Sunday, October 29, 2006

Follow Up: Department of the Interior Blocking Conservative Blogs?

There was a bit of a buzz a couple of weeks ago about the supposed fact that the Department of the Interior was preventing its employees from viewing conservative blogs on its internal network.

Supposedly, liberal blogs were unblocked.

We called the Department of the Interior and talked to a source in the IT department who denied any partisan motive, and indeed confirmed for us that both the Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground were blocked at the time we made the call.

Now, an employee has posted a very detailed account of what went on on the Gates of Vienna blog.

Bottom line: never attribute to evil motives what can be adequately explained by incompetence.

And since this is the government, incompetence is an extremely plausible explanation.

But utterly priceless is a document showing just what is blocked at the DOI, and what is unblocked. The document also shows the supposed justification for blocking certain content. It is Exhibit Number 1 for the case that all nanny-state policies like this are silly.

For example, sites are blocked if they:
. . . sell, promote or glamorize the use of tobacco related products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco. Sample sites: www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/home.asp
But use of tobacco is perfectly legal -- at least if DOI employees don’t do it on the job. Likewise blocked:
Sites promoting the use of alcohol, drink recipes, bartender guides, home brewing methodology, drinking.
Oddly, weapons sites are unblocked. It seems the nannies care more about tobacco and alcohol than about guns, knives and swords.

“Social opinion” sites are unblocked, but “Hate & Discrimination” sites are blocked. Of course, deciding where one leaves off and the other begins is inherently a subjective call. Further, blocked sites include “Sites that promote the sale/use of illegal drugs and narcotics . . . or sites that glorify the effect of illegal narcotics.” But isn’t this a form of “social opinion?”

And blocked are “Sites that contain information regarding militias, anti-government/antiestablishment groups, terrorism, bombmaking/usage, anarchy, etc.” We wonder, in the first place, whether libertarian sites are blocked as being “anti-government.” Are leftist sites blocked as being “antiestablishment?” And if not why not?

Even assuming that only genuinely fringe sites are blocked (MILITIA OF MONTANA is one listed) don’t concerned citizens have a right to know what these folks are up to?

Instant messaging and chat is blocked, as are message boards.

Blogs are blocked, including this one!

Porno sites are blocked, as are streaming media sites (supposedly because they would overburden the network).

Sites that encourage and assist hacking are unblocked!

Art sites are unblocked, but comics sites are blocked. Do we see a highbrow bias here? Except that online greeting card sites are unblocked.

Game sites are blocked, but kids sites are unblocked. Do Department of Interior employees often bring their children to work?

Dating and Personal sites are blocked. This category includes:
Sites related to personal ads, dating sites, dating services, dating tips, relationships, introductions, “how-tofind-a-mate” sites, introductions for purposes of finding friends or other relationships, etc.
But unblocked are “lifestyle” sites:
Sites that contain material relative to an individual’s personal life choices. This includes sexual preference, cultural identity, or organization/club affiliations.
All this is typical when the nannies try to decide what people can and can’t view.

So what we have here is not any liberal conspiracy to silence conservative voices. It’s normal governmental incompetence, which looks very much like incompetence in the corporate world, and in universities.

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