Connecticut school blames software for selective blocking of conservative sites. By Spencer Case
Weeks after an apparent case of politically motivated Internet censorship at a Connecticut high school, officials are still blaming the incident on technical malfunctions — even though evidence suggests human culpability.
On May 27, shortly before his graduation, Andrew Lampart, an 18-year-old senior at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Conn., set out to research gun control on a school computer in order to fulfill an assignment for a basic law course. He found that the website for the National Rifle Association was blocked, while websites supporting gun control remained accessible.
Over the next five days, Lampart spent more time on the web. He discovered that websites supportive of conservative causes and Christianity – including the Vatican web page — were blocked, while sites supportive of liberal causes and Islam remained accessible. The webpage for Republican party of Connecticut, for example, was blocked, but the page for the Democratic party of Connecticut was accessible.
Lampart provided screen shots of blocked pages to Hearst CT media group displaying the message, “This site has been blocked by the Region 14 Technology Department.”
Lampart addressed the issue with his father, David Lampart. “He came to me, and I could see he was kind of beating around the bush about something, you know?” David tells National Review Online. “So we sat down and talked, and he told me what was going on. And I say, ‘Did you really check into it?’ And he says, ‘Yeah,’ and starts showing me all the screen shots.”
David Lampart encouraged Andrew to work his way up through the school district’s chain of command. Armed with his pages of screen shots, Andrew spoke with the principal and was quickly passed on to the superintendent, Jody Goeler. Goeler seemed interested in the problem, but a week passed and the skewed blocking remained in place, Lampart says.
Andrew then wrote a statement for a June 16 Board of Education meeting. His father attended with him. “While he was reading [his statement] I was just watching the looks on the Board of Ed’s faces,” Dave Lampart says. “And I truly believe they were clueless of this, just by the looks on their faces.”
At the board meeting, the Lamparts came in contact with the local media. Their story then received attention from national media and on June 19, Andrew appeared on Fox News Insider.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a conservative-leaning Catholic advocacy group, then got wind of the issue. Long-serving Catholic League president Bill Donohue was incensed by the superintendent’s explanation that efforts to screen out “hate speech” had led unintentionally to the blocking of conservative and Christian sites.
“It is alleged that you support censoring students at Nonnewaug High School from accessing the Vatican’s website on the grounds that it promotes ‘hate speech,’” Donohue wrote in an e-mail to Goeler. “Would you please identify examples of ‘hate speech’ found on the Vatican’s website?”
Funny how the censorship always seems to be one-sided. How many incidents of targeting have to happen before it's a pattern?
Donohue says inviting the Lamparts to aboard meeting was a positive step, but he called the board’s handling of the situation “a typical bureaucratic response” and said “somebody turned on that switch” to selectively block conservative sites.
“Now as far as I’m concerned, this is not satisfactory,” Donohue tells NRO. “It’s nice to know that the people who are the complainants are being involved and I’m glad that they’re going to take a look at the Internet policy. But, again, that suggests that there’s a technological problem. There’s not a technological problem, there’s a human problem.”
Donohue says no one at either the state or local level has shown serious concern that the blocked sites might have resulted from deliberate human action, even after Dell made it clear that the kind of selective blocking that occurred could not happen by accident. Stefan Pryor, the state education commissioner, has yet to find anyone culpable for the selective blocking.
“These things are not flukes,” Donohue says. “This is by design, this is all calculated.” Yes Donohue, you are on to something, things are unfolding exactly as planned. The STASI system is working better than it was planned.
The Lamparts are more willing than Donohue to give school officials the benefit of the doubt.
“I don’t know,” David Lampart said when asked if he believed the selective blocking to be intentional. “I’ve thought about this long and hard, and I don’t know. Again, I’m not really educated on how all this stuff works. It just seems awfully funny that this side of the spectrum’s open and that side’s not.” It's not funny, it's dangerous. Only the citizens pushing back will change it. See Andrew Lampart, an 18-year-old senior at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Conn. for how to push back....