You might think that BLACKLIST would not be a term our nation's schools would want to use even when they are censoring books, magazines, and web sites. You might imagine that recalling so starkly that era when writers and actors and directors and screenwriters and teachers dove from high windows after years of demonization and forced destitution...you might think BLACKLIST, the name itself, might resonate, might put off even those who are today pleased to censor high schoolers' internet research.
You, because you're bright, hopeful, and decent, might think so, and you'd be mistaken.
Many school districts while allowing students to use the internet to research such sites as PEOPLE CAN CHANGE, and EXODUS INTERNATIONAL, religious sights that purport to offer homosexuals paths to heterosexuality, censor what school districts call "pro-gay" sites such as GAY AND LESBIAN ALLIANCE AGAINST DEFAMATION and the GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE NETWORK. Over time, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has convinced many school districts that ridding themselves of software that filters-out sites such as these last is not worth a court fight and they've voluntarily either ditched the censoring filters altogether or switched to ones that aren't this heavy-handed.
Understand that as a result of the Children's Internet Protection Act (2000) school districts are required to filter out pornographic sites. (That's a debate for another post.)
Here's the rub:
BLACKLIST filters-out all of what it sees as LGBT-friendly or -neutral web sites as sexually explicit obscenity and filters-in every gay-bashing site on the web as acceptable. Sites announcing that one's sexual orientation may be changed are categorized by BLACKLIST as "religious" and are filtered-in.
As Michael Winerip in Monday's New York Times explains, the few school districts which haven't budged, such as one he highlights in Camdenton, Missouri, can state with straight faces (sort of) that it isn't they who are censoring, it's the internet filter that they've purchased. This may sound pretty laughable and it would be except the fact is that BLACKLIST appears to be software made in Britain and sold everywhere by a person whose name no one knows.
You read that correctly. No one knows who the author/seller of BLACKLIST is.
That person goes by the name DR. GUARDIAN and no one as yet appears to be able to discern whether this person is a
-a rabid homophobe, or
-simply a gay-neutral huckster who knows Americans are easy marks when it comes to buying bigotry.
The most that's known about Dr. GUARDIAN is that he/she/it has been narrowed down by Google imaging as living Fareham, England in a house with kids' bikes in its yard. That's it.
DR. GUARDIAN's filter has blocked at least forty-one sites in which gay people and LGBT causes are written about neutrally or positively. The ACLU notes that among the many filters offered to school districts, most tested, unlike BLACKLIST, do not filter-out sites that show gay people in a positive light.
More interesting is that the school administrators and boards using BLACKLIST have no apparent desire to find out who their protector from all-things-gay is.
The good news in this benighted Missouri jurisdiction is that a United States District Court has ordered that Camdenton "discontinue its internet filter..." and that "...any new system...must not discriminate against...sites expressing a positive viewpoint toward LGBT individuals."
The situation was brought to the ACLU by the family of a girl who was certain that had she gone to her principal to ask why she could not access sites such as the GAY and LESBIAN ALLIANCE she would have become a target of school and town bullies. If you've doubts about that -- the court has not released the girl's name -- know that when the ACLU was brought in some townspeople hired a small plane to fly a banner with "Get Lost ACLU" trailing behind. While that speech, of course, is and should be protected, the U.S. District Judge also believes, given that kind of behavior, that the girl in question should be protected, too.
Given that no one who has purchased BLACKLIST seems to care much about the
-possible affiliations, and
-educational and personal background of DR. GUARDIAN,
I suppose it's fortunate that the Camdenton Schools Superintendent assured the 'Times' reporter that a gay student, in his schools has "the same opportunity as any other...."
There's a comfort.