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WI Capitol Blocks Pro-Union Web Site

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  • If you are at work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:48AM (#35289410) Homepage
    You're supposed to be working. Not doing political stuff. While it's a dick move, I rather doubt it's a first amendment violation or the end of the world (as is suggested by TFA).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wjousts (1529427)
      If it's your union, then it is part of your work.
      • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @11:03AM (#35290166) Journal

        It's not the union's website, it's a site favoring a political stance by the union. That's not part of anyone's job.

      • by Hutz (900771) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @11:58AM (#35290690)
        It's a site set-up to support protesters. It is illegal to use government resources for organizing - so no it is not part of your work.

        But on a realism note, unrated sites are blocked by content filters - then you program them to allow the traffic when someone asks or the site gets rated.

        AND -- the first amendment does not include a right to Free wi-fi. They didn't censor the site - they just didn't give free access to it.
    • by headhot (137860)

      Yea, why would legislators want to be able to access what ever information they want on the internet?

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@noSPam.hackish.org> on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:55AM (#35289488)

      Governments have somewhat more constraints on treating political viewpoints equally than private employers would, though. So the network admins can probably block all political sites, but if they go out of their way to only block sites of the opposing political party, that might not be permitted. They also can't discipline employees in a viewpoint-discriminatory way, e.g. firing employees who surf to wisdems.org but not wisgop.org, or vice versa.

    • Isn't 'politicall stuff' the type of work that should be happening in a capitol building?
    • by mathmathrevolution (813581) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @10:09AM (#35289620)
      He's censored the website because he finds it a political hazard; that's obviously a free speech issue. His behavior is evidently not about worker productivity since: 1) If the State Capitol wanted to increase worker productivity, they would block ESPN, not a pro-labor site. 2) It's perfectly acceptable to surf the web during one's OSHA mandated break. The only reason to block the site is a crude attempt to impede the pro-labor movement.
      • by dwillden (521345)
        So the Governor is personally handling IT management at the capitol? Or is it merely a case of standard whitelisting policies as implemented by a software firewall ap?

        There are many sites that I cannot get to at work that make no sense, Often they are not intentionally blocked, just caught and blocked by not being on the webfilter's whitelist.
    • You're supposed to be working. Not doing political stuff. While it's a dick move, I rather doubt it's a first amendment violation or the end of the world (as is suggested by TFA).

      Unions aren't really "political stuff". Granted, right now they are... But if we were talking about Wal-Mart employees being blocked from viewing a pro-union web page nobody would mention politics.

      And unions most certainly are work-related. They're responsible for contract negotiations and all sorts of fun stuff. I certainly hope the folks in HR (at any organization) are able to get to the web pages of whatever unions they have to deal with.

      And since censorship is, by definition, suppression of communic

    • by john82 (68332) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @10:25AM (#35289750)

      All web sites are blocked by the WI state government firewall the first time they are encountered until they've been cleared as non-offensive (i.e. pr0n). The block was temporary. It was not political. It was not First Amendment relevant. It was a rule in a firewall.

      This is slashdot, not Digg, let's try to rational for a change.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Read the article - the site was up for a while before being blocked. If your firewall has a whitelist that allows anything to be there for days before blocking it and asking if it should be allowed, you need a new firewall.

      • by wygit (696674)

        yah, I saw where the administration aide said that too, and it didn't make any sense then either.
        "The Department of Administration blocks all new websites shortly after they are created, until they go through a software approval program that unblocks them."
        I call total BS on that one.
        The admins must be kept REALLY busy if they're manually whitelisting every new site that comes up in a Google search. Do you have any idea how many "new sites" are created every day?

        I don't either.

        • by Talderas (1212466)

          You really don't understand content filtering and website blocking.

          When you use a whitelist system, every website that isn't whitelisted is blocked. You don't need to go look for a new website. No site is whitelisted until the "program" (personnel) receive the complaint that a website is blocked. It's then assessed and if found appropriate within the rules of the organization it is whitelisted. It's pretty much the basic concept for every content web filter. AT&T does the exact same thing. Every website

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        All web sites are blocked by the WI state government firewall the first time they are encountered until they've been cleared as non-offensive (i.e. pr0n). The block was temporary. It was not political. It was not First Amendment relevant. It was a rule in a firewall.

        This is slashdot, not Digg, let's try to rational for a change.

