June 11, 2009

City blocks the blog

City Hall is reeling today after somebody decided to block access to the Bristol Blog from municipal computers.
First, of course, I'll have to find out who made that decision and why.
Then we're going to have a swell debate on the First Amendment, which I maintain prevents the government from taking any action to block the free press. Even the courts agree that government can't tamper with press freedom unless there's a damn good reason for it.
I hope the move to block the blog is just a mistake, but if city leaders want a fight about freedom, let's have it. I'm game.

Update at 2:30 --
Well, I got hold of Mayor Art Ward.
So why's the blog blocked?
"I don't know," he said. "I don't have an answer."
Then he said that he did hear earlier today that the information services division had installed new filtering on the web this morning.
Ward said that's probably why the blog is blocked. I should talk to MIS, he said.
So I will.

*******
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

You get 'em, Steve! Don't let 'em tread on The Bristol Blog!!

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have much of a first amendment claim here Steve. Government employees have no first amendment right to surf the internet when they're suppossed to be working.

Anonymous said...

Guess Ward doesn't like his own people dumping on him from City Hall!

Touchy Touchy

Anonymous said...

I am sure Ward blocked it. Of course he will claim he had no idea what happened.

Steve Collins said...

1:11 --
You bet I have a good claim. If the city is blocking this site, it damn well better be blocking every single news site in the world. Otherwise, it's selective, and that is absolutely forbidden unless there is a compelling reason. And it's not a compelling reason that you don't like reading nasty comments about yourself.
Places like China and Iran block access to websites. Bristol shouldn't be in their corner.

Anonymous said...

Go get him steve! I agree 100%.

Anonymous said...

Fascists!

Anonymous said...

Steve, you know better than most that a decision like that has to comer from the mayor.

Maybe it is about time that some of his actions and comments get looked at a little more carefully, by the public, by the media.

Steve Collins said...

I'd also argue from a strictly practical viewpoint that it's silly and stupid to pretend that city employees shouldn't be online at work. The world has changed and government can't pretend it hasn't. Employees sometimes need to be on blogs, Facebook, MySpace or any of thousands of other sites if they're going to keep up with the community they serve.
That Bristol already blocks access to ESPN's website -- even though ESPN is the city's largest employer and taxpayer -- shows that it really doesn't get what's happening in the world.

Anonymous said...

Does the blocking include the mayor?

Or is he special?

Quick Question said...

I understand the selectivity issue. But I'm curious how the law may change if the city owns the computers and pays for the internet server?

Anonymous said...

Another dictatorial move.

Anonymous said...

Could a "compelling reason" be that lots of employees are spending a lot of time on this blog? Lots of companies look at what sites are being accessed frequently, and block those sites if they are not work related. It has nothing to do with censoring content, simply with preventing employees from wasting time. I know that many employers block facebook and amazon, and other sites that employees waste a lot of time on. Perhaps this blog falls into that category.

Steve Collins said...

I'm waiting to hear back from the mayor. It'll be interesting to hear his take on this.

Steve Collins said...

I have no doubt many city employees access this blog. That's because they find it valuable for their jobs.
In any case, that a particular news site is frequented is not a compelling reason to block it. You could make a sound argument that it's exactly the reason you shouldn't block it.
In any case, it's a clearly unconstitutional infringement for the government to pick off one news site and leave others alone. That's not the kind of country we live in, thank God, and the city should recognize it.
Then again, Bristol's a little short of lawyers right now....

Anonymous said...

Will they block the teachers and the students too?

Steve Collins said...

I'm not sure about Bristol's blocking policy on school computers, but I know it's a problem. Many schools use filtering software that KOs acess to blogs and many other legitimate sites, even the teen newspaper my wife and I operate (www.ReadTheTattoo.com). That's a fight I'l have another day. For now, I want the city to back down and free the blog.

Anonymous said...

Steve - any business can block anything they want on THEIR computers. City computers are for city business. Surfing the the Bristol Blog is not city business. They have they right to block any site that is not business related. I would really like to know how the Bristol Blog is business related?

Steve Collins said...

Government is not a business.
It cannot take measures that infringe on the freedom of the press.

Anonymous said...

The workers are not government. They are workers for the tax payers. The elected officials are the government.

chris wilson said...

Steve why don't you put up a poll and see if you are in the majority?

It seems to me there would not be a first amendment right here. No more so than you must be allowed non emergency phone calls or must be given the right to read the newspaper at work.

I'll be interested to see what the majority of bloggers think on this issue-while acknowledging that the poll might be slanted by those that either are intimidated by you or want to befriend you.

Steve Collins said...

2:18 -- The government is everyone who works for the government, not just our elected leaders. I'm not sure why people have this idea that principals, clerks and everyone else who gets a government paycheck is somehow not the government. They are.
As for the point raised by 2:22,the city can tell workers they can't read a newspaper at work. But it can't say here is a tool to read 5,000 newspapers all over the world but you can't read the Bristol Blog. That's where the selectivity comes into play.
Personally, I find it thickheaded to tell people to say offline. But that's because I recognize the richness of the web. I see companies that embrace the web doing pretty well while those that ignore it are suffering. Why would a city government want to block off the internet?

Steve Collins said...

I could do a poll, but I don't trust some of the yokels who read this blog not to vote a thousand times so the results would be meaningless.
I do like the idea of people trying to suck up to me, though. When will that get started?

Anonymous said...

Ask Diane Ferguson

Anonymous said...

Didn't Stortz block the blog as well? I do not recall Steve's reaction to that being as hard hitting as his response now.

Steve Collins said...

