Friday, June 23, 2006

filter kings

internet filtering has been hot news in the midwest this week, with political stories out of indiana and kentucky.

TDW first posted on monday that the state of indiana was installing new net-blocking software on state computers. at first, TDW and other blogs were blocked, preventing state employees from visiting them, but apparently this was some kind of error. the next day, TDW posted that blog access had been restored and the filters were only there to block porn, not political speech (at least, according to the state).

then today, the louisville courier-journal had a surprising revelation:

The Indiana state government began restricting state workers' Internet access yesterday and some employees have been fired or disciplined after evidence was found that child pornography was viewed from work computers.

yes, a "handful" of state employees were let go because they'd allegedly been viewing kiddie porn while at work. how foolish can you be? viewing any kind of porn at work is bad form, especially if you work for the state and taxpayers are paying your salary. but if you're into kiddie porn you seriously need to keep that to yourself, at home, with the windows drawn. (or better yet, get some counseling, because that stuff's not just gross and illegal, it's unhealthy.)

i thought this quote was worded weirdly:

Indiana State Police spokesman David Bursten said it's illegal to intentionally view child porn for sexual gratification. He could not immediately say whether state police are investigating the situation.

it's only illegal to view child porn intentionally for sexual gratification? i thought possessing or viewing child porn was illegal for any purpose other than law enforcement...

moving southward to kentucky, governor fletcher also introduced new filtering software, but the aim is a bit different: it's specifically intended to block blogs. some liberal bloggers spoke up, saying this was a deliberate attempt to suppress their voices.

the fletcher administration responded by insisting that all blogs were being blocked, and thus the blog block was content-neutral. an argument can be made that viewing blogs at work is a distraction, so as long as the block was indeed content-neutral, this wouldn't be a big deal.

but then a kentucky libertarian blogger (he insists he's not "conservative" though others disagree) was personally informed that his blog was no longer blocked. this seems to destroy any pretense that blogs aren't being blocked because of their political content.

when tpm muckraker asked a ky official how the right-leaning blog had managed to get unblocked, he said he didn't know, and gave the excuse that it's "up to independent agencies".

amazingly, the ky official tried to defend his state by mentioning indiana's new filtering software, perhaps thinking that tpm muckraker wouldn't follow up:

During my conversation with the guy from Kentucky's state tech office, he mentioned that the state of Indiana had just implemented their own filtering technology up there.

Hmm. So have they chosen to block state employees from viewing blogs? I called up Mark Cotterill, General Counsel of Indiana's Office of Technology.

No. "I don't see us going there." Why? "We treat our state employees as professionals."

So what have they chosen to block? Two categories: general pornography and child pornography.

"Our process is just different," he said. Yep.


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