        Yes, that is what the Governor said, however, the site was up before this and accessed before this, so this blocking had nothing to do with the state's automatically blocking of new sites.

        When Egypt took down the internet, wasn't that just a rule in a firewall, too? How a site is blocked does not keep it from being censorship or political or 1st amendment. If somebody wanted to censor political speech on the internet, how else other than a firewall would they do it? And in the case of Wisconsin, why woul

        • by Americano (920576)

          Yes, that is what the Governor said, however, the site was up before this and accessed before this

          Was it accessed before this on the capitol's guest network? Or was it accessed 'before this' via the local Starbuck's free wifi or similar, or somebody's MiFi?

          Also worth noting is the tweet they posted [twitter.com] earlier today: "Our site is down due to server migration. Will be back up shortly." Possible that somebody updated a DNS entry in the past day or two, resulting in the site being pushed off the whitelist? Pe

      • by npsimons (32752) *

        All web sites are blocked by the WI state government firewall the first time they are encountered until they've been cleared as non-offensive (i.e. pr0n). The block was temporary. It was not political. It was not First Amendment relevant. It was a rule in a firewall.

        Just for reference, when they put the firewall in place for NMCI (a DoD IT contractor) a few years back, they were blocking slashdot. And yes, I'm posting this from work; I was one of many who told them slashdot is work related (because it is)

      • by Toth (36602)

        Our company (In Canada) uses Websense for web filtering
        Content blocked by your organization
        Reason:
        This Websense category is filtered: Advocacy Groups.
        URL:
        http://www.defendwisconsin.org/ [defendwisconsin.org]

        A lot of folks use third party web filtering services like websense. Websense also places www.rightwingnews.com in the same category.

        If one of our users "Needed" to access that site they would open a call with support who would unblock it.

        Cisco, Trend, Symantec and others would operate similarly.

    • by forand (530402)
      This is the State Capitol, a public building where average citizens of the state have business to do. Some of that business could very well be related to a pro-union agenda. If it is a resource only for the employees then it should be secured and rightly regulated. But regulating the websites based on political content by a State executive is basically EXACTLY what the first amendment was intended to prevent. You can fire them for not doing their job but you cannot limit their free speech.
    • by TheoMurpse (729043) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @10:30AM (#35289812) Homepage

      doubt it's a first amendment violation

      If it's the only site they're blocking (or one of a small handful of sites they're blocking), then it is most definitely a First Amendment ("FA") violation. The federal or a state government can only block sites in certain ways.

      First off, a pro-union website would be classified as "core political speech," which receives the highest FA protection. In order for this blocking to be upheld, the blocking would have to overcome strict scrutiny analysis. Strict scrutiny analysis is an extremely stringent analysis, and in order to survive such analysis, the policymaker would have to show (1) a compelling government interest; (2) the law is narrowly tailored to that specific interest; and (3) the policy is the least restrictive means for accomplishing that interest.

      Given the Wisconsin governor's comments in the past about unions (he's trying to permanently remove collective bargaining rights from the teachers union, e.g.), I suspect there is no compelling government interest aside from a desire to shut unions up. Beyond that, almost no law/policy overcomes strict scrutiny in real life, so it's almost a given that this would be struck down.

      Now I suppose this could be a TMP (time, manner, place) restriction, which would only need to withstand intermediate scrutiny. Such scrutiny requires the policymaker to show the policy is (1) content neutral; (2) narrowly tailored; (3) serves a significant governmental interest; and (4) leaves open ample alternative communication channels. This policy would assuredly fail based on its content non-neutrality.

      • If it's the only site they're blocking (or one of a small handful of sites they're blocking), then it is most definitely a First Amendment ("FA") violation. The federal or a state government can only block sites in certain ways.

        >

        No, it's not a FA violation. The government is under no obligation to provide you access to news, other people's speech, porn, or whatever else you want to get to on the internet. They aren't blocking the protesters from using their cell phones, air cards, or whatever other access they can provide for themselves. You are arguing that the constitution requires the government to provide unfettered internet access to its citizens. That is simply wrong. The government can't restrict access by, say t

    • by DRJlaw (946416) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @10:41AM (#35289910)

      You're supposed to be working. Not doing political stuff. While it's a dick move, I rather doubt it's a first amendment violation or the end of the world (as is suggested by TFA).

