Category: Freedom of Information


Tuesday, 13 May 2014 16:44

Nevada Tells Father: Over $10K to Access Kids’ School Records

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A conscientious father in Nevada received shocking news when he requested to see the permanent records of his four children from state education officials: His request would cost $10,194.

John Eppolito, the father, was concerned about a recent decision in Nevada to join a multi-state consortium that would share student data.

Fox News explains, “Nevada has spent an estimated $10 million in its seven-year-old System of Accountability Information in Nevada, known as SAIN. Data from county school systems is uploaded nightly to a state database, and, under the new arrangement, potentially shared with other counties and states.”

Eppolito was interested in accessing his children’s records in order to learn what information had been compiled on his children. It was then that he learned that he would have to pay significant fees as well as special programming costs to run a report of that kind.

The total, Eppolito was told, would come to $10,194.

“The problem is that I can’t stop them from collecting the data,” said Eppolito. “I just wanted to know what it was. It almost seems impossible. Certainly $10,000 is enough reason to prevent a parent from getting the data.”

Department of Public Information officer Judy Osgood attempted to explain the reason for such a high price: “Please understand that the primary purpose of the Department of Education’s database it to support required state and federal reporting, funding of local education agencies, education accountability, and public reporting,” Osgood states. “The system currently is not capable of responding to the type of individual student data request you have presented.”

Eppolito was not satisfied with the response. “This data is for everyone except the parents. It’s wrong,” he asserts.

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows parents to view their children’s records and permits small fees to be issued in order to access those records. Ironically, under the act, the fees are not supposed to be so substantial that they ultimately prevent parents from obtaining them.

“Unless the imposition of a fee effectively prevents a parent or eligible student from exercising the right to inspect and review the student’s education records, an educational agency or institution may charge a fee for a copy of an education record which is made for the parent or eligible student,” reads a section of the act. “An educational agency or institution may not charge a fee to search for or to retrieve the education records of a student.”

According to the regulations, the above criteria apply to “any state educational agency and its components.”

The state, by requiring the fee of over $10,000, appears to be acting in violation of FERPA.

“They are supposed to provide [parents] the opportunity to inspect and review [records] upon request,” explained one official at the Family Policy Compliance Office (FCPO), the federal agency over FERPA. “There shouldn’t be a fee for inspecting and reviewing the records.”

But Osgood does not view it that way. “NDE does provide free access to education records,” she said. “SAIN was not designed for student-level inspection. Our understanding of FERPA is that this level of inspection applies to the LEA [local education authority—i.e., school district] and school.”

 

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Consumer alert: GMO labeling to be outlawed by ‘Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act’ introduced today in Congress

 

GMO

Thursday, April 10, 2014
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles…)

 

(NaturalNews) A proposed new federal law just introduced by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (a Democrat) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (a Republican) would outlaw state-enacted GMO labeling laws. The new law, ridiculously called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, is actually an last-ditch, desperate effort by the biotech industry and the GMA to forever bury the truth about GMOs so that consumers don’t know they’re eating poison.

According to mainstream media reports (1), the bill would require the FDA to mandate GMO labeling only if those foods “are found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without biotech ingredients.”

Because the FDA and USDA have already decided, against all scientific evidence, that GMOs are “safe” and “not materially different” from other foods, this requirement is nothing but sheer sleight of hand and a pandering to idiocy. In truth, this new bill, if passed into law, would allow food companies to permanently and insidiously hide GMOs in all their products forever, nullifying the numerous state-based GMO labeling laws which are on the verge of passing.

The Environmental Working Group calls this proposed new law the “DARK Act” (Denying Americans the Right to Know), saying:

After two states have passed GE labeling bills and more than 30 others are poised to consider similar labeling bills and ballot initiatives, the food and biotech industry have goat-roped some members of Congress into introducing legislation to block state GE labeling laws.

Push for GMOs run by criminally-minded organizations

GMOs have already been restricted or banned in over 60 countries (2), and Americans are very close to achieving victory in state-based GMO labeling campaigns. The very idea that American consumers might find out they’ve been eating GMO poisons in most of their favorite foods is so horrifying to the biotech industry (and the processed food front groups) that its enforcers are now seeking this “nuclear option” to legally deceive consumers about GMOs with the complicity of the FDA.

 

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U.S. bill seeks to block mandatory GMO food labeling by states

April 9 Wed Apr 9, 2014 12:46pm EDT

(Reuters) – A Republican congressman from Kansas introduced legislation on Wednesday that would nullify efforts in multiple states to require labeling of genetically modified foods

The bill, dubbed the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” was drafted by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo from Kansas, and is aimed at overriding bills in roughly two dozen states that would require foods made with genetically engineered crops to be labeled as such.

