UPDATE: Is the City of Pittsburgh Still Blocking This Lesbian Blog?

First of all – thank you. We reached over 500 signatures in 36 hours on our Change.org petition.

As for an update, we have achieved some pretty good outcomes but not “success” just yet.petition

  • Via the petition, OpenDNS did change the labels on this blog, removing “porn” and “nudity” as well as approving “blog” – we tried normal channels, but had no response until the petition inspired someone to send me the email address for the owner of the company.
  • City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak is researching “best practices” with regard to whitelisting/webfilter policies for municipal government.
  • The ACLU is reviewing the materials to determine how they can help the City create policies that comply with things like the Constitution. They are wrapping up a case in Eastern PA involving web filters and school districts with very favorable outcomes.

What remains to be done

  • The City CIS deparment claimed that it did not have whitelisting tools via its contract with OpenDNS. This is untrue – but it is unclear if the CIS team were unaware of the whitelisting tools or if there was some other reason behind their statement. (To be frank, this is a very odd twist to the story.)
  • The City has not formally acknowledged that  my site is open to their employees. I only have anecdotal reports. Given CIS lack of understanding how OpenDNS works, it is not clear if it is even *possible* for the City to answer this question.
  • The City does not appear to have a formal policy with regard to web filters or perhaps even employee usage of the Internet for both work and personal uses.
  • There’s no explanation of the time frame discrepencies – the block on OpenDNS was set in April 2008, but my site remained open to City computers until Oct 2012. Then it was opened again briefly in the early winter only to be closed again, the day after I published this post critical of the Administration.

While I realize explanations are probably not forthcoming, I am optimistic that policy and systemic changes will create a work environment that is productive and fair for City employees. Stay tuned … and please sign the petition.

See, we can laugh at this ...
See, we can laugh at this …

I also don’t expect to uncover or discern motive – why did it take so long to get a response? why would CIS make an untrue statement in writing? Why? It isn’t going to matter – what matter now is that the City moves forward and realizes that there is a problem to be addressed, a problem larger than my one blog.

Big thanks to our supporters – it has been quite heartening to have so much support & encouragement. Folks have blogged about this, registered with OpenDNS to better understand the issues, volunteered to lend their webfilter and policy expertise to the ACLU and the City, dug up prior related incidents, and simply recognized the big picture implications.

When will we declare victory? Well, things are happening behind the scenes that may take awhile to unfold. The Administration has opted not to respond to any further inquiries so until a policy is in place or some other formal mechanism verifies that the City is not blocking websites erroneously labeled as “offensive” …we’ll keep pushing.


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