      "If you are in the Capitol attempting to access the internet from a free wifi connection labeled "guest," you cannot access the site defendwisconsin.org.Huffinton Post [huffingtonpost.com]

      What if you're not at work, but rather exercising your right to petition your government on your own time? Although the whitelisting issue has discussed in other comments, your assumption that this situation only involed people "at work" so that the blocking of "political stuff" was perfectly OK is deeply flawed. Guest internet access may not be a right, but censoring political content on a government sponsored guest network would still be a first amendment violation.

    • You're supposed to be working. Not doing political stuff.

      All while the bosses spend their time surfing for porn? [infoworld.com]

      Productivity-wise, the internet is a double edged sword. We know this to be true. But if the cost of a few minutes of work unrelated political browsing means someone can do a better job with the resources on the world wide web, then it's a good trade off.

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      You're supposed to be working. Not doing political stuff. While it's a dick move, I rather doubt it's a first amendment violation or the end of the world (as is suggested by TFA).

      Just like people are supposed to be working instead of posting on slashdot about this or any other thing, too.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      But what if doing politics IS your job ?
    • You're supposed to be working.

      Did they block all non-work-related sites, or is this just discrimination?

    • It is a first amendment issue because they weren't blocking all political sites, only the one they disagreed with. I work for the government, where we have pretty heavy internet filtering. One day I couldn't access the left-leaning HuffingtonPost, but the right-leaning Drudge Report was still accessible. I reported this and access was immediately granted to the Huffingtonpost again. Our internet usage is monitored, and, while we are allowed to take short breaks to surf the net, if we abuse that it gets reco

  • Unions take care of their own business.
    • by wjousts (1529427)
      I think the, admittedly non-sequitur, comment was about internet censorship and not suggesting Clinton had any involvement with the unions. Clinton was complaining about shutting off the internet in Egypt, et al.
  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by mcspoo (933106) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:53AM (#35289468) Homepage
    In Communist Wisconsin, government censors YOU!
  • Yawn (Score:3, Informative)

    by paintballer1087 (910920) <paintballer1087@g m a i l . c om> on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:55AM (#35289482)
    It's not as bad as it seems if you RTFA. The WiFi at the Capitol is just using a whitelist. It wasn't accessable, but it was added to the whitelist within 30 minutes of being notified that it was blocked.
    FTA

    "The Department of Administration blocks all new websites shortly after they are created, until they go through a software approval program that unblocks them. Within 30 minutes of being notified this website was blocked, DOA circumvented the software and immediately made the website accessible,"

    • And the reason it hadn't been accessed before: it was created a few days ago.

      whois defendwisconsin.org ... Domain Name:DEFENDWISCONSIN.ORG Created On:14-Feb-2011 02:47:57 UTC

    • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jeff4747 (256583) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @10:23AM (#35289744)

      That would make sense if it was never accessible. The complaints are that it was accessible until yesterday.

      • by khallow (566160)
        So it goes down for a day? This doesn't sound like much of a story. And oh look:

        However, Department of Administration officials said computer software blocked the site, just like it does for any new website. It took several days for the software to update itself and when it did it blocked the site, a DOA spokeswoman said. She said there was no malicious effort to block the website.

        There we go.

      • by Rayonic (462789)

        Are we sure those complaints are accurate? This person(s) could have been connected to some guy's personal wifi hotspot. Or just be tech illiterate.

        I guess I'm asking for proof that people used the capitol's wifi to connect to that site before Friday.

        It'd be also nice to know what whitelist package they use. Heck, for all we know it's not a whitelist at all. It could just auto-blacklist anything above X hits an hour, until said site is explicitly exempted.

    • It's not as bad as it seems if you RTFA. The WiFi at the Capitol is just using a whitelist. It wasn't accessable, but it was added to the whitelist within 30 minutes of being notified that it was blocked.

      Well sure, we know that now. But that is only because it has been over 30 minutes since the story was posted on Slashdot! We can finally read it now.

      Let's face it. The best chance you have of being modded "+5 Informative" is to post early before you have had a chance to RTFA and become informed. I suggest we should introduce the moderation of "+5 Good Guess". Your post being the exception, naturally! ;-)

    • by rgviza (1303161)

      If they block websites shortly after they are created, they aren't using a white list.

