Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Any way you spell it, it's still censorship

One of our commenters brought the following to our attention:
Not sure if anyone else has reported on this: I am a federal civil servant and (while on a break!) noticed that the Galloping Beaver, Calgary Grit and BigCityLiberal are all now blocked from government desktops (at least in my Dept - AAFC). This wasn't the case 2 wks ago.

A quick survey around some of the other internet comment sites and forums suggests that other progressive sites and blogs are also blocked on some government computers. The coincidence of discovering that TGB, Calgary Grit, BigCityLiberal and Bread and Roses are blocked on computers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (and some other federal government locations) is just too much to let slide by without a few words.

First, there are a good number of companies who restrict the use of their office computers and have placed internet blocks up to prevent employees "surfing" when they should be engaging in productive enterprises on behalf of the employer.

How the Canadian government chooses to restrict internet access at workstations in the federal civil service is probably one of those mysterious things. The overall policy would be a Treasury Board directive and it probably prohibits employees from accessing things like porn sites. Beyond that, it is probably left to each department and ministry to determine what level of internet access will be allowed.

When I was in the service desktop computers were still new-fangled devices and information technology was, shall we say, rough. Most computers could not access the internet, such as it was, and that didn't matter to us. An added fact was that the Canadian Forces was so far behind the computer power curve that some of the combat computers filled entire rooms and used perforated paper tape for data input. The 5 1/4 inch floppy was around, but they were considered good only for saving word processing data.

The decision to block certain blogs in certain government departments had to come from somewhere. There have been a few suggestions and it could be anything from an edict issued by as high up as a minister to some officious IT punk taking matters into his/her own hands.

We don't know. But we do care.

Some suggested that it might be a keyword thing, what with the occasional profane outburst triggering a response from some net nanny application which immediately declares sites like this PG17 - Reader discretion is advised. May contain language considered offensive to people not educated in a public school system. Authors probably have sex during the day with the lights on.

Maybe, but I don't think so. No, this has the trademarks of a human hand in specific departments. You see, on any given day, this blog gets loads of visits from various locations which fall into the category of So, it's not government-wide.

I had no idea we were considered so dangerous in the eyes of some federal departments. So dangerous that censorship had to be imposed. (I know. You thought I wasn't going to use the "C" word.)

Does it have something to do with not putting pictures of kittens up? If we did a Wednesday morning cat-blogging thing, would that get us off the censor list? Is it the Mrs. Mills paste-ups? She can be pretty raunchy. Sorry, she stays. And your staff doesn't get to read her.

Are you blocking right-wing sites too? Or are you, the one who imposed the block, giving the Blogging Tories some grease they haven't earned? Too much of them and your whole staff will start breathing through their mouths and moving their lips when they think.

No matter. We will wear it as a badge of honour. We are banned by select departments of Canada's New Government. In fact, that's actually a great idea! A badge for the sidebar - with those words on it. One to go with the other awards. I wonder if there's anyone out there (Wingnuterer, can you hear me?) who can put together a classy CENSORED award? Something that all of us "blocked" blogs can wear. Something that demonstrates just how damned scary we've become to elements of the Harper government.

So, to whoever blocked us, thank you. You've probably boosted our traffic.

And to those civil servants who know of workstations where this blog is blocked, send them this link and save it. If it works, we'll send out regular changes.

Graphic Update: Oh... what our buddy over at April Reign has done. Badges! Just for us vituperative, irritating blogs. I like... a lot. Thanks Debra!

Watch the sidebar.

Further Graphic Updates: April Reign has answered yet another call by those who feel slighted by the web filters at some Canadian government departments. We hear you, Red Jenny! More great badges. Thanks, once again Debra.

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