(Community Matters) Air Force on blocked websites
Statement from DOD Official:
The DoD does NOT block LGBT websites.
The Air Force (the branch who are actually running the system where there seems to be this issue) uses a system called Blue Coat to block sites based on a website categorization database they maintain. Blue Coat reviews websites and gives each site one or more categories e.g. “Financial Services”, “News/Media”, or “Adult/Mature Content,” etc. The Air Force blocks or allows websites based on these categories. For instance, It allows “News/Media” but blocks “Adult/Mature Content.” The Air Force has no control over Blue Coat’s categorization of a given website (it can only request a review by Blue Coat). But again – it’s just a categorization. “LGBT” is, for some reason, a ‘category.’ And, as John Aravosis points out – it’s odd to be ‘categorized.’ But, it is only that. A website category. Americablog itself even has a self-assigned subcategory for LGBT, so much of his outrage is misplaced.
The DoD faces a perception challenge here: If a website is blocked, the access denied page that shows up on the screen, lists all of the categories that page falls under, but doesn’t say which one of those categories actually blocked the website. The screenshots that Aravosis shows that Blue Coat has givenwww.joshseefried.com (one of the blocked sites) three categories: “Military”, “Blogs/Personal Pages”, and “LGBT”. As it happens, “Military” and “LGBT” are allowed. But, the “Blogs/Personal Pages” category is blocked. The bottom line is that this site is blocked because it is a blog, not because of the LGBT categorization. There are numerous LGBT websites that are not blocked because they do not include the blocked categories. It should be said that various commands may from time to time based on any number of considerations ranging from bandwidth issues (usually in an austere combat zone) to operational security reasons (something that only individual commanders may assess), “Blogs/Personal Pages” may or may not be blocked at all. But the standard default position for many commands is to block all Blogs/Personal Pages. It might interest you to know that the Nickelodeon blog is also blocked in that command.
To recap: The Department of Defense does not block LGBT websites. The pages referenced in several articles were denied access based on web filters blocking the “Blog/Personal Pages” category, not the specific sites themselves. While individuals on a DoD system may visit portions of the main websites (i.e., www.towleroad.com, www.AMERICAblog.com), any personal blogs or pages they may create within those sites are blocked in accordance with policy, which allows military leaders the option to restrict access to personal pages for operational security reasons.