Monday, October 16, 2006

The DOI was not blocking conservative blogsites

A person from the Department of Interior sends this email, which I have edited to remove all identifying information but is otherwise verbatim. It corrects the allegation that the DOI was blocking conservative sites. Repeat, it says the initial impression is untrue.What apparently happened was that the DOI had embarked on a program of blocking access to sites the management deemed objectionable; due to the phases in implementation the effort began with some well known conservative sites but eventually included the liberal blogsites as the program rolled forward. It was, in the DOI person's words, "dumb but not sinister". Our correspondent says "it seems that their concern is not so much that we might look at web sites, but that we might post things." (emphasis mine)


Hello Richard,

Over the weekend, they got around to the Daily Kos.

A couple of your commenters are almost right. There is a vague department policy about "appropriate" personal use of government computers, so a committee has been formed to interpret the policy. The new system filters out porn, bikinis, alcohol, tobacco, racism and extremism, malignant software, narcotics, comics and cartoons, dating services, chat rooms, remote access software (gotomypc.com), peer to peer networks, online gambling, streaming audio and video, instant messaging, and, yes, web logs. (The example that they give for a web log is myspace.com.)

It seems that their concern is not so much that we might look at web sites, but that we might post things. ... We are going to ask that an exemption be made for the front end of The Belmont Club. Because the user must drill down a layer to get to the comments, they shouldn't have a problem with that.

I feel a bit like chicken little, but it sure was strange that conservative sites were blocked first. I guess paranoia runs deep.

20 Comments:

Blogger 2164th said...

Well the Belmont Club should take an exception to being an exception. Free speech is free speech. Anything less is not. Now there is a radical concept!

10/17/2006 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger ledger said...

That letter would sound sincere if it were not written during the buildup to an election. The dems can't stand conservative blogs.

10/17/2006 02:50:00 AM  
Blogger Bernsteinschmuck said...

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10/17/2006 05:07:00 AM  
Blogger sbw said...

Blocking is a problem, not a solution. First, it is the wrong tool. Second it indicates flawed management.

Third, so far as ethics goes, it misrepresents how ethics should be applied. Confucius divided people into 1) saints - who knew the way, 2) people like himself who could learn the way, and 3) people who needed rules. Even Confucius didn't have a fourth group so low and animal-like that blocking software was needed.

As Lily Tomlin said, "Do you ever get the feeling that progress isn't necessarily headed in the right direction?"

10/17/2006 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

I guess the bottom line is the all the working tax payers on the assembly lines and in trucks and building things and cooking and cleaning that don't want their tax-paid government workers visiting blogs.

10/17/2006 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

Even Confucius didn't have a fourth group so low and animal-like that blocking software was needed.

You do not understand the mentality of the federal government. Believe me when I say there is plenty of manpower and willpower to put a whole battalion of GS-11's on an intranet to do nothing but watch what websites a platoon of Wage Grade 5's surf to during the day.

10/17/2006 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Based on my experience in the Air Force, overreacting to concerns over Internet abuse is the norm in government bureaucratic circles. And in any bureaucracy the normal progression goes from ignorance to dim awareness to "if any is good then more is excellent."

And these are organizations that often can't even manage to communicate with EACH OTHER over the Internet. I think it was a couple of years back that I tried to receive an e-mail attachment for work from NASA-KSC. We finally gave up and had one of their contractors send it; their system was so unique that they could not send it in a format my computer could even recognize.

Possibly the reason that conservative sites were "targeted" is that they were the most often visited.

10/17/2006 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Why would there be a concern about government employees posting on a blog?

All blogs are anonymous, and I can't imagine that an employee would post his or her own name, and the government computer they're posting on.

Are the blockers concerned that government employees are too illiterate to post and, thus, will embarrass both the blogger themself as well as the office being posted from?

Or are the blockers concerned about "leaks"? That government employees with access to facts, statistics and written and unwritten policy will post them where the world can see them?

We know that some very knowledgeable people post about tactics and war here on Belmont Club. But that's always seemed like a good thing to me.

I can see, however, that Mr. Rumsfeld might not agree with me if there's a plan to do this, that or the other thing and someone posts about that plan.

Even worse, however, especially for the Democrats would be government employees post *for* conservative issues, posting backup information that would support Republican initiatives and policies.

We know the CIA and the FBI have in-house moles slipping all sorts of information to the NY Times, and the Democrats think that is just fine, thank you very much. But when a government employee has a conservative point of view and then posts information that supports that point of view, the whole entire Federal machinery cranks into action to make as certain as possible that that "leak" is stemmed.

I just can't think that this blocking is anything except stupid, and an ungraceful way of trying to enforce a PC point of view. I hope it will be doomed to failure.

10/17/2006 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger sharinlite said...

And your opinion was based on this email? There is a lot more than meets the eye. And, yes, they definitely were blocking the conservative sites. They can whine all they please, but reality and truth are reality and truth. I choose to believe the "top" are incompetent and the "lows" just did what the left has being doing all over the place. Nothing new there, is there?

10/17/2006 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger StoutFellow said...

From a network administration point of view, there doesn't appear to be any way to selectively block conservative as opposed to liberal blogs, at least for those hosted by blogspot.com. The reason is that the network administrators would probably deny connections based on the IP address of the to-be-denied site. For blogs on blogspot, it appears that all blogs - liberal, conservative or otherwise - are hosted at the same IP address on a server in South Africa: Below I list the blogname,IP address and location of 2 conservative and two liberal blogs on hosted on sub-domains of the blogspot.com domain.

