Don't Filter Me
State-funded schools in the United States use content-control software to restrict their students' access to pornographic websites, in accordance with the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000. The products most commonly used to do this filtering treat websites that offer information about LGBT topics and organizations as pornography, even though these websites do not contain sexually explicit content. One such commonly filtered website is The Trevor Project, a website devoted to suicide prevention among at-risk LGBT youths. The White House publicly praised the Trevor Project in 2011.
Other sites that are commonly blocked include GLAAD, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (also honored by the White House), the Matthew Shepard Foundation, DignityUSA, Day of Silence, Campus Pride, as well as the Human Rights Campaign (the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States).
Filtering tools prevent that students from accessing websites related to positive LGBT organizations often permit access to sites that promote an anti-LGBT viewpoint, sites aimed at convincing LGBT people to change their sexual orientation, or sites that can be considered hate speech against LGBT people. Websites not generally blocked by this kind of filtering include the Family Research Council (an American conservative Christian group and lobbying organization), and the National Organization for Marriage (a political organization dedicated to working against the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States), Exodus International, and People Can Change (both of which advocate conversion therapy to help gays change their sexual orientation). Neither the American Psychiatric Association or the American Psychological Association consider conversion therapy a legitimate medical practice or homosexuality to be a mental disorder.
Filtering software can also block content beyond the websites themselves. Students would, for example, be permitted to read Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 Supreme Court decision that upheld a Georgia law to criminalize sodomy, while prevented from reading Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that asserted sodomy laws were unconstitutional. The ACLU contends that this filtering is discriminatory and violates the First Amendment rights of students in public schools.
Because of the Don't Filter Me project's efforts, some software providers who sell these filters implemented changes in their products. Companies such as Lightspeed Systems and Fortinet took action on their own and changed how their products categorize the websites in question. A number of school districts took steps to unblock LGBT-themed content that is not sexually explicit. The Rowland Unified School District and Oroville Union High School District were among the first to take action because of the work of the Don't Filter Me project.
Many other school districts followed suit and updated their filtering software to allow LGBT sites to be accessed from school computers. Conservative Christian groups like Alliance Defending Freedom urged school districts not to comply with the ACLU's requests.
In August 2011 the ACLU sued the Camdenton R-III School District of Camden County, Missouri, which had refused to change its filtering software, or the filtering behavior that that software created. This led a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction to the district, ordering it to stop using software produced by the company URL Blacklist that blocks access to sites discussing LGBT issues. In her decision, Judge Nanette Kay Laughrey wrote "URL Blacklist systematically allows access to websites expressing a negative viewpoint toward LGBT individuals by categorizing them as 'religion', but filters out positive viewpoints toward LGBT issues by categorizing them as 'sexuality'." The school district later settled, and agreed to stop blocking the sites in question, to be monitored for 18 months, and to pay $125,000 in fines and court costs.
- "Don't Filter Me: Web Content Filtering in Schools". aclu.org. American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "Don't Filter Me Final Report" (PDF). American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2014-12-14. line feed character in
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- Lasar, Matthew (2011-03-29). ""Don't filter me": ACLU fights schools that block LGBT websites". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "Children's Internet Protection Act". FCC.gov. Federal Communications Commission. 2014-07-16. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "ACLU's 'Don't Filter Me' campaign makes sense". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. 2011-09-08. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
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- "The Trevor Project". whitehouse.gov. 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Winerip, Michael (2012-03-26). "School District Told to Replace Web Filter Blocking Pro-Gay Sites". New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
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- "Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network". whitehouse.gov. 2011-08-31. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Harris, Joe (2012-02-21). "Judge Slaps School for Blocking Gay Websites". Courthouse News Service.
- Zwang, Jenna (2011-06-16). "Companies respond to ACLU's 'Don't Filter Me' campaign". eSchool News. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Berger, Judson (2011-08-16). "ACLU Sues Missouri School System for Censoring Gay Advocacy Websites". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Fenston, Jacob (2011-09-26). "ACLU Targets Camdenton Over LGBT Sites". KBIA.
- Yoshino, Kenji (2011-11-02). "Gay Conversion". Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Random House. ISBN 978-0375760211.
Today, conversion therapy grows scarce. The major mental health associations, such as the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, have withdrawn their support for the practice.
- Yoshino, Kenji (2011-11-02). "Gay Conversion". Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. Random House. ISBN 9780375760211.
The efforts of these activists, along with their allies within the psychiatric establishment, led to the deletion of homosexuality from the DSM on December 15, 1973.
- Quillen, Ian (2011-10-17). "ACLU Puts Pressure on Districts to Ease Internet Filtering". Education Week. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Wetzstein, Cheryl (2011-08-29). "ACLU battles schools over gay websites". Washington Times. Washington, DC. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- KRMS News (2012-03-29). "ACLU: "Surprised" Camdenton Schools Agreed to Settle". KRMS. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Associated Press (2012-03-29). "Camdenton school district agrees to settlement with ACLU". KBIA. Retrieved 2014-12-14.