Petition Closed
Petitioning Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and 1 other

City of Pittsburgh: Stop Blocking a Political Lesbian Blog on the Grounds of "Pornography"

1,043
Supporters

In October 2012, the City of Pittsburgh web filters suddenly denied access to my blog, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents (www.pghlesbian.com) The blog was founded in 2005. I pushed for explanations for months (over six) from the Mayor's office, City Council and others. In March 2013, the City Commission on Human Relations discussed the situation and the Mayor's staff person stated that a third party had categorized my website as pornographic. He also stated he had never found pornographic content on my blog, but that it was my responsibility to address the label.

After more digging, I discovered that in 2008, a man living in Indonesia had used OpenDNS to label my blog as containing porn and nudity. OpenDNS agreed and flagged my blog. I had no knowledge of this. I have created an OpenDNS account and "appealed" as have several friends. Please note that OpenDNS does not identify the "offending" content. 

This is important because my blog is one of the few LGBTQ voices in this region with a long track record of political advocacy. Silencing my voice (and the voices of those who contribute to the blog) based on a spurious 5 year old allegation by someone living in Indonesia is unacceptable for a city the size of Pittsburgh.

My inquires were ignored for 6 months. I was never made aware of this "problem" until an ally addressed the matter in a public forum. No explanation has been offered for this delay. Nor has it been explained why my blog was open through October 2012 (and again for a few days in 2013.) Indonesia is not only hostile to LGBTQ rights; in some cities, being gay is considered a crime, and gay people are considered mentally ill. So, the city of Pittsburgh is now bound by the community standards of Indonesia? And the city of Pittsburgh is outsourcing its web filters to people in Indonesia? And the flow of information on the city of Pittsburgh's network is subject to foreign censors who are unaccountable to the elected or appointed officials in the city of Pittsburgh?

Apparently, the city is making a deliberate choice not to manage its own web filter, despite repeated requests from one specific publisher --- namely me. That's a curious abdication of responsibility, which leads one to wonder how many other websites are blocked from the city's network ... and for what reasons.

As for saying that OpenDNS includes "community moderators from around the world," that's not much of a standard to uphold. Many websites include "community moderators from around the world," including Reddit and 4chan, and they generate piles of obnoxious content as a result. If some OpenDNS moderators decided that city.pittsburgh.pa.us should also be blocked --- perhaps for fomenting democracy in un-democratic areas of the world --- I doubt the city would think that "community moderators from around the world" were such a good idea.

Blocking a lesbian blog creates a hostile work environment for LGBTQ employees while their heterosexual colleagues can access similar content from a straight perspective without web filter interference. 

Please ask the City of Pittsburgh to "whitelist" my blog and to provide the current CIS guidelines on webfiltering and employee usage.

Letter to
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
Special Assistant to the Mayor Jim Sheppard
My blog was accessible by city employees - like many other local political blogs - from inception in 2005 through October 2012. Suddenly, that changed and the blog was labeled "pornographic." I was unable to get an explanation until April 2013. I understand that the decision in October 2012 was based on one complaint (with no proof) filed in April 2008 by a resident of the nation of Indonesia.

I would like to have my site whitelisted to avoid further instances of popular opinion on LGBTQ issues in direct violation of the City's own Human Relations Ordinance to cause interference with access.

I would also like to obtain a copy of the written policy and procedures on City employee's "personal use" of City computers.

Finally, I would like a list of all sites blocked by the City and the process for website owners to communicate with the City on those matters.

Thank you.