I should have fought Stortz's ruling at the time much more than I did. He was wrong to shut off access to the blog.

Anonymous said...

Fight the power! Rock on, Steve!!

Anonymous said...

Reading the Blog might be argued, but submitting to the blog????

And while what is on the blog might be useful to some, is it necessary for all, and how real time does that info have to be?

Or is it Wards getting back at the workers for not getting all the concessions he wanted?

Art, don't mess with the workers, they will bury you.

Anonymous said...

way for Ward to show leadership - referring the reporter to MIS. I wonder if he came out from under his desk yet.

Steve Collins said...

Hey, I'm on the blog at work. Why not everyone else?

Anonymous said...

How many hits a day do you get on the blog Steve ?

Steve Collins said...

Generally, I get about a thousand hits a day. It goes up and down, but that's about the norm.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Ward the one who gave access back when he was elected? Now he is taking it back.

A little different when your own union supporters talk about you!!

cseguin said...

Steve,
I agree with the larger point of providing access to news. Is it possible the city blocks anything from "blogger.com?" I know some places of business block it (and other sites that host blogs) because of some of the graphic material that gets shared on blogs.

Of course, if they're JUST blocking this blog, and allowing access to other blogger.com blogs, it's a whole other story.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Perhaps if you wrote the whole story about the concessions it would be good.

Why not tell the readers in Bristol how Ward is playing games with us. First he gave us the raises, then said he needed them back. Especially Local 1338. We just got that contract in Jan. 09. What has changed between then and now that he wanted the money back or layoffs. If anything the economy has gotten better.

I will tell you what has changed......Ward is running for Mayor again. It reads good in the paper when you say he has gotten concessoins but you don't put that he just voted to give it to them.

Ward...enjoy it because your "brothers" won't be holding signs this year.

Anonymous said...

Great leader: pass the buck to the employee, blame the employee.
And if they did it without his knowledge, he should have their head.
But since he more than likely was aware, and even part of it, nothing will be done.
Ward is looking more and more like a fool every day.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who gets blocked at work can simply go to a website like this: http://www.myipproxylist.com/
and then enter the web address for the site you'd like to view.

For example, go to the site I just entered above, scroll down to the box that says "Enter the URL to visit" and type in http://bristolnew.blogspot.com then enjoy! There are hundreds of sites that will get you around the blocks your company puts on many websites.
I wonder if an elected officials internet use details can be summoned under the FOI?? That would be pretty interesting to see which websites The Mayor and others visit, as well as the length of time spent online each day. The reports are available from the IT Dept. very easily.

Anonymous said...

Ward would never block the blog .Whose going to police the blog on first shift??

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Ward who after taking office ordered internet access including the blog unblocked after Stortz had blocked it?

Anonymous said...

The Mayor is the biggest blogger on here during the day - trust me on that one.

Anonymous said...

Ward is such a fool.

Anonymous said...

First, you accuse Ward of blocking the blog. Turns out it was a software glitch (oops!), so then you turn around and accuse him of using the blog (gotta find something to whine about, huh?).

...and you think Ward's a fool?!! Hate to break it to you, but you're just a few clowns short of a circus yourself! ;0)

Poboy said...

"I'd also argue from a strictly practical viewpoint that it's silly and stupid to pretend that city employees shouldn't be online at work."

It may be silly and stupid, but all city employees sign a document agreeing not to use work computers for personal use. Discipline for violating policy includes termination. The city has a right to block any sites or eliminate internet access altogether for that matter. They don't have to justify their actions to anybody, least of all you.

"You bet I have a good claim. If the city is blocking this site, it damn well better be blocking every single news site in the world."

For you to say that this little fiefdom of yours qualifies as news by any stretch of the imagination, is rediculous.

Anonymous said...

If you believe it was a software glitch, well I just don't know what you'll believe.

Does your TV change channels by itself, sorta like a software glitch?

Steve Collins said...

1:45 -- Of course this is news. It is part of The Bristol Press.
As for your legal points, you're wrong. The city could block every website or have no internet at all. That's fine. But it cannot selectively block sites that provide news. It's a clear infringement of the 1st Amendment.

Anonymous said...

They did not have to block the site, they could ahve told the employees to stay off the internet unless it was work related.

I do not believe that keeping current on the news is part of anyones job description.

Anonymous said...

The city should deal with this issue as most of corporate America deals with non-job related "surfing". G.E. used to give one written warning, and then terminate. End of discussion. News content or not! People, they are paid our tax dollars TO BE WORKING!!!!

Poboy said...

"1:45 -- Of course this is news. It is part of The Bristol Press.
As for your legal points, you're wrong. The city could block every website or have no internet at all. That's fine. But it cannot selectively block sites that provide news. It's a clear infringement of the 1st Amendment."

According to you any internet site that posts news articles is a news site and cannot be blocked. I am sure the porn sites would be interested in your wacked out interpretation of the law. I remember you posting several times in the past that you were not a lawyer - good thing.
Here is some news for you Steve -
Your blog is not a news site, it is a BLOG! Aside from that, city hall computers are work computers and their use can be restricted any way the employer sees fit.

Anonymous said...

Mayor likes to read about himself on the blogs, as long as its good. If not, then he posts to counter the attacks on him. Art is a real loser, he needs to get over himself.

Anonymous said...

7:37 Wouldn't that be just like what certain city council members do???

BTW, real losers are the shallow, small people who feel the need to criticize and belittle city leaders anonymously...tsk, tsk!

Anonymous said...

2:22pm - guess when the truth hurts. Go love yourself in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

Steve -- blocking the Bristol Press Web site might be problematic for city hall, blocking your blog is not.

get over yourself.