Conservative
FallbackBelmont.blogspot.com 72.14.219.191 South Africa
2164th.blogspot.com 72.14.219.191 South Africa

Liberal
digbysblog.blogspot.com 72.14.219.191
atrios.blogspot.com 72.14.219.191 South Africa

Interestingly, it appears that blocking the IP address of blogspot.com itself would not block access to the blogs themselves.
Blogspot.com 66.102.15.100 United States

Conservative and liberal blogs with their own domains could be blocked selectively.

dailykos.com 69.9.161.200 United States
amnation.com 208.179.130.77 United States

Therefore, the Belmont Club could not have been block early to the exclusion of liberal blogs hosted by blogspot.com. If there was an early blocking of conservative sites, it would have been for blogs with their own domain name.

Disclaimer: I'm not a network administrator. I don't even play one at work. Any technical attacks on my arguments are welcomed.

10/17/2006 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger demosophist said...

If they allowed RSS feeds then people would automatically be able to read, but not post, to most blogs. Perhaps you could suggest that to DOI?

10/17/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Stoutfellow -

Of course there is a way to block certain Sites. Get a list. Not rocket science for a network administrator to work down a list handed to him/her by superiors. This is not trying to construct a liberal-conservative filter that does the same thing as filters blocking posts or emails with gambling, porn content.

Wretchard - I take solace that our government is not blocking you because you are conservative...but because you are simply objectionable...

10/17/2006 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Mannning said...

We handled it differently when I was on the government nets. Our tracker reported any deviant dwelling on porn or other objectionable sites to the supervisor of the area. A second occurrence was reported higher, and could lead to real trouble for the person using government resources to waste time and satisfy purient desires. And trouble as well for the supervisor for not getting results. In fact, one such person was fired for continuing to view porn at work.

10/17/2006 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Dave H said...

Who is the "we" in the DOI spokesmans communication. He does not want "we" to post on certain sites?

10/17/2006 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dave H said...

Well I should have read a few posts, it appears simple to everyone.

10/17/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Ikez said...

Recently released documents from Saddam Hussein's intelligence services (IIS) seem to indicate that Saddam Hussein's regime had called for strikes on American interests in March 2001.

Joseph Shada has translated the document ( link) and Ed Morrissey has analyzed it ( link).

10/17/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

Occam's razor:

Some new bureaucrat at the DOI realizes that his work force is surfing the internet. That internet thangy again. Must be porn, or myspace, or Ebay, or something.

Edict gets passed: Cank it all!!!

Some network flak gets a list of sites in order of most visited to least visited. Obviously CNN and Foxnews are okydoky. Drudge seems all right...

Now looky here. This Belmont Club horseracing site is suspicious. Why do so many of our employs hit it. Cank it. Then cank RealClearPolitics because it is obviously a political site. Then cank Austin Bay's copycat auction site...

And, why waste time with all those sites about Kossack history. At least it's military history!!!

Folks, I live in the belly of a beast related to this one. In the Marine Corps we go through this kind of stupidity every once in a while. Some Colonel or General will get excited; make a decree, and then his five staff personnel will get overwhelmed 'managing' the Internet. In a week or so everything will get ironed out...

Always favor incompetence over maliciousness when dealing with our government. As a premier example: Look at the NMCI contract. The goobers who signed that one thought that contracting out networking hardware support also upgraded all their custom and contracted databases and software. Oh, well… For that $12 Billion we could have built four Nimitz class aircraft carriers – and have them racing around the globe - each one takes 2.5 years to build. And, we still would have had a network under our control and data systems that don’t fail for mysterious reasons – yuk, yuk…

10/17/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Perhaps there is a political component about it all.

Its called campaign finance reform. The government now has things (or at least it was proposed) to say about blogging with employer gear.

My client has a policy about blogging at work. I have dropped a comment or two here while working as I read the site, get a comment worked up and know dang well it will be long gone by the time I get back to my hotel room.

The government one would think would be much more concerned about this than a regular employer.

Hehehe, I did some network monitoring and analysis for a client once. I recall seeing early in the mornings a regular visit to a particular pr0n site. Of course every now and then other ones would appear in the listing as well. That wasn't in our "scope" so we just let it.

10/17/2006 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger Thief said...

DoI had had Internet problems for a long time. They've had to shut off all internet access for extended periods of time, the result of an exasperated (but IMO technically clueless) Federal Judge overseeing litigation about the DoI's handling of Native American trust fund money. (That story here.) There was also that report a few weeks ago about how DoI employees were spending inordinate amounts of time on porn, gambling, auction, gaming and chat sites. (That report is here - PDF).

I guess the attitude of DoI managers was "kill 'em all and let the net gods sort them out." 20th Century thinking at its finest, no?

10/17/2006 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Fenrisulven said...

don't want their tax-paid government workers visiting blogs.

Even us tax-paid government workers don't want it. My superior spends the majority of his day surfing the net, posting to Kos, FDL and DU. He's a GS-14. The whole section is a mess, no leadership, no direction, no results. And the workhorses can't take up any more slack.

10/18/2006 10:03:00 AM  

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