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Amtrak & MD County Accused of Blocking LGBT Websites

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It’s a story we’ve heard before in relation to public schools. Now, two other government entities are under fire for running web site filters designed to block pornography that are also preventing access to LGBT resources online.

A county staffer for a Washington D.C. suburb says he was trying to look up information about marriage equality. But the Internet system for Montgomery County blocked him from the sites for several gay newspapers and political groups.

Jedediah Millard says he was blocked from accessing the site for the Washington gay paper Metro Weekly, as well as those for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Also blocked were sites with the word “transgender.”

The same problem seems to be happening on Amtrak trains. A blogger for Maryland Juice says he was blocked from similar sites that focus on gay issues while testing wifi service on the rails.

The problem appears to be filtering software many public institutions use to block employees and visitors from accessing pornography, gambling and dating sites. Computer experts say some innocent sites are erroneously caught by the filter.

County officials say they will work with their vendor, Phantom Technologies, to restore access to individual sites. A Phantom spokesman told the Gazette newspaper that its iBoss web filter does not block LGBT content, but could be blocking sites with the word “sex” in news articles. The spokesman said they are constantly adjusting the filter.

A spokeswoman for Amtrak said users can go to their homepage and report sites that have mistakenly been blocked by their filter.

-Matthew Berger

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