Internet Filter for Missouri Schools Censored LGBT Websites

Categories: LGBT
trevor project.jpg
The Trevor Project was one of at least 23 LGBT issue sites blocked by Netsweeper.
Internet security software used by dozens of school districts in Missouri censored students from accessing websites dealing with LGBT issues.

The Missouri Research & Education Network (MOREnet), a division of the University of Missouri, provides Internet hosting for 86 school districts in the state, including Normandy in the St. Louis area. John Gillispie, executive director of MOREnet, tells Daily RFT that its software vendor for the past two years, Netsweeper, comes with default filters designed to censor material deemed inappropriate for children in kindergarten though 12th grade.

Those filters include blocks for erotic or sexual images, blatant pornography, computer viruses, phishing software, proxy anonymizers and one for "alternative lifestyles." It's the latter that blocked access to LGBT websites dealing with non-sexual matters, including social justice issues and emotional counseling.

"The filter ended up capturing a number of things that probably should not have been filtered," says Gillispie, whose organization deactivated the filter August 1st following notification of the issue from the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. Blocked by the filter were websites for agencies such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Gay-Straight Alliance, Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE); and the Trevor Project aimed at preventing suicide among LGBT teens.

Speaking to Daily RFT this morning, Anthony Rothert, legal counsel for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri commended MOREnet for acting swiftly. "We have no reason to believe that MOREnet knew what the filter blocked," says Rothert. "That said, school districts still have the ability to enable the filter if they wish, which we see as violating the First Amendment."

Rothert says he's also sent a letter to the Canadian-based Netsweeper urging it to stop setting "alternative lifestyles" as a default filter for its software. "They've reached out to us and we're going to have that conversation," he says.

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6 comments
Internet Filter
Internet Filter

it is very essential to block the sites in the schools. All type of content is available on the net so filtering is very important to block the sites which should not be exposed to the students.

Vox
Vox

Homosexuals are the scum of the Earth and should be forced back under the rocks that they slimed out from under. Your sick and diseased brains need to be erased from the public consciousness forever. You pretend you valuable to society but you're just another symptom of the diseases which is the jew.

Greg202020
Greg202020

I think its a good idea for kids to grow up with someone older they can trust and talk to besides their parents, such as an aunt, uncle or a good family friend.   My nieces and nephews have always come to me when they needed to talk about things that bothered them including their parents, and often asked me for advice.  

If you are a parent that is gay or something other than heterosexual,  I would think that you would be really open to helping your kids cope with the situation that is different from most kids.   To not notice that your children are struggling, suffering at school or being tormented, depressed or confused would tell me that you are so self absorbed about your own happiness or selfish not to want to give up your time.  

Any info or counseling needs to start at home.   It seems to me that 90% of any related stress would be from trying to hide things that you need counseling for from your own family.

Parents:  be accepting of your children and if you are single, your love life should take a back seat to the nurturing of your children.

Jplis
Jplis

Internet filters work by reading the keywords on a webpage. If those sites had any sex related keywords, it would automatically be filtered, it would not matter about the actual content of the website. School is not a place to get help with LGBT issues. School is to prepare you for the workplace, not life. That is a parents job. Many people have issues regarding sexuality, L, G, B, T, and straight as well. Schools DO give out information on counseling services. Those resources should be utilized, not the schools computers. There is so much crap on the internet, web browsing should not be so accessable in schools. Colleges, fine. I am in no way a hater. What I say is bound to offend some. But, there is a time and a place for everything. Parents get lazy, and do not work with their children. They use school as a babysitter, so they can work.

Ryan
Ryan

The old ACLU first amendment argument is such bullshit because the first amendment is so subjective.  I get so tired of people using the first amendment when in fact it doesn't apply to every situation.   I wonder if the ACLU would stand up for me and back me with the first amendment argument if I wanted to buy airtime and go on national TV or radio and throw out f-bombs for 30 minutes after an episode of Big Brother.  The right to free speech is in fact limited so quit using that argument unless complete free speech to everyone is guaranteed.

I suspect they were just trying to filter images most teenage boys want to see like two girls together.  I'm not against counseling or help info for anyone but there are probably other avenues to get info from such as a public library.  I'm sure if someone added in the word "counseling" or were specific in their search field such as "gay-straight alliance" or "the Trevor project",  it would come up.

High school is hard for a lot of kids, but if your kids don't feel that they can come to you with questions, concerns or confessions,  then perhaps the best computer search would be for how you can become a better parent.

Chauffeurphil
Chauffeurphil

Although there will be a lot of complaining, why should these sites be restricted? School is hard enough for all kids. Those who are "different" have it even harder. And if you are in the LGBT crowd and want to find some support without being outed, a school computer is possibly the best place to get information or support. It is probably the most horrible thing to need some kind of support and not know where to get it. If you are afraid of getting "caught" or aren't willing to go to the adults for assistance your choices are limited. To make matters worse, you may have parents who check history or whatever on the computer at home. This may make it "not safe" for those in need. In the small schools I would guess it is harder still. It is because everyone knows everyone. The counsler at my school had a son about my age. That is enough to keep me from going there for help. One slip could have been a disaster for some student. It may not have been intentional but you can't take it back. So I see nothing wrong with not blocking these sites.

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