The bill specifically prohibits any mandatory labeling of foods developed using bioengineering.

“We’ve got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods,” said Pompeo. “That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system. Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren’t really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard.”

Consumer groups have been arguing for labeling because of questions they have both about the safety for human health and the environmental impacts of genetically modified foods, also called GMOs.

Ballot measures in California in 2012 and last year in Washington state narrowly lost after GMO crop developers, including Monsanto Co., and members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) poured millions into campaigns to defeat the measures.

The companies say the crops are safe and cite many scientific studies back those claims. Pompeo on Wednesday reiterated those claims, stating GMOS are safe and “equally healthy” and no labeling is needed.

“It has to date made food safer and more abundant,” said Pompeo. “It has been an enormous boon to all of humanity.”

But there are also many scientific studies showing links to human and animal health problems, and many indicating environmental damage related to GMO crops.

 

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Congress considers blocking GMO food labeling

Published time: April 09, 2014 20:10
Edited time: April 10, 2014 11:01
AFP Photo / Robyn Beck

AFP Photo / Robyn Beck

A new bill introduced in Congress looks to ban states from implementing their own labeling laws when it comes to food containing genetically engineered ingredients.

According to Reuters, US Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced the legislation on Wednesday, which is intended to head off bills in about 24 states that would require companies to inform customers when their food is produced using genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” the proposal would forbid states from enacting such proposals.

“We’ve got a number of states that are attempting to put together a patchwork quilt of food labeling requirements with respect to genetic modification of foods,” Pompeo told Reuters. “That makes it enormously difficult to operate a food system. Some of the campaigns in some of these states aren’t really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them. What this bill attempts to do is set a standard.”

Supporters of GMO labeling argue that modified ingredients pose a threat to human health, and that as a result they should be clearly labeled in the marketplace so that consumers can make informed decisions. In addition to health concerns, they also point to the negative environmental consequences that could arise from widespread GMO use, since millions of acres of farmland and weeds are developing resistances to the pesticides used.

Opponents, however, point to their own studies, showing that GMO crops are safe and therefore do not need to be labeled differently than other products.

 

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Why Did FBI Monitor Occupy Houston, and Then Hide Sniper Plot Against Protest Leaders?

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Published time: April 04, 2014 04:00

(AFP Photo / Dieter Nagl)

(AFP Photo / Dieter Nagl)

Rep. Mike Pompeo will introduce legislation backed by powerful trade groups to prevent states from passing laws requiring the labeling of genetically-modified foods, according to reports. The bill is linked to biotech giant Monsanto and Koch Industries.

Pompeo will offer the bill in the US House before Congress leaves for Easter recess later this month, The Hill newspaper reported, citing industry sources. Politico also reported on the impending proposal. Pompeo’s office would not comment on the congressman’s intentions for a labeling restriction.

The bill includes a “prohibition against mandatory labeling,” according to The Hill, echoing powerful interest groups that have already declared war against such “right to know” labeling laws around the nation.

It was revealed in recent months that powerful farming and biotechnology interest groups like Monsanto were joining forces – under the name ‘Coalition for Safe Affordable Food‘ – to push a federal voluntary labeling standard for food made with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to stem the tide of state legislation seeking to mandate labeling.

In recent years, voters in states such as California and Washington have narrowly defeated ballot initiatives proposing mandatory GMO labeling, though not without dragging members of the new Coalition into expensive campaigns to defeat the measures. Many other states are now considering their own proposals to label GMO food.

A top member of the Coalition – the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a major food industry lobbying group – raised and spent the bulk of the overall $22 million that opponents of labeling sank into defeating Washington State’s ballot initiative on GMO labeling last year. That total number was three times the amount that proponents of labeling spent in the state. GMA was joined in its effort by allies such as biotech giants Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont.

The Coalition said in February that it would seek to empower the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their product for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients.” In addition, the Coalition proposes the FDA mandate labels for GMO food or ingredients that the agency deems a “health, safety or nutrition issue,” though no consumables currently fall in such a category.

“The legislation we’re proposing would preclude state legislation that conflicts with the federal standards,” GMA president Pamela Bailey said of the Coalition’s aim, The Hill reported.

 

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Gale halts search for lost plane

The Boeing 777 was just leaving Malaysia-controlled air space when the final words were heard. Photograph: Greg Wood/Pool/EPA

Malaysian authorities have released a new account of the final words spoken by one of the pilots of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The last words heard by air traffic control in Kuala Lumpur were “goodnight Malaysian three seven zero” – not “all right, goodnight,” as previously reported, Malaysia‘s civil aviation authority said on Monday.

