas Iscariots of the Republican party. There is no acknowledgement that in re-electing this President, the country provided a sound repudiation of Dobson's brand of extremism. It wasn't any of the factions he cited in his newsletter that brought about his defeat. It was the electorate, who, among other things, has grown weary of the distortions and ugly tactics employed by social conservatism.

The lies and distortions he presents as evidence is typical of this man. For example:

1. Abortion should be legalized through nine months of pregnancy.
Imagine full-term, healthy babies across the nation being poisoned or dismembered a few days before normal delivery. What a tragedy!

Yes, what a tragedy, if it had any basis in reality. I was completely nonplussed to learn that one of the Democratic platform plank called for the willy nilly aborting of full-term babies. Of course the Democrats have proposed no such thing, but Dobson doesn't let facts get in the way of fundraising.

2. Same-sex marriages should be permitted by law in every state in the nation.
In May, Barack Obama was pictured on the cover of Newsweek with the caption, "The First Gay President." His policies for the family were affirmed by liberal voters on November 6th. The Supreme Court recently agreed to consider the same-sex marriage issue. If they rule that it is the law, they will open the door to a redefinition of marriage in every state in the land. The family and the nation will never be the same. Nevertheless, neither Democrat nor Republican Congressmen have uttered a word of concern about it. They are deaf and mute while the very future of this great country hangs in the balance. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by an overwhelming vote a few years ago, but it will be overridden if the Supreme Court issues an adverse ruling. But, who in Congress cares?

Clearly the religious conservative cheese stands alone. Only the brave fundamentalists are standing up for inequality. Ha! If only that were the case. The Republicans in the newly minted 113th Congress have made it a priority to continue defending the federal ban on recognizing gay marriage by approving additional spending on outside counsel. But again, mentioning this fact wouldn't go a long way in helping him get panic donations.

Yes, James Dobson, it is true. Everything you have stood for for 35 years has been going down to defeat. It hasn't been completely defeated though, and I sense you know it. Why else would you still be making these thinly disguised calls for money if there wasn't still a dime or two to be eked out from your dwindling base of easily manipulated people? This once fully raging river of cash is slowing down to a trickle and when it has finally dried up, my hope is that you will have too.

January 07, 2013 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Most elementary schools (including those with 6th-grade students) block lgbt-positive political sites such as HRC and GLSEN but not such sites as PFOX.

It's worth noting that I haven't checked this in a few years, so it may no longer be true.

January 08, 2013 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryan Andresen is an honor student who has been in the Boy Scouts since he was six years old. He also happens to be an openly gay teen, which is why the Eagle Board of Review refused to approve his Scouts’ Eagle application.

Until today, that is.

After appearances on Ellen DeGeneres and Anderson Cooper and 460,000 signatures on a petition, a California-based Mount Diablo-Silverado Council approved Ryan’s status — in direct defiance of the national organization’s policy against gay scouts.

“It’s the first in-your-face (challenge),” Boy Scout district review board chair Bonnie Hazarabedian told Reuters.

While the national office generally approves all district recommendations automatically, the council is expecting some push back in this case.

But that might be besides the point, according to Ryan’s father Eric. “It’s the message that counts. It’s the desire that no other Scout should ever have to go through this.”

January 09, 2013 8:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home