Lawsuit Says Kentucky Can't Ban State Employees From Reading Blog

from the banning,-rather-than-facing,-criticism dept

A few weeks back, a story spread around the news about how the state of Kentucky had started blocking access to a political blog critical of the governor of Kentucky from state computers (while still allowing access to plenty of other sites). Greg Beck, from Public Citizen, has written in to let us know that his organization has now filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming it violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit notes that the state can ban certain activities, but cannot selectively pick and choose what reading material is allowed based on content.

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Comments on “Lawsuit Says Kentucky Can't Ban State Employees From Reading Blog”

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Mikester says:

Why not?

Hmmm…. I think this is pretty stupid as well and certainly doesn’t make the state look very good but…

The lawsuit notes that the state can ban certain activities, but cannot selectively pick and choose what reading material is allowed based on content.

Why not? Don’t they have the right to block porn sites? Hate sites? Gambling or gaming sites? It’s a slippery slope. I would think an employer can block any site they want to since it’s their resources being used.

dennis parrott (user link) says:

Re: Why not?

mikester – you are MAKING the very point of the lawsuit!

the state of Kentucky is allowed to ban reading of ALL PORN sites with state computers or ALL HATE SITES or ALL SITES… and they just as easily could have said “Thou shalt not read BLOGS of any kind on company time” — and that would be LEGAL because they are saying that any activity of type X is banned.

what they did by blocking ONE BLOG is engage in censorship because the Gov’nah had his undies in a bunch. since the reading of blogs is allowed and from what we know right now it would appear that the state of Kentucky had no prior policy about reading them on state time with state computers they can’t simply block access. let’s be clear, the state of Kentucky looks pretty stupid if they allow employees to read blogs on company time and had no “acceptable use” policy in place and then went ahead and just locked down 1 blog…

as to your final paragraph, YES, they have the the right to block ALL PORN or ALL HATE or ALL GAMBLING etc sites. YES, they have the right to form an “acceptable use” policy that would allow them to block whatever they want. BUT if there were no preexisting policy to lean on in taking that action, employees would have no guidance to know if their behavior was improper (by the law) so they would be correct in assuming that they could read blogs and would be justified in being upset about having their access to that 1 blog terminated since they were engaging in permissible behavior.

if the state wanted to do this, all the Guv’nah needed to do was sign some sort of executive order that required all state agencies to put in place an “acceptable use” policy and then simply shut down access to all blogs.

so YES the state has the right but they needed to go about it correctly. simply blocking access to 1 blog was incorrect given what the policy (probably) was(n’t).

David says:

Is the state different?

Yes, it is. Any inventions done on the state dime belong to the public domain… that’s not the same way with a private employer. There are many things that can be privately done that the state cannot do the same way. Especially considering that it’s the current governor, and they probably did NOT block content critical of his challengers, that’s getting dangerously close to a totalitarian type of control over information, especially when a lot of employees probably only have internet access at work. They should be able to look at whatever they want that does not offend their co-workers in their free time.

charlie potatoes (profile) says:

We, the people…. does that ring a bell? we are the state. in theory…..

i saw that the senator from kentucky called a newspaper publisher a traitor the other day.. then he igores the rule of law and lets george bush rape and pillage our constitution. fuck them all. they will take every right we have if we keep sitting on our asses.

we’ve become a nation of sheep.. baaaaa

josh (user link) says:

you guys are missing the point BIG TIME

this isnt about blocking genres of site (porn, violence etc.) its about SELECTIVLY blocking sites. example. would be viewable from the computer, but would be blocked. (i dont know if this is right, this is just for arguments sake) now if AND john kerry was blocked, than it would be different

nobody says:

Good Ole boys

I work for a large corporation in the I.T. department. We get dictated as to what sites are allowed or blocked. If it doesn’t pertain to work, you are mostly denied, unless you are in upper management. Of course, they have free reign of the web…porn and all…at work! Its all a matter of who pulls the strings and hands out the paychecks. The good ole boy network still exists.

Albatross says:

Lie in the bed you make

The public media is not legally allowed to publish endorsements for a candidate without allowing opposing parties the same opportunities for exposure. In other words, they cannot deny a single party to campaign through newspaper or television while allowing another party to campaign. This is government law and the government who imposes it should also obey it. Clearly, what they are doing is wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Why not? Don’t they have the right to block porn sites? Hate sites? Gambling or gaming sites? It’s a slippery slope. I would think an employer can block any site they want to since it’s their resources being used.”

Yes, if they blocked ALL porn sites, ALL gambling sites, ALL gaming sites, or ALL blogs.

But that’s not what they’re doing. They’re blocking SOME blogs.

Mikester says:

Re: Re:

That’s not true at all. As most people know, it would be impossible to block “ALL porn sites, ALL gambling sites, ALL gaming sites, or ALL blogs.”

Unless you count blocking the entire Internet, or like one of the posters here mentioned, restricting access strictly to .gov or .mil sites.

“They’re blocking SOME blogs.”

Just like other employers block SOME porn sites, SOME gambling sites, SOME gaming sites, etc, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

a blog counts as piece of journalism these days. its supposed to be illegal for the government to censor the press, though that seems to be disappearing in recent events. If the state of kentucky was merely an employeer, they’d have the right to block any site they wanted. But the State of Kentucky is also a governing body so any rights and responsibilities given to a private employeer is superceded by the rights and responsibilities given to the State.

The thing is, the employees are potential voters. You cannot control the informations thats available in such a way that it would give you an unfair advantage in the next election. That makes a single party election, ripe for a tiny bit of tasty fascism.

Anonymous Coward says:

That’s not simple blocking. It’s state enforced censorship!

– Information control and supression inside the goverment

– Censorship of the press

– Bill of rights is seen as a thing that cripples the goverment

I think I heard something like that before. Sounds familiar isn’t it? If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you are in trouble my friend.

Mikester says:

Re: Re:

“It’s state enforced censorship!”

No, it’s an employer controlling access to a non-business related Internet site, it happens all the time.

State enforced censorship would be the governor getting the state ISPs to block access to the blog so that none of the citizens of Kentucky could view the site.

That’s a pretty big difference.

Jay Fude says:

my dime

Hello, does anyone else notice THESE PEOPLE ARE USING THE INTERNET ON MY DIME! These are not thier home computers, they are for doing the business of government, what the hell are they doing going anywhere not directly related to the performance of thier job. Cut off all net access, only allow intranet access, and that be heavily monitored. Quit wasting our money, and our time, and make the state not be the bottom end of all states in education, roads, jobs, etc!

Sam (user link) says:

I'm from Kentucky!

Actually, I believe our governor has undergone serious claims that could lead to impeachment (if the trials haven’t began already, I tend to stay out of local news)

“Section 77 relates to retrospective acts only — the Governor is empowered to nullfy punishment. This was the ruling (dicta) of the Kentucky Supreme Court in Anderson v. Commonwealth, 107 S.W.3d 193 (Ky. 2003) — opinion by Johnstone — all concur! In the opinion (p. 196) the Court looked to the US Supreme Court’s decision in Schick v. Reed, 419 U.S. 256 (1974) for guidance from the English common law in construing a President’s power to pardon under Article II. The Schick Court observed that the Constitution gives “plenary authority to the President to “forgive” the convicted person in part or entirely.” Id. at 266. The Governor just has no authority to pardon indicted persons because there is no fine to remit, no sentence to commute and no punishment imposed from which to grant a pardon or reprieve. There sure as hell is no authority to pardon persons who “might” be indicted!”

That’s the charge against him (For those who didn’t know)

Of course, I believe the blocking of the website would have to do with the trial (Though I know not what the website may be)

I’m not a student of law, I’m just an under-age citizen of KY, so I don’t know what I would classify the means to block a website (from opinions-Blog) due to a personal reason (Most likely anti-Fletcher pleas, because we do need someone other than him in office)

This not only conflicts with The First Amdendment, but I’m sure there’s also some other laws which have been either broken, or strained.

hamb0n3z says:

Private vs. State

This is not an acceptable action by the state or an elected leader and if it goes to court the State will loose.

Yes, corporations lock down certain access – because they must or they get sued. You pull up a porn page I see it over the cubical wall and I sue the workplace for exposing me to objectionable material that is not work related. Guess what, I get a big fat settlement because the company knows from previous cases that it will loose in court. Same situation if it was a hate sites. Even if a company believes its employees are productive with these non-productive sites accessible they still have to cover their butts and make an effort to keep the workplace PC.

The State runs the same risk if they leave porn, hate and other “objectionable” material accessible in the workplace.

Limiting access to this ‘opinion blog’ while at the same time not restricting all related blogs as objectionable content is not going to fly.

The clincher, if they had restricted all related opinion blogs they would probably still be going to court over it. – Big can ‘O worms.

Ajax 4Hire says:

The decision says it; cannot block selective; must

The decision says that the state can block all access to a specific type of internet site. This means that

ALL porn sites could be blocked;

ALL gambling sites could be blocked;

ALL Teddy Bear sites could be blocked;

ALL Blog sites could be blocked.

Only in China can you go around picking and choosing the information you want your citizens or employees to peruse.

Rights Guy says:

Some people didn't read the article

I think some of you people missed the part that they are ONLY blocking blogs that make the governor look bad or are criticle of the governor. Which means that any blogs that make him look good are let in. So he’s saying it’s OK to spend tax money to read about how great your governor is.

It’s very simple, the state cannot censor the media at all. Whether it’s one person’s PDA, or it’s the entire state. That’s one of the reasons we worked so hard to take down Sadaam Hussein!

No One knows says:

It’s middle of the road politics that has this nation chasing it’s tail more often than handling the issues at hand. Yes, it is a government agency, and they have the right to allow or disallow computer usage. But here lays the issue, If blocked, block everything not directly related to what ever that employee’s duties. Or open it up and quit trying to “censer” and sway public opinion. It’s as simple as that!

R Ahrens says:

reading on state time.

Yeah, they’re reading blogs on State time. Or maybe not – maybe just on their lunch hour. Also, how many state employees that are not upper management have political jobs – or whose jobs need to take in account public opinion, or what’s being reported? Those people need to be able to have access to the internet – and unfettered access, at that.

Many gov’t organizations, as well as corporations, allow employees to use their computers for personal or argueably non-official uses, but restrict that use to personal, not-on-the-clock time.

What’s got people up in arms is the fact that the Governer of Kentucky has blocked access to a blog that is critical to HIM, and did NOT block any blogs that were not. That is what opens him up to charges of censorship. Block ALL blogs, and he’s made a policy decision – block folks that get his undies in a pinch, and its censorship, got it?

Wonn Roppots (user link) says:

Yes, let the State of Kentucky ban porn blogs.

Why should the state of Kentucky not be allowed to ban porn blogs in a work environment? Please, the only ones who would not agree are porn bloggers. A work environment, especially by a state, has every right now to allow porn blogging at work! It is not the place for porn blogging. Next, porners will want porn allowed in the state work offices to be filmed right in state buildings. Enough is enough! Let not common sense be ruled by the deterioration of what work environment should be like. If a blog is work related then let it be, but if it’s porn… blog it on your personal time at home, as porn is for turn ons and turn ons is not the place for work environment. If state of Kentucky blocks porn blog and not work related blogs, let them and leave it be. You don’t need a bunch of state employees turned on and distracted at work. Please, my goodness, what’s gotten into people? Obviously, these who want porn blogs in state computers to be allowed just want to push one more button in the way of exploitation. There’s too much pirateered porn as it is, uncontracted exploitation of pirated porn which is a close cry to slave labor since pirated porn doesn’t pay performers a penny… so last thing we need is turned on state workers while on the job. They might not be able to keep focussed on making the right decisions if they can porn blog, especially since currently there is not enough done yet about all the going ons of regulating pirated porn online, yet. I totally agree about banning the porn blog in a work environment, especially at a state or government level. Those employees are the ones that need to keep focussed the most!

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