The correction of the official account of the last words was made as Malaysian authorities face heavy criticism for their handling of the disappearance, particularly from families of the Chinese passengers on board Flight MH370, who have accused Malaysia of mismanaging the search and holding back information.

“We would like to confirm that the last conversation in the transcript between the air traffic controller and the cockpit is at 01:19 (Malaysian Time) and is “goodnight Malaysian three seven zero,” the Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement.

Malaysia’s ambassador to China told Chinese families in Beijing as early as 12 March, four days after the flight went missing, that the last words had been “all right, goodnight.”

“Goodnight Malaysian three seven zero” would be a more formal, standard sign-off from the cockpit of the Boeing 777, which was just leaving Malaysia-controlled air space on its route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

 

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Police State USA Police State USA

 

Published on Mar 21, 2014

http://www.policestateusa.com/2014/mi…

MICHIGAN — Hundreds of thousands of parents have been flagged as “child abusers” in a huge database maintained in secret by Michigan’s Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. The names are entered into the database without due process, without a judicial hearing, without an opportunity for defense, without a conviction, and without even letting the individuals know they have been targeted.

 

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Secret list: Having your name on this secret Michigan list of 275,000 people could cost you your job

Heather Catallo

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) – It’s a secret list that can cost you your family or your job.  Once you’re on it, it can be very hard to get off.   While some changes are being made to the law, many experts say it doesn’t go far enough.

The state maintains something called the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry and the sole power to label you an abuser lies not with a judge or a jury, but with child protective services workers.

And you may be surprised at how the state can define “abuse.”

Anita Belle says she’s never been convicted of a crime.  But Belle’s name has been put on the Central Registry as a child abuser.

“Where is the due process,” asked Belle.

The Central Registry is maintained by Child Protective Services workers inside Michigan’s Department of Human Services, or DHS.

Right now, there are about 275,000 people on that secret list and many of them don’t even realize they are on it.  You don’t have to be found guilty in court to be put on the registry.  All it takes is the word of CPS staffers to label you an abuser, which can prevent you from getting certain jobs or doing volunteer work.

“A sex offender gets to be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt, and then they’re placed on the sex offender registry, but parents and grandparents and teachers — for goodness sake, a child could just make up something,” Belle told 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.

It was Anita Belle’s granddaughter who accused her and other relatives of spanking.  And Belle’s case shows just how inconsistent the rules to get on the list can be:  her CPS investigative report recommends Belle NOT be labeled an abuser.

“In your CPS report they say you should not be put on the central registry,” asked Catallo
“That’s correct,” said Belle.
“So how did you get put on the registry,” asked Catallo.
“I don’t know,” said Belle.

As the law stands now, once you’re on the registry — you’re on for life.  You can ask for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge to be taken off the list, although that’s not easy to do.

But the law is changing in September.  The new law will limit your time on the registry to 10 years, unless you were put on the list for criminal sexual conduct, battery, life threatening injuries, abandonment, or exposing a child to methamphetamine production.

But those labels are not always what they seem:  the 7 Investigators have documented many cases of parents being accused of abandonment or neglect when they were simply trying to get help for the children from the state.

“The current reforms don’t go far enough,” said attorney Elizabeth Warner, who is suing the Governor, DHS and other state officials because she says the secret list is unconstitutional.

“You should be given an opportunity before the harm happens, to get a fair hearing,” said Warner.

Warner says CPS has too much power.

“You just get on the registry, by a push of the button.  By one worker,” said Warner.
“With no verification that the crime was actually committed,” asked Catallo.
“They believe that their investigation, even if it’s one sided, is all they need to ruin somebody’s life,” said Warner.

“What do you say to the people who say CPS has way too much power,” Catallo asked.

 

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File:FCC New Logo.svg

New logo of the US Federal Communications Commission

Source
Author Federal Communications Commission

public domain.

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The Washington Times

Americans say no to the ‘monitoring’ of free speech

A First Amendment victory over an intrusive federal government doesn’t come along every day, but thanks to a deafening outcry from the American people, the Obama administration has just backed down from an unconstitutional plan to put monitors in newsrooms in a dramatic fashion.

Recently, the Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a program, euphemistically labeled a “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” to place government monitors in the newsrooms of TV networks, “news and talk-radio stations,” and newspaper companies across the United States.

Imagine FCC monitors peering over the shoulders of editors, producers and reporters as they make decisions about what news to air and how to communicate it to the public.

This monitoring program, as Orwellian as it sounds, moved along toward implementation this spring, completely out of the public spotlight. That is, until FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai sounded the alarm, exposing the FCC’s “plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run.”

