Kentucky Bans Blogs

The state of Kentucky has banned blogs. Or, at least banned state employees from reading them while at work. Of course, since most people who read blogs do so at work, it amounts to practically the same thing.

State employees will no longer be able to access a political weblog that has criticized Gov. Ernie Fletcher and other Kentucky politicians. The weblog, http://www.bluegrassreport.org, was among Internet sites to which state government recently denied employees access. State officials this week blocked various categories of Web sites, including those dealing with entertainment, online auctions, humor and blogs. But Mark Nickolas, operator of the bluegrassreport site, said he believes his site was targeted for its political content – some of which has been critical of the Fletcher administration. Nickolas has blasted Fletcher and his administration during the ongoing personnel investigation and was quoted this week in a national newspaper criticizing the governor. “It’s outrageous, it shows that we are in the people’s republic of Kentucky now – that government will block political speech that it does not approve of,” Nickolas said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I think it just shows that Gov. Fletcher continues to lead the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Rather than provide us the unvarnished truth, they would rather block state workers from knowing what’s going on.”

However, the sites were blocked following a review that occurred nearly two weeks ago of those most accessed by state government, state Finance Cabinet spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said. State officials were not targeting particular sites, but entire categories to prevent inappropriate employee access, and the timing was coincidental, Midkiff said. “It’s not any particular site,” Midkiff said, adding that the total number of sites involved in the recent action was “voluminous.”

I’m sure this decision is aimed at stopping employees from wasting time on the job surfing the ‘net rather than a nefarious attempt to silence a few bloggers. Still, this is a ridiculous decision, for reasons previously discussed.

UPDATE: A trusted source with knowledge of this matter informs me that well-known conservative blogs, including at least one that was not at all critical of Fletcher, were similarly “blocked by the content filtering” as long as two years ago. S/he also notes that Midkiff is the PR person for the Finance and Administration Cabinet, which houses the IT department. As such, it is “exceptionally unlikely that anyone in the Governor’s office even knew about it.”

I’m so used to the “unrepresentative anecdote/story” format used by AP and others that I manage to read past it most of the time without it even registering it. I presumed immediately that this was just the tech department gone hogwild; this adds credence to my suspicion.

UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge wonders if his site is being blocked; he’d understand it it were. At least one commenter (location and employer unknown) reports having all blogspot sites blocked by his employer.

Meanwhile, the Danny Glover who isn’t too old for this confirms that tons of blogs have been banned, including very prominent conservative ones.

Meanwhile, Blue Crab Boulevard is just glad these people are no longer wasting the taxpayers’ money reading blogs. To which I retort: They’re now wasting it on something else. And that’s not a stab at government employees; it’s just the nature of office work.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Uncategorized, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    And what of newspapers?
    Radio?
    TV?

  2. madmatt says:

    And why only liberal sites?

  3. James Joyner says:

    matt: It’s not just liberal sites; just one liberal site complaining loudly and getting quoted by AP. It’s a blanket thing.

  4. legion says:

    Well, if you read the regular updates at BGR, it looks very much like Midkiff is flat-out lying. Many left-wing blogs have been blocked, while many right-wing blogs are not. And the people who’ve contacted the state about this have not been informed of any sort of review prior to this article’s publication. That, combined with BGR’s blocking the day after it was mentioned in an NYT article about Fletcher’s legal problems, and TPM Muckracker’s blocking immediately after reprinting some of BGR’s info, leave gaping holes in the state’s explanations…

    FWIW, I’m originally from KY, and I’ve heard many many anectdotal stories of the corruption and cronyism of Flethcer’s gov’t for years now. This pathetic stab comes as no surprise…

  5. legion says:

    And it was originally BGR because it’s arguably the largest political blog in KY, and has been quite persistent in its reporting of Fletcher’s utter corruption. This is the guy who, if you haven’t been following it, ordered members of his cabinet to ignore the state’s merit system in doling out state jobs & promotions. Then, when the investigations started, he pro-actively pardoned his entire cabinet, before any charges were even filed. He’s now under indictment for the croyism, solely because he’s not allowed to pardon himself.

  6. McGehee says:

    Many left-wing blogs have been blocked, while many right-wing blogs are not.

    Within the conditionsw of this assertion, it remains possible to retort that, “Many left-wing blogs are not blocked, while many right-wing blogs are.”

    “Many” doesn’t tell us anything about quantity relative to the whole number of blogs that might be affected, Legion.

  7. anjin-san says:

    What’s the problem here? Bush has been waging war on free speech and the free movment of information since day one. Why are you upset that other members of the GOP are joining in?

  8. legion says:

    Unfortunately, McG, there is no transparency to website blocking lists – without inside knowledge of KY state gov’t’s software, it’s impossible to catalog precisely without trial-and-error on every site & seeing if it’s clear or not. However, according to BGR:

    So far this morning, the following conservative/Republican websites are still available for state employee viewing:

    -Drudge Report
    -The Republican National Committee’s blog
    -Rush Limbaugh
    -Hugh Hewitt
    -Hot Air
    -Captains Quarters
    -Outside the Beltway
    I’m going to do this everyday to show the fraud of this administration’s attempt at censoring political speech.

    You can agrgue about Drudge being either a blog or an ‘officially’ conservative site, but several of those sites ought to be in the same categories as BGR, so any defense that the site got caught up in a ‘broad category’ blockage is crap. This leads strongly (tho not conclusively, I’ll admit) to the conclusion that blocked sites are chosen individually and specifically… And while companies may have the right to limit their employees’ access based on their own whims, the state gov’t doesn’t.

  9. McGehee says:

    You can agrgue about Drudge being either a blog or an �officially� conservative site…

    Drudge is neither a blogger nor conservative unless you define conservative as “not liberal.” If they blocked him it could be argued they’d have to block a Yahoo! front page with headline links.

    Limbaugh’s site is in no way, shape, matter or form a blog. If they blocked it one could argue that websites for other traditional-media opinion sites should be blocked.

    This leads strongly (tho not conclusively, I�ll admit) to the conclusion that blocked sites are chosen individually and specifically�

    Is there any other way of blocking blogs? Is there some secret URL segment common to all blogs, but exclusive of non-blogs, that can be used to ensure that all blogs, but only blogs, are blocked?

    Legion, don’t be a blockhead.