School internet filter blocks popular media sites


Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

Try to access Facebook on the school Wi-Fi network and you will encounter a familiar rejection: Sorry, is not currently accessible because it is categorized as forums.social_networking.

For senior Amy Minix, this is an increasingly sore sight. Minix has limited 3G usage on her cell phone and would like to rely on the school’s network to check social networks such as Twitter and Instagram.

“I am very frustrated,” Minix said. “I only have 200 megabytes of data a month, and I can’t get on those sites very much at all anymore at school because of my limited access.”

Minix points to the Red Ledger’s own social networking feeds as evidence that the school should permit these sites.

“The newspaper has a Twitter and an Instagram, so it has to have some educational value,” Minix said.

Despite the potential educational value from having access to social networking sites, the internet content filter company, Lightspeed, has blocked the sites. Lightspeed is constantly evaluating sites and the content on them and as things pop up that need to be blocked, the content filter does so accordingly.

“Since there is no way to filter the content on the social networks, they are blocked in our district,” Lovejoy ISD Director of Technology Tina Phillips said.

To receive federal funding the administration is required to put in place internet safety measures for school computers. In order for a website to be blocked, it either must be obscene as defined under Section 1460 of Title 18, United States Code; depict pornography, be harmful to minors (such as displaying messages of hate or racism), be disruptive to learning in the classroom, provide alternate pathways past the internet filter, contain illegal activity (such as piracy sites), or be otherwise inappropriate for students (including websites that contain hacking instructions, Adware, Spyware, Spam, scams and Instant Messengers).

Also classified as inappropriate for students are email programs. This irks senior Anisha Srivastava who, in addition to social networks, emails teachers for her college application process.
“In my Independent Study period, I want to email teachers for recommendation letters, but the filter won’t let me do that,” Srivastava said. “Some teachers who have left the school, I don’t have their email information so I have to contact them through Facebook as well.”

While Srivastava may have hit an internet roadblock, students and faculty are able to petition for a website to be unblocked by the administration.

“LightSpeed [the filtering software used by the district] offers the opportunity to submit a site for review,” Phillips said. “At this site, you can see why a site is blocked. If you think it is mis-categorized, you can request it be reviewed and will be provided a response.”

To see a staff member’s opinion on the Wi-Fi changes, click here