When site filters block “marijuana”

May 26, 2010 When site filters block “marijuana”

Image from public domain.

When Internet site filters are a client’s only option to use the Internet while on pretrial supervision or on probation, I ask courts for the filtering option, if my client is willing.

A recent vacation hotel brought me to the hotel’s desktop computer, where I learned that its SiteCoach filtering system blocks my entire blog and some pages of my website. The automated reason given for blocking the blog is its discussion of marijuana. The reason given for blocking some of my static website’s pages was marijuana for some pages, and adult entertainment for such pages as my overview page, which discusses First Amendment protection for adult entertainment.

If Internet filter software has various levels of intensity, perhaps my hotel’s was set too high. I messaged SiteCoach back about why they were mistaken to have filtered by site, but maybe it would have been wiser not to have contacted them unless I was also going to tell them how much I oppose filters in the first place, not that my opposition would affect the very raison d’etre of their company. 

A further search on the hotel’s desktop computer found blockage of the following websites that also include coverage of marijuana public policy: NORML‘s website, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and Drug War Rant. The blockage perhaps is skewed against websites advocating for drug legalization and decriminalization, because the U.S. drug czar’s blog is not blocked.

The SiteCoach filtering software also blocked Playboy but not FHM. At the very least, SiteCoach did not block the Wikipedia pages for such topics as marijuana and the Fund for the Unrestricted Creation of Knowledge (also known as F*CK). 

I urge people to forego the use of Internet censoring filters. If you are going to use them nonetheless (e.g., because young children are in your household), I suggest at the very least that you not purchase filtering software that will not permit you to override the software for websites you do not think should be filtered in the first place.

Jon Katz – Criminal defense and DWI defense lawyer practicing in Fairfax County, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland and beyond. 301-495-7755.

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