Gay Group Urges Loosening Of School Internet Filters

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An advocacy group is calling for the federal government to loosen Internet filters in schools as a way to assist the gay community.

In a paper released Thursday, the LGBT Technology Partnership and Institute argues that the gay community has “particular needs” for the Internet that call for government action. In particular, the group is urging a reform of the government’s E-Rate policy that they say is blocking low-income individuals and students from accessing important LGBT resources and reaching out to other members of the gay community.

E-Rate is the common name for a federal program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission, that offers schools and public libraries discounts on providing Internet access and other telecommunications. Under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, schools and libraries receiving funds from E-rate must implement filters to block certain content deemed “harmful to minors,” such as pornography.

According to the group, such filters often block sites dealing with gay health issues, and can also prevent gay youth from discovering their own identities.

“This [filtering] jeopardizes the fundamental rights to free speech not only for young people, but also adult users of publicly funded Internet access.”

While many gay individuals often move to “traditional gay enclaves” in cities after coming out, the report says, an increasing number are not doing so, and for them having access to gay-friendly social networks is invaluable.

“For LGBT people living in rural areas, the Internet is a vital mechanism for youth negotiating a LGBT identity in the rural United States.”

In addition to calls for change on Internet filtering, the report made many other requests, including for government and private business to prioritize protecting anonymity on the Internet, which they said could be “the difference between life and death” for gay people.

“For too long LGBT communities have not been at the table with other communities as technology policy decisions are being made,” the report concludes. “Public policy makers at the Federal, State and local levels need to ensure that the specific needs and concerns of LGBT communities be taken into account when considering policy decisions.”

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