Ky. Governor Unblocks Blogs

Except for MySpace

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Kentucky’s newly elected Democratic Governor Steve Beshear lifted a ban set in place by former Governor Ernie Fletcher that barred state employees from accessing blogs on state computers. Fletcher’s move was a controversial one that led to national press coverage of allegations that he was trying to silence critics, and a federal lawsuit filed by a Kentucky gadfly blogger.

Steve Beshear, Kentucky Democratic GovernorSteve Beshear, Kentucky Democratic Governor
(Photo Credit: ChangeforKentucky.com)

WebProNews spoke with the Governor’s spokeswoman, Vicki Glass, about the details of Beshear’s reversal. "Gov. Beshear felt that access to political sites was something government employees could be trusted not to abuse. Those sites that Fletcher blocked, Gov. Beshear is unblocking."

That includes lifting gateway-level bans on political, religious, and sports blogs, as well as shopping websites. Ms. Glass said access to shopping sites like eBay was important for state employees who make purchasing decisions. Access to gambling, dating, pornography, and computer game sites will remain blocked however, including social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

The full list of blocked sites was not readily available because the person who handles that specifically was out for observation of the Good Friday holiday. Ms. Glass wasn’t able to define exactly how a MySpace personal profile was different from a blog, but it was clear that the Governor’s office differentiated social networking sites from political blogs and other topical sources. Access to MySpace and Facebook are blocked at the gateway level.

"For what are considered political blogs," she said, "the ban was lifted because they often discuss what’s going on in state government." Beshear felt government employees should have access to relevant information and discussions.

That doesn’t mean they should be allowed to comment on blogs while on the state’s dime, though. Ms. Glass confirmed that commentary during the workday was still prohibited. "The Finance Cabinet," which is in charge of the policy, felt, "that is not a good use of employee time. They can do that on their personal time."

Ms. Glass was also Gov. Beshear’s spokeswoman during his gubernatorial campaign in 2007. According to an AP report, Gov. Fletcher made physical contact with Ms. Glass during a press conference by trying to push her arm away while she attempted to tape record his remarks. She had no comment, though, about anything else regarding Fletcher, including the former technology commissioner Michael Inman’s sworn statement that Fletcher’s executive cabinet secretary, Robbie Rudolph, instituted the ban as political retaliation against critical bloggers.

At the center of that controversy is Mark Nickolas, who founded the BluegrasssReport blog. Inman said under oath that Fletcher’s administration targeted Nickolas specifically. Nickolas has since filed a federal lawsuit, which is still pending, claiming such actions by the state are an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

WebProNews also spoke with Mr. Nickolas, who says the "amateurish" government ban just helped get him more attention. "This closes a sad chapter on the legacy of the Fletcher Administration [which felt] the best way to deal with criticism was to silence it. They made what I did so much more prominent. It became a national story."

The attention also may have helped Nickolas take his political blogging to a national level as well. Though the BluegrassReport is still up and running, he was recruited by former CNET CEO Shelby Bonnie to head up PoliticalBase.com. Nickolas denies his lawsuit is about disallowing employers from monitoring and controlling what sites employees can access while on the job. Instead, it’s about not allowing government to silence political speech.

"Imagine it wasn’t a blog," he said, "but a written pamphlet handed out at the Capitol by hand. Imagine a Republican pamphleteer walks up the steps with me. Imagine they block one [pamphleteer] from entering and not the other. That’s