‘Biased’ Firewall At Woodbury School Blamed On Technicality

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The company that operates a content filtering product that prevented a Connecticut teenager from looking at some conservative and religious websites at his high school is chalking the incident up to the difficulties of rating millions of new websites.

A statement by Dell, the company that operates Dell SonicWALL, Woodbury’s firewall provider, said, “Content Filtering Service do not have the granularity to block access based on conservative, liberal or political bias.”

On Tuesday, Woodbury High School senior Andrew Lampart spoke with Fox Connecticut after he discovered that he was able to access websites for some liberal leaning organizations on his school computer, but could not reach a number of conservative sites. The liberal sites included plannedparenthood.org, ctdems.org and hillaryclintonoffice.com. The blocked sites included ctgop.org, nra.org and a website for the Vatican.

Lampart brought the apparent Web bias to the attention of the Woodbury Board of Education. On Thursday, the District’s superintendent released a statement saying that the district blocks categories of Web content through the firewall, but does not block individual sites. In this case, the school system blocked the “political/advocacy group” category.

Dell also jumped in on the debate. The company’s executive director of security products, Patrick Sweeney, wrote in a blog post that some of the sites that Lampart attempted to access may not have been rated into a specific category.

“There’s literally a billion URL’s so we’re not able to rate all one billion, and there’s quite literally millions of new sites that come online every single month,” Sweeney said.

New sites are rated based on the Web traffic they generate. And according to Sweeney, some of the more liberal sites visited by Lampart had not been rated yet because their low traffic. Those unrated sites would not have been blocked by the “political/advocacy group” barrier.

Other unblocked sites could be attributed to rating mistakes or discrepancies, Sweeney said.

“We make mistakes all the time, and I’ve come across several of them,” Sweeney said.

Woodbury Schools released a new statement Friday saying, “The blocking of otherwise appropriate websites, regardless of political or religious viewpoints, is WRONG.”

Read the full statement from Woodbury Schools here: woodbury-schools-statement.

Click here to read Dell’s blog post on the situation.

 

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