In a letter to top officials at the Federal Communication Commission on Thursday, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and 13 other lawmakers asked the FCC to ensure that internet filtering software used at federally funded schools and libraries does not block LGBT-related content.
From the letter:
A 2014 report by the LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute 'Vision for Inclusion: An LGBT Broadband Future' concluded that LGBT people are dependent on the Internet to meet a range of individual and social needs, which also makes them especially vulnerable to discriminatory Internet policies enacted by schools and libraries.
In an age when high-speed broadband is transforming almost every aspect of our lives, we must ensure online access to every adult and child. We are aware that you are in the midst of a proceeding to modernize the E-rate program. We encourage you to consider this problem in the course of this proceeding and adopt a solution to end this practice. For example, the Commission's regulations could make clear that LGBT educational content should not be filtered in a discriminatory manner.
The letter was also co-signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute, GLAAD, GLSEN, The Trevor Project, and other organizations.
Read the letter in full, AFTER THE JUMP…
And in related news, Ars Technica recently reported that American Airlines' in-flight wifi was blocking the website misterbnb.com – a version of Airbnb that helps users find a gay-friendly place to stay – under the category of "adult-and-pornography."
Hal Lonas, the chief technical officer at Webroot, said that according to Webroot's records, Misterbnb has been blocked since March 2013, supposedly for multiple uses of the word "lesbian." "The count was pretty high," Lonas said. Webroot uses a count of words like these to identify sites as containing "adult" content, and that one criteria alone is enough to get a site filtered. Since that time, according to Lonas, Misterbnb has been lingering in American Airline's Gogo Wi-Fi content filter, waiting for someone to navigate to the site and then find the right person to speak to about the error.
Lonas told Ars that Webroot relies on keywords, apparently sometimes on keywords alone, to filter content. He said medical websites sometimes get caught in the filters the same way Misterbnb did, noting that Webroot does take complaints from partners or customers about what to whitelist or change in its approach. "We're not anti-gay or anti-LGBT, we don't have an agenda," he said. "Of several hundred suggestions for changes (to filtering choices), four or five percent might be false positives." Terms that surround gay culture just conveniently happen to be a statistically effective way of blocking pornography, according to Webroot.