'Occult' Blocking Software Goes Too Far

January 11th, 2012 § 1 comment

On behalf of Salem resident, Anaka Hunter, the ACLU last week filed a complaint against the City of Salem, Missouri, its public library’s Board of Trustees, and the library’s director.

The ACLU maintain that the ‘Netsweeper’ content filtering software used by the library is unconstitutionally limiting Hunter’s ability to access information on ‘minority’ religious views, specifically sites related to Native American religions and Wicca.

While trying to do research on her own Native American heritage, as well as on the Wiccan faith, Hunter discovered that the sites she was trying to access were being blocked.

The reasons given were that they contained content related to the ‘occult’ and/or ‘criminal skills’.

To understand how ludicrous this situation is, take a look at some of the sites Hunter was denied access to:

•the official website of the Wiccan church
•the Wikipedia entry for Wicca
•the Encyclopedia on Death and Dying

Interestingly enough, Christian discussions on pagan and occult practices were not blocked by the software.

According to the complaint, library director Glenda Wofford told Hunter that library staff will only allow people to view blocked websites if the content in those sites pertain to their jobs, or they’re writing a paper, or if it’s determined by the staff, that the person inquiring has some legitimate purpose for viewing the content.

Wofford also noted that she was required to inform the proper authorities about anyone she believed might misuse the information being requested.

Personally speaking, I can’t imagine why any of the websites listed above are considered a threat to Salem residents. And it’s absolutely outrageous that Native American traditions are being classified as occult or potentially illegal.

And what do they mean by ‘occult ‘ and ‘criminal skills’ anyway?

I’m glad that the ACLU took up this case, and I wish them and Ms. Hunter success with it.

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