He was rightly concerned, and the American people took notice.

FCC monitors in newsrooms across America would pose a monumental threat to free speech and freedom of the press. The FCC already exercises immense control over broadcast stations through license renewal every eight years. These monitors would give the FCC the ability to intimidate the press on a daily basis.

The fact is, this was not a “study” in any sense of the word. The FCC began by developing eight categories of information that it prejudged as the “critical information needs” of the American public.

Sending monitors into newsrooms would be nothing more than a witch hunt to intimidate stations that don’t fall in line with programming that conforms to the predetermined “needs” of the Obama administration.

According to the program’s design, the station owners, managers and reporters would be asked intrusive questions about their “news philosophy” and “target audience.”

If these questions sound eerily familiar, it’s because they are some of the same questions demanded of Tea Party, pro-life and other conservative groups who have been wrongly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service: What is your philosophy? Who are your members? What issues do you promote?

 

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  • January 10 at 11:13 am

FILE - In this June 26, 2013 file photo, Gov. Paul LePage speaks to reporters shortly after the Maine House and Senate both voted to override his veto of the state budget, at the State House in Augusta, Maine. The Republican governor's clash with Democratic lawmakers over whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act ended with the governor's veto - and a vow by Democrats to try again. The story, one of several quarrels between the GOP governor and Democratic-controlled Legislature, was voted the top story of 2013 in Maine in a survey by The Associated Press and its member news organizations in Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File) Maine Gov. Paul LePage in June 2013.   (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Maine will become the second state to require labels on food that contains genetically modified ingredients under new legislation signed by Gov. Paul LePage (R) this week — but only after other states follow suit.

LePage signed the legislation, initially introduced by a Republican state representative, over the objections of agriculture giants who produce many of the raw ingredients that go into everyday foods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 70 percent of the food products sold in supermarkets contain genetically modified ingredients, the Portland Press-Herald reported.

But shoppers in Maine won’t see those GMO labels slapped all over grocery stores any time soon. The legislation doesn’t go into effect until five nearby states, including New Hampshire, pass similar labeling laws. New Hampshire’s legislature will take up a similar measure during its legislative session this year.

That provision was necessary, the bill’s backers said, to build a broad base of support. It’s similar to a provision in a GMO labeling bill passed by Connecticut’s legislature, signed into law last month by Gov. Dannel Malloy (D), which won’t take effect until a combination of Northeastern states that add up to 20 million residents pass similar legislation.

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Published time: December 04, 2013 01:30
Edited time: December 04, 2013 06:17
The editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger.(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

The editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger.(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

 

 

British police have launched an investigation into whether the Guardian committed “potential” terrorism offenses by publishing the incriminating NSA and GCHQ documents leaked earlier this year by Edward Snowden.

 

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the British paper, was testifying in front of a British parliamentary committee Tuesday when lawmakers suggested that the Guardian had helped terrorists by revealing the clandestine activity conducted by the American and British intelligence agencies.

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Cressida Dick told the MPs Tuesday that is appears “possible that some people may have committed offenses” in connection with the material seized from David Miranda’s laptop earlier this year. Miranda, journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, was detained for hours at London’s Heathrow Airport and authorities confiscated his computer, cell phone, and other devices, some of which allegedly held material related to Snowden’s disclosures.

UK officials claim that Snowden’s trove of data included information about British spies and that the information’s publication puts lives in direct danger. Rusbridger said his paper would not publish any such information and that Guardian editors have not even looked at some of the information Snowden provided regarding the Iraq war.

Lawmakers also threatened Rusbridger by implying Guardian staff had violated Section 58A of the Terrorism Act, which stipulates that it is against the law to publish or even transmit any information regarding members of the armed forces or intelligence employees.

It isn’t only about what you’ve published, it’s about what you’ve communicated,” committee member Michael Ellis said. “That is what amounts, or can amount, to a criminal offense.”

Ellis later asked assistant commissioner Dick if investigators were also looking into possible infractions under Section 58A.

 

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Guardian: We Have Published 1 Pct of Snowden Leak

 

 

 

 

The editor of the Guardian said Tuesday his newspaper has published just 1 percent of the material it received from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and denied the paper had placed lives or national security at risk.

 

Under questioning by lawmakers on Parliament’s home affairs committee, Alan Rusbridger accused British authorities of trying to intimidate the newspaper, and warned of “national security being used as a trump card” to stifle debate.

 

The Guardian helped spark a global debate on privacy and security by publishing a series of stories based on leaks from Snowden disclosing the scale of telephone and Internet surveillance by spy agencies in the U.S. and Britain.