      • by khallow (566160)
        Or they're using both. A site doesn't get blacklisted until it gets accessed a certain number of times in the logs (in other words, they automate the process of blacklisting high bandwidth sites). Then if someone requests, they put it on a white list so that it doesn't get blacklisted again.
  • by peragrin (659227) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:57AM (#35289504)

    The Capitol building wifi network blocks all outside access requests unless it is on a whitelist.

    Once theblock was notice it took them 30 minutes to adjust settings to allow it. I don't agree with thatmethod but it is better for important networks.

  • by Rayonic (462789) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:58AM (#35289518) Homepage Journal

    With how much this story is getting passed around, you'd almost think this site was temporarily blocked as a publicity stunt.

    But that's almost as crazy as the theory from the article: that this particular pro-union site, out of god knows how many, was purposefully blocked because they thought that'd make everyone go home. That it wouldn't just give the protesters another talking point.

  • Not a story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sprouticus (1503545) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:58AM (#35289526)

    This is not really a story.

    Apparently they auto-block websites, using whitelists only. So this new website comes online and its blocked. If they unblock it per their normal procedure, I see no issue.

    (and i say this as someone who is against the limitations on the collective bargaining process)

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Sure. It's all OK because they don't just block Union websites but they block pretty much anything.

      Yeah. THAT makes it all better...

    • by IICV (652597)

      If what you said were true, it would be a non-story.

      Let's see what happens when we RTFA, shall we?

      University of Wisconsin-Madison Teacher Assistants created the website to share information with protesters and let them know where volunteers were needed. Democratic party officials claimed that it was available at the Capitol until at least last Friday.

      So if they auto-block and then unblock websites, that's a bit restrictive but I guess it's okay. However, this website was not auto-blocked! It was available u

  • The website in question should enable SSL [wikimedia.org] so that sysadmins in the middle can't monkey around with blocking sites based on their content.

  • video [youtube.com]

    Padded with power here they come
    International loan sharks backed by the guns
    Of market hungry military profiteers
    Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
    With the blood of the poor

    Who rob life of its quality
    Who render rage a necessity
    By turning countries into labour camps
    Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

    Sinister cynical instrument
    Who makes the gun into a sacrament --
    The only response to the deification
    Of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
    Idolatry

    • And they call it democracy

      Actually they call it "Disaster Capitalism". It has merely come home from the Third World.

      People don't seem to realize that there's no intrinsic connection between democracy and capitalism.

    • by rgviza (1303161)

      It's not democracy, it's bureaucracy.

    • I find the "Democracy" cries from the left (and often from the right as well) a tad hollow. What they seem to cry is "Democracy when we're in power". We just had elections, and the Conservative Right won power, democratically, under the promise of doing exactly this thing. So Democracy is working just fine. You may not like it, but that is besides the point. Losers usually don't like losing.

      And wasn't it the (D) party that blamed the shutdown of the government on the (R) party for doing the exact same thin

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        We just had elections, and the Conservative Right won power, democratically, under the promise of doing exactly this thing. So Democracy is working just fine.

        Wrong. The Republicans in WI won power partially under the promise of making the unions pay for their benefits. They're doing that, and the unions agreed to it. That's democracy in action. However, the GOP is also trying to make a permanent end to collective bargaining, effectively crippling public sector unions forever. There was not a hint that they would do that before the election, but now that they're in power, they're trying to cram it through. Oh, except for those unions which supported them.

  • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @02:08PM (#35291938) Journal

    It should be noted that public sector union bargaining is not universal in the US.

    For teachers [nctq.org], 35 states have mandatory collective bargaining rights, 11 states permit collective bargaining (neither mandating or prohibiting), and 5 states specifically prohibit collective bargaining of teachers.

    Some states have no public sector union bargaining at all.

    Virginia Code 40.1-57.2 [justia.com] "Prohibition against collective bargaining" says: "No state, county, municipal, or like governmental officer, agent or governing body is vested with or possesses any authority to recognize any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees, or to collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with any such union or association or its agents with respect to any matter relating to them or their employment or service."

    Texas [onecle.com] has government code 617.002. COLLECTIVE BARGAINING BY PUBLIC EMPLOYEES PROHIBITED. "(a) An official of the state or of a political subdivision of the state may not enter into a collective bargaining contract with a labor organization regarding wages, hours, or conditions of employment of public employees. (b) A contract entered into in violation of Subsection (a) is void. (c) An official of the state or of a political subdivision of the state may not recognize a labor organization as the bargaining agent for a group of public employees."

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