Petition Closed
Petitioning Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

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

1,042
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.

This petition was delivered to:
  • Mayor
    Luke Ravenstahl
  • Special Assistant to the Mayor
    Jim Sheppard


    Sue Kerr started this petition with a single signature, and now has 1,042 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.