DOD announces “fix” to gay Web site ban that doesn’t fix anything

The Pentagon yesterday issued a memo apparently intended to at least partly “fix” the problem whereby a number of Defense Department computers were banning access to gay and trans Web sites, in addition to other liberal political content, while not banning similar conservative and anti-gay Web sites.  The problem is that the new Pentagon memo doesn’t really fix a thing.

You can find the new DOD memo at the end of this story.

AMERICAblog had uncovered last month that for several years DOD computers, depending on where they were located (different areas of the Defense Department apparently have different censorship policies), were censoring/banning gay and progressive Web sites, while leaving some conservative and anti-gay sites out of the ban.

For example, popular gay blog Towleroad was banned on some DOD computer networks for being: “Blogs/Personal Pages;LGBT.”


AMERICAblog, on the other hand, was banned for being: “Political/Activist Groups;Blogs/Personal Pages.”  But we were not banned for being LGBT, which we are.


Pam’s House Blend was also banned for reasons other than “LGBT.”


Other gay sites that were banned included Bilerico, Good As You, HRC’s blog, and the Advocate.

On the other hand, conservative and anti-gay sites that aren’t banned include: Rush Limbaugh, Ann  Coulter, AFA, NOM, FRC, Red State, Glenn Beck and Breitbart.  Here are a few screen shots of those sites via DOD computers.





What we noted, from the mix of sites that are banned and not banned, was that there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to why certain sites are allowed and others are not.  For example, while Towleroad was banned for being gay, AMERICAblog and Pam’s House Blend were not categorized as LGBT, but rather may have been banned for being “blogs” or “political activism.”  But other conservative blogs were not banned (Red State, Breitbart, Ann Coulter’s blog), and other conservative political activists were not banned either (FRC, AFA).

It’s important to note that the Pentagon, all along, claimed that it was not banning sites for being LGBT, but rather for other reasons.  The Pentagon memo issued yesterday reaffirms that policy of not banning LGBT sites for being LGBT.  And that’s great, for what it is – a reaffirmation. It doesn’t, however, fix the problem.

The problem is that a lot of gay and progressive sites aren’t categorized as LGBT by DOD’s filter, yet they were still banned.  And even if they are marked as LGBT in the Internet filtering software  used by the Pentagon, they’re also marked in other categories that the DOD still may block, such as “blogs” or “political/activist groups” or “personal pages.”  So simply telling DOD information technology employees not to turn the “LGBT filter” on isn’t enough.  We can still be banned via other category filters.

And just as big a problem, a number of conservative sites were not banned even though they would appear to be similar to the gay and progressive sites that were banned.  This means that the categorization process itself appears to be flawed.

It’s a bit confusing, but the way the DOD’s filtering software works is by taking sites on the Internet and marking them with category classifications.  In AMERICAblog’s case, as noted above, we were categorized by the filtering software as:

“Political/Activist Groups;Blogs/Personal Pages.”

The person leasing the filtering software can then decide which if any categories they want to ban access to.  They can, for example, click the box that says ban all “political” sites, and any site categorized as “political” will be censored on DOD computers. The problem is that since the categorization of sites appears so haphazard, simply ensuring the “LGBT” category ban isn’t turned on isn’t enough.  AMERICAblog and Pam’s House Blend were banned via other non-LGBT categories.  And even sites marked as LGBT, like Towleroad, can still be banned for allegedly being “blogs; personal pages.”

So simply telling DOD employees not to click the LGBT ban isn’t enough.

The Pentagon has been contacted for comment.  Stay tuned.

Here’s DOD’s new memo:


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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24 Responses to “DOD announces “fix” to gay Web site ban that doesn’t fix anything”

  1. Sweetie says:

    Yes. People are robots. All they do is work. And, finding information on the Internet isn’t work.

  2. Sweetie says:

    Oink oink!

  3. mjcc1987 says:

    WTF, I call bullshit. As a VET and current DoD employee, you don’t know squat. I find more and more accepting military than ever before. LGBT are out and proud and when discrimination is seen, in the vast majority of cases it is dealt with harshly. Traveling from base to base across this country, I know this to be true. There is still sexism, racism, and other “isms” and the fight continues. Today’s military is more educated and smarter than 10 years ago.

  4. Richard says:

    Shouldn’t people be doing work instead of surfing around blogs of any kind?

  5. BlueIdaho says:

    Content filtering software is intelligent, but really it can’t tell a liberal blog from a conservative blog when the global option “blogs/personal pages” is checked. So, I would assume that conservative blogs, which fall into that category, are also blocked. As for the conservative websites John mentioned–they are just websites and unless the network administration manually blocked those URLs they will be able to be viewed. He mentioned HRC’s blog is blocked. However is the main HRC web page able to be viewed? It would be interesting to find out.

