Pentagon Bans Gay Blogs but Not Ann Coulter

The progressive political site AMERICAblog has uncovered a strange and not-so-accidental glitch in the Department of Defense’s computer system, one that’s been around for a while.

The Pentagon reportedly blocks a number of LGBT-related websites from being accessed by DoD computers, while allowing access to right-wing powerhouses like the American Family Association and Ann Coulter.

AMERICAblog points out the filter blocking Department of Defense computers from accessing LGBT websites.

AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis writes:

It’s bad enough the United States Department of Defense censors Towleroad and AMERICAblog — banning the gay civil rights Web sites from being accessed on DOD computers — and it’s even worse that the Pentagon has no problem permitting their computers to access Ann Coulter’s and Rush Limbaugh’s hate-filled Web sites.

But what’s really offensive is that at least one of the Pentagon’s safe-surfing Internet filters has a censorship category called “LGBT.”  And if you’re deemed “LGBT” by the Pentagon, they ban you.

Among the blocked groups and sites are the Human Rights Campaign, Good As You, Bilerico, Towleroad, and even LGBT suicide prevention sites. Apparently this isn’t a new problem, but Aravosis seems to say it’s one that the Defense Department has effectively ignored:

The LGBT filter existed before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but still has not been fixed.  And the Pentagon was notified of the problem as early as last summer, 2012.  Yet no one’s gotten around to doing anything about it. I’m also told that the censorship varies depending on service and geographical region – it’s not entirely clear why the Pentagon doesn’t use the same bans/filters nationwide and agency-wide, if it’s going to censor the Internet at all. This problem has to be fixed Pentagon-wide.

It’s worth noting that some non-LGBT sites are blocked, some under the banned labels “political” and “activist.” But Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the National Organization for Marriage, and the American Family Association — the AFA having been designated an official hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — are all perfectly accessible from Pentagon computers, even though it could be argued they fall under the categories of “political” or “activist” as well. This hardly sounds like a matter of defense and it’s definitely disconcerting.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • John Frank

    They also block a lot of atheist sites under the category “Religion”, yet don’t block any Christian sites.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zachlowry Zach Lowry

    Those sites are categorized as such due to proxying software from BlueCoat. The DOD just picks categories to block, which means your issue is with BlueCoat, not the DOD.

    • Leofwine

      Not really. BlueCoat may have made the categories but the DOD choose which ones to use. BlueCoat is a company and probably created those categories for other companies/organizations that wish to use them. The DOD being part of the government should not have chosen to use the categories mentioned in the article.

      • http://www.facebook.com/zachlowry Zach Lowry

        Wrong. They chose to block “Blogs/Personal Pages”, which is why the site is blocked. It just so happens to also be LGBT.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

          All the LGBT sites mentioned in the article are blogs? Are you sure?

          And what, specifically, about that block message leads you to believe that the filter is on ‘blog’ and not ‘LGBT’?

          • Kevin S.

            That’s what I’d like to know. It’s not clear whether that message gives you a list of all categories the site belongs to, or just the ones on the client’s block list.

            And also, having taken a look at towleroad, I’m not sure why it would be in the Blogs/Personal Pages category, since the BlueCoat link claims that category is for personal pages on ISP servers and for sites like Blogger and WordPress that host tons of blogs. It looks like Towleroad is just one blog with several contributors. It’s almost like BlueCoat is trying to keep gay rights content away from as many people as possible, even people who don’t care if they see it.

        • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

          Wrong. They chose to block “Blogs/Personal Pages; LGBT” the semicolon being a stand-in for “subcategory”. If someone chose to access a site that could be described as “Blogs/Personal Pages; Cats” they would get access.

          • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

            Nope, that’s not correct.

            Blog/Personal Pages category definition can be found here .

            LGBT category can be found here .

            And for your edification here is a list of all the categories they use for website classification.

            I think I died a little bit when I read the description of what the LGBT category included. Sounds tailor made for the religious bigots. >:-(

            • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

              I stand corrected. Thank you, Benny and my apologies to Zach; but am I not correct in thinking that if the Blog/Personal Pages setting was not on the sites still would have ben blocked by the LGBT setting?

            • Jordan W

              They’ve made a statement telling service users not to block LGBT out of
              ‘decency’ reasons as obviously they have numerous other categories for
              indecent things. What surprises me though is the need for an LGBT
              category at all, in the context of the other categories.

              • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

                I would assume that Blue Coat uses it as a talking point when they are marketing their services to churches.

            • Kevin S.

              *Sigh*. The existence of the LGBT category is horrible in and of itself, since it doesn’t block gay porn, but only gay civil rights and anti-bullying type sites. There’s no reason the Pentagon should be blocking such sites if they don’t block Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter, especially now that gay people can serve openly.

              • Agrajag

                There’s many categories that there’s no reason anyone would be blocking. For example this one: “Translation”: Sites that allow translation of text (words, phrases, web pages, between
                various languages) or that can be used to identify a language.

                What would be a valid reason to block a webpage that offers language-identification ?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I’d bet dollars to donuts that the reason there are a bazillion filters is that there are a bazillion little political silos of control. At least that’s how it works in the civilian world. Nobody wants to give up their little piece of power, and efficiency be damned.

  • TheExpatriate700

    Personally, I think the Pentagon should be blocking all sites that don’t have some form of work relevance, including Coulter and the AFA. We’re paying these people to defend us, not surf the Net.

    • WoodyTanaka

      “defend us”

      LOL The US military hasn’t “defended” the US any time since the 1940s. The only thing they’re defending now is government weapons contracts and neo-con politicians.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    When I read her name the first thought that came to my mind way, that woman is a witch but then again that would be an insult to a witch.

  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    Just guessing here, but I would imagine that the filtering software was implemented under Bush with guidelines stemming from that worldview and it’s just something that no one has ever bothered to update.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Except that they’ve been notified of the issue since DADT was repealed. Now it just looks like purposeful negligence.

      • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

        While I understand why you could say it’s purposeful negligence, I wouldn’t necessarily call it that myself because I don’t consider keeping web content filters for employees up to date in a timely and socially responsible manner to be a major responsibility of the Pentagon. Certainly as an incident it’s foolish, insensitive and irresponsible but in the grand scheme of things this feels to me like a mountain out of a molehill situation.

  • WoodyTanaka

    Is anyone really surprised? It’s not as if the Department of Defense isn’t a sewer of the worst elements of our society, in terms of being lousy with religious fanatics, people who hate gays and women.

    • Phil

      I’m in the DoD and I’m an atheist, support LGBT, and treat women as equals. You, however, are a shining example of hypocritical intolerance.

      • WoodyTanaka

        Truth hurts. Religious fanaticism runs amok in the military and you couldn’t be openly gay and not get drummed out until, like, 25 minutes ago. Open your eyes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Callan/1028713371 Peter Callan

      But gee don’t they defend your country when you need it.

      • WoodyTanaka

        I was born after 1945. So at no point during my life did the US face any real threat it needed “defending” from. (Although we came close with Grenada. If not for our steely-eyed Leaders, brave Generals and troops, the may have cornered the nutmeg market. And I don’t have to tell you the the USA would have been done for if that happened.)

        Though it’s sure good at defending the income of defense contractors and careers of twisted politicians.

  • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

    Did anyone notice the rather ironic “webfilter category” listing in one of the screenshots?

    Webfilter Category: Military;Blogs/Personal Pages;LGBT

    So the DoD is blocking any websites having to do with the military?

    Source: http://americablog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/joshseefried1-e1357241115313.png

  • Sparky44

    As someone who actually worked at the Pentagon, I can tell you that the Army is in charge of what gets through the firewall at the Pentagon. It’s not DoD-wide; each Service, and sometimes each base has different firewall settings.

    In Iraq, they blocked ESPN but not Sky Sports. Facebook was blocked until 2010, when they realized that the loss of productivity in having FB on everyone’s work computer was outweighed by the improved morale and reduction in time at the Internet cafe.


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