How tech companies and the U.S. military are blocking gay websites

Today, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is taking aim at the U.S. Department of Defense and a handful of tech companies that block access to websites with LGBT content.

We’re not talking about adult content here; we’re talking about sites like The Trevor Project (youth suicide prevention) or sites dealing with LGBT health issues and legal rights.

The tech company in question is Blue Coat Systems. Blue Coat helps IT admins block potentially harmful or merely distracting web content by filtering out certain categories inappropriate for workplaces, schools, or other institutions with large networks.

For example, you could choose to block sites about gambling, alcohol, and pornography on a high school’s network. Or you could block bandwidth-sucking peer-to-peer sites on a workplace network.

In a statement on its site, Blue Coat specifically says that LGBT sites do not contain explicit or mature content and “are generally suitable for viewing by all age groups” and contain “reference materials, news, legal information, anti-bullying and suicide-prevention information, and other resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people or that relate to LGBT civil rights.”

Oddly enough, Blue Coat’s LGBT category is the only one of its kind that separates a group based on its non-chosen, legally protected status. No categories, for example, group websites with content on people with physical disabilities or people belonging to an ethnic group or even content on women’s issues.

Ergo, LGBT content is the only content of its kind that can be blocked — and blocked it is on military computers, school computers, and other places where legal and health information for gay audiences is not only needed but vital in many cases.

“GLAAD has reached out to Blue Coat Services to discuss its practices around LGBT sites,” a GLAAD rep wrote to VentureBeat via email today, noting that the organization is asking concerned folks to sign an online petition about this issue.

Additionally, the spokesperson continued, the tech community is encouraged to be extra vigilant about site-blocking and to report it.

“GLAAD encourages individuals to report any companies or schools using web-filtering software that blocks LGBT content. Reports can be submitted at GLAAD’s LGBT web filtering page. Of course, all personal information is strictly confidential. We encourage your readers to let us know if their company blocks LGBT webpages.”

In a statement to reporters, DoD officials said, “No filter is perfect, and some sites may have unnecessarily been blocked. The Department Chief Information Officer will work with relevant components to address these situations.”

Image credit: Shutterstock