  6. MB says:

    These people should be working, not wasting our money watching Rush Limbaugh and LGBT blogs. WTF? This shouldn’t even be an issue. What company allows employees to sit around surfing the internet while they should be working. Oh, it’s during lunch time? You shouldn’t be eating at your computer.

  7. Jeremy says:

    The funny thing is, there are waaaay more liberal people in the defense industry – especially the federal defense industry centered around MD, DC, and NoVA – than most people realize. Everyone who works at the Pentagon lives in one of those areas, and we went overwhelmingly for Obama in the election.

  8. Alexodia says:

    Think Progress was never blocked its my primary site to visit along with PFAW.

  9. vegaspatrick says:

    yes. there is no equality in the DoD. I work there

  10. vegaspatrick says:

    no. I have worked at many military instllatins over the years and many conservative emails are shard base-wide daily, establishing a conservative movement in the military. I asked to opt out, because I am Buddhist and not politically minded, and I was of course black-balled adn bullied, but I beat them at their own game. I was the Architect for the organization., all I had to do was nothing and they lost every time. the military is becoming highly racist, conservative, and more lower education levels, and more priveleaged attitude before my time as a Marine during Vietnam War.

  11. Hopefully innovative liberals will take the lead, since we know stuck-in-the-past conservatives wish to cling to lost decades. The military must prepare to fight the next war, not refight the last war. Therefore liberal leadership is a real necessity.

  12. I thought for conservatives, Obama was a Muslim or worse, a demon. Liberals don’t see Obama as anything other than a man who is Commander in Chief. The things ruining the military are the cuts set to go into effect on the 1st, which by the Constitution must be acted upon first by the House of Representatives. It is after all an expenditures/revenues bill that the Constitution has placed in the authority of the House of Representatives. Inaction means the House of Representatives is not doing its job in this 113th Congress, just as they did not do their job in the 112th Congress.

  13. I’m likewise curious. Is there any evidence of bias of access?

  14. f0rtylegz says:

    And now we are going to be taken over by an all male army from… ?

  15. Alohajonny says:

    God Obama has ruined the military, hope you are happy liberal swine

  16. johnsawyer says:

    I still keep wondering about this basic question, which this article doesn’t directly answer: are ANY conservative websites blocked by the Pentagon? If so, are a roughly equal number of conservative sites blocked, compared to “liberal” sites?

  17. Bert Walker says:

    Someday, The Government will connect with the fact that there’s gays in uniform, and that gays think a little different than your average shaven-skulled right-wing, Bible-fearing Republican type. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but, someday.

  18. Sweetie says:

    “The Pentagon yesterday issued a memo apparently intended to pretend to ‘fix’ the problem whereby a number of Defense Department computers were banning access to gay and trans Web sites…”


  19. Indigo says:

    As far as I can see, they haven’t done either in the past decade or so.

  20. Indigo says:

    Well now, to be fair, they claim not be allowing blockage of LGBT sites and AmericaBlog, although gay-ish, is actually a political commentary site and a liberal one at that. Besides, John, it’s perfectly clear that somebody up there doesn’t like you. They don’t need to offer more explanation than that, do they? They just don’t like you.

  21. nicho says:

    Meanwhile, the tsunami of support for same-sex marriage is gaining force.

    Hundreds of companies filing amicus briefs with SCOTUS in support of same-sex marriage.

    The people at NOM must be getting ready to slash their wrists. This is on the heels of influential Republicans filing a similar brief.

  22. caphillprof says:

    How can we expect them to either win wars or protect the country from attack, when they cannot fix their internet blocking program?

  23. BeccaM says:

    I see two points of entry in this. One is, as you identified, John, the segregation by category resulting in a defacto division of conservative versus progressive websites, regardless of presentation, form, or stated purpose.

    The second point of entry is there are people in the DoD who see these categories and decide that sites labeled LGBT, activist, and ‘personal blogs’ are not to be allowed access on their networks.

    The categories are the open door, and it’s whomever is managing the DoD network choosing to walk through it.

    It’s censorship, pure and simple, a decision being made that certain ideas and political positions are acceptable — going so far as to label far-right sites as merely news and opinion — whereas an entire spectrum of alternative viewpoints are deemed unacceptable. Instructing individual DoD groups not to block LGBT sites is only one edge of the ongoing censorship problem.

  24. Drew2u says:

    The old guard is a bigoted guard, what else is there to it? I thought we all saw this a while back when DADT protests were getting started.
    This fight is a microcosm of gay issues, so thanks for sinking your teeth into the issue and not letting go!

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