The American Civil Liberties Union scored a major victory in their “Don’t Filter Me” initiative against illegal pro-LGBT censorship on public school web browsers by getting Lightspeed—a major supplier of school web-filtering software—to stop blocking LGBT content. The ACLU asked U.S. students to report any schools blocking sites like the It Gets Better Project and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network website. And while thousands more schools will now have access to these and other pro-LGBT sites, there’s still five other major companies on ACLU’s hit list. Let’s see who they are:
Blue Coat, M86, Fortiguard, Websense, and URL Blacklist, all have active filters against student-friendly, pro-LGBT sites (presumably in an overreaching attempt to block access to porn). Even though the ACLU continues to issue letters of notification telling schools and districts to fix their filtering or else, getting these companies to change their software would easily effect far more schools than on a case-by-case basis.
Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project, said, “Schools buy web-filtering software in order to protect their students and comply with the law, but when filtering companies sell anti-LGBT filters to a public school, they are exposing the school to legal liability.”
He then goes onto explain why it’s illegal:
When used by a public school, programs that block all LGBT content violate First Amendment rights to free speech as well as the Equal Access Act, which requires equal access to school resources for all extracurricular clubs. This means that gay-straight alliances and LGBT support groups must have the same access to national organizational websites that help them to function, just as other groups such as the Key Club and the chess club are able to access their national websites. By blocking access to LGBT websites, schools deny helpful information to gay-straight alliances and other support groups that could be vital for troubled LGBT youth who either don’t have access to the Internet at home or do not feel safe accessing such information on their home computers.
That’s wonderful. Of course, there remain four types of gay websites that schools should continue to block—though not ours, of course.