Booty; no chicken



Ella Bartlett and Will Fowler, Editor in Chiefs

While writing this story, one of our reporters told us our story from last year, about Sex Ed, is blocked by the new automated filter. Also blocked was our article about same sex couples adopting. Though these restrictions no longer exist for the Ames High Web’s website (upon our request), there are a couple of bizarre keywords that, if in the URL, will be blocked by school filter.

This isn’t news: students last year had trouble going to sites like Facebook or Reddit. Typing in https:// could access them. The filter this year can only be sidestepped by a proxy.

Here’s how proxies work: You want to order a veggie sandwich because you are a vegetarian, but the owner of the store dislikes you (because you’re vegetarian). You ask your friend Bob to get you a veggie sandwich because the owner likes Bob (he’s not vegetarian). Bob then gets your sandwich. Bob = proxy, and the veggie sandwich = sites like the Wikipedia page on lace (yes, actually) or chicken breast recipes.

The filter seems less like it’s designed to block distracting or “adult” content and more like it’s chaotically blocking anything remotely controversial with no human confirmation.

For example, Vice magazine’s site, which prides itself on edgy investigative journalism and uses the occasional swear word, has been blocked for “adult oriented content.” They have an NSFW section (not safe for work, including articles about sex), but wouldn’t it be better to block that part of the site specifically, and still allow students to read articles about the kidnapping of reporters in Ukraine or allowing transgender people serve in the US military?
But, nearly all YouTube videos are game, including racy videos like twerking contests and some of Nicki Minaj’s songs. What is wrong with the filter?

It’s not only blocking the stuff that actually IS distracting, but it’s blocking the stuff that could actually enable them to think. It’s important for students to have access to things that make their mind more open to different ideas. Not necessarily inappropriate things, but things that allow students to be knowledgeable and aware. This allows them to develop opinions and have thoughts of their own.

The filter, much like Skynet from Terminator, is aware of human resistance and has subsequently blocked all sites that use the word “proxy.” Basic information is refused to students.

The fact is, this is censorship. This article’s space won’t be wasted with a rail against censorship, but if students can’t even access their own school paper unless complaints are made by staff, is this really reasonable?

So next time you’re thinking about looking at Nicki Minaj’s bouncing booty, remember you’re not looking at something as vulgar or inappropriate as, for example, a Clickhole article about iPhone models (it includes the word “model”) or a recipe for chicken (it includes the word “breast”).