A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Birmingham bans unbelieving web browsing!

Birmingham City Council has got itself into a mess over website viewing by its staff. It's OK to view the antics of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the assembled bishops at the Lambeth Conference but not that of a group of druids or a coven of witches. The council has a Bluecoat Software computer system which allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with "witchcraft or Satanism" and "occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism".

It doesn't mean anything at all. If a heathen is temporarily interested in Catholic doctrines is that any different from a Catholic glancing into a site about the paranormal? Not at all. This is just about a council that's been sold a computer system that sounded good when the rep blurted out the details. Probably no questions were asked, so they got no answers. It's par for the course in modern UK.

A city council statement said the authority had a "long-standing internet usage policy for staff". It added, "We are currently implementing new internet monitoring software to make the control of internet access easier to manage. The aim of this is to provide greater control for individual line managers to monitor internet usage, and for departments, such as trading standards and child protection, to gain access, if needed, to certain sites for business reasons." Does it need such a gobbledegook statement. No, it doesn't. Just a simple policy of no viewing sites which are deemed inappropriate.

Where has the notion of trust and responsibility gone? Surely not into the brains of a corporation-sponsored computer! We've seen what can happen to computers when in the hands of civil servants and local government officers.

If a child protection officer views an inappropriate site, is the software so sophiscated as to think "Umm, he's looking at that for his job and not his kicks"? I don't think so. Birmingham City Council is facing a possible lawsuit from the National Secular Society. I'd like to see them try, not because I support their views generally, but because they have a point here.

Birmingham should think again.


I remember when I worked for a govt agency involved in construction the IT bods introduced clever filtering software to prevent inappropriate access. Key words like hardcore in emails or on webpages caused firewalls to clang shut, until engineers demanded tweaking to enable them to work.
The blocking of atheist websites is probably due to the innate religious bigotry of many of the American company's programmers. (Odd as Thomas Jefferson was an atheist).
In my experience the religious nutters used their faith to avoid work or get privileges. Either all legal opinions should be allowed or none - aren't they meant to be working instead of godsurfing?

I agree. Humpty Dumpty would have fallen off his wall trying to work it all out!

I bet they have policies on Social Inclusion though.

What they really mean though is that you can be included if you see things as we do.

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