 

Rusbridger said the leak amounted to about 58,000 files, and the newspaper had published “about 1 percent” of the total.

 

“I would not expect us to be publishing a huge amount more,” he said.

 

Government and intelligence officials have reacted angrily to the leaks, saying they compromised British security and aided terrorists. Britain’s top three spy chiefs said last month that al-Qaida and other terror groups were “rubbing their hands in glee” in the wake of Snowden’s leaks.

 

Several Conservative lawmakers have said the left-leaning Guardian should be prosecuted for breaching terrorism laws.

 

Rusbridger defended the newspaper’s decision to publish the secret material. He said stories published by the Guardian, The Washington Post and others had prompted much-needed debate about the scale of intelligence activities and exposed the limits of regulatory laws drawn up in the pre-Internet era.

 

“There is no doubt in my mind … that newspapers have done something that oversight has failed to do,” he said.

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Welcome to the Memory Hole

Disappearing Edward Snowden

By Peter Van Buren

What if Edward Snowden was made to disappear? No, I’m not suggesting some future CIA rendition effort or a who-killed-Snowden conspiracy theory of a disappearance, but a more ominous kind.

What if everything a whistleblower had ever exposed could simply be made to go away? What if every National Security Agency (NSA) document Snowden released, every interview he gave, every documented trace of a national security state careening out of control could be made to disappear in real-time? What if the very posting of such revelations could be turned into a fruitless, record-less endeavor?

Am I suggesting the plot for a novel by some twenty-first century George Orwell? Hardly. As we edge toward a fully digital world, such things may soon be possible, not in science fiction but in our world — and at the push of a button. In fact, the earliest prototypes of a new kind of “disappearance” are already being tested. We are closer to a shocking, dystopian reality that might once have been the stuff of futuristic novels than we imagine. Welcome to the memory hole.

Even if some future government stepped over one of the last remaining red lines in our world and simply assassinated whistleblowers as they surfaced, others would always emerge. Back in 1948, in his eerie novel 1984, however, Orwell suggested a far more diabolical solution to the problem. He conjured up a technological device for the world of Big Brother that he called “the memory hole.” In his dark future, armies of bureaucrats, working in what he sardonically dubbed the Ministry of Truth, spent their lives erasing or altering documents, newspapers, books, and the like in order to create an acceptable version of history. When a person fell out of favor, the Ministry of Truth sent him and all the documentation relating to him down the memory hole. Every story or report in which his life was in any way noted or recorded would be edited to eradicate all traces of him.

In Orwell’s pre-digital world, the memory hole was a vacuum tube into which old documents were physically disappeared forever. Alterations to existing documents and the deep-sixing of others ensured that even the sudden switching of global enemies and alliances would never prove a problem for the guardians of Big Brother. In the world he imagined, thanks to those armies of bureaucrats, the present was what had always been — and there were those altered documents to prove it and nothing but faltering memories to say otherwise. Anyone who expressed doubts about the truth of the present would, under the rubric of “thoughtcrime,” be marginalized or eliminated.

Government and Corporate Digital Censorship

Increasingly, most of us now get our news, books, music, TV, movies, and communications of every sort electronically. These days, Google earns more advertising revenue than all U.S. print media combined. Even the venerable Newsweek no longer publishes a paper edition. And in that digital world, a certain kind of “simplification” is being explored. The Chinese, Iranians, and others are, for instance, already implementing web-filtering strategies to block access to sites and online material of which their governments don’t approve. The U.S. government similarly (if somewhat fruitlessly) blocks its employees from viewing Wikileaks and Edward Snowden material (as well as websites like TomDispatch) on their work computers — though not of course at home. Yet.

Great Britain, however, will soon take a significant step toward deciding what a private citizen can see on the web even while at home. Before the end of the year, almost all Internet users there will be “opted-in” to a system designed to filter out pornography. By default, the controls will also block access to “violent material,” “extremist and terrorist related content,” “anorexia and eating disorder websites,” and “suicide related websites.” In addition, the new settings will censor sites mentioning alcohol or smoking. The filter will also block “esoteric material,” though a UK-based rights group says the government has yet to make clear what that category will include.

And government-sponsored forms of Internet censorship are being privatized. New, off-the-shelf commercial products guarantee that an organization does not need to be the NSA to block content. For example, the Internet security company Blue Coat is a domestic leader in the field and a major exporter of such technology. It can easily set up a system to monitor and filter all Internet usage, blocking web sites by their address, by keywords, or even by the content they contain. Among others, Blue Coat software is used by the U.S. Army to control what its soldiers see while deployed abroad, and by the repressive governments in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Burma to block outside political ideas.

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