More than 15 months since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s former ban on openly gay service members, the U.S. Department of Defense continues to block access to websites it categorizes as LGBT.
According to a report by AmericaBLOG, parts of the Defense Department is currently blocking access from military computers and users on its network from accessing a number of popular LGBT blogs and websites — including AmericaBlog, Towleroad, JoeMyGod, Bilerico and the Human Rights Campaign — while permitting access to anti-LGBT blogs, including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Family Research Council (FRC).
But, in a statement posted to its Facebook page on Friday, the Defense Department said it “does not block LGBT websites,” but instead blocks personal webpages and “blogs.”
We’ve received some questions/comment recently about DOD’s web access policies, and wanted to provide this statement:
The Department of Defense does not block LGBT websites. The pages referenced in several recent articles were denied access based on web filters blocking the “Blog/Personal Pages” category, not the specific sites themselves. While individuals on a DoD system may visit portions of the main websites (i.e., www.towleroad.com, www.AMERICAblog.com), certain additional links/pages – to include personal blogs – are blocked. Personal pages and blogs are blocked in accordance with DoD policy allowing military commanders the option to restrict access to personal pages for operational security reasons.
In his report, John Aravosis, editor at AmericaBlog, points out that, contrary to the DOD statement that “personal pages and blogs are blocked” as a matter of policy, the filtering does not apply to blogs by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck — but does apply to the website of Josh Seefried, one of the co-founders of OutServe, an organization that was influential in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The filtering also appears to apply to “political action/LGBT” blogs, as the HRC, AmericaBlog and Pam’s House Blend have been categorized, but not anti-LGBT “political action” blogs operated by the NOM, FRC, American Family Association, Red State, and Brietbart.
The censorship varies depending on service and geographical region, but sources indicate the filtering is more widespread withing the branch of the Air Force.
The screenshots published on AmericaBlog indicate that the Pentagon relies on California-based Blue Coat Systems, an internet security company, for its website filtering. Blue Coat categorizes website content into dozens of sections for filtering purposes, which include “adult/mature,” “instant messaging,” “child pornography,” “hacking” and “entertainment,” as well as “LGBT” and “Alternative sexuality.”
Network administrators, in this case the Pentagon, determine which filters are enabled or disabled.
Blue Coat’s LGBT filter includes “websites that provide reference materials, news, legal information, anti-bullying and suicide-prevention information, and other resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) people or that relate to LGBT civil rights.”
The websites included in this category were selected because they do not contain sexually explicit content and are generally suitable for viewing by all age groups.
On their website, Blue Coat has published a statement that advises clients that websites branded as LGBT “do not contain sexually explicit content and are generally suitable for viewing by all age groups,” and do not necessarily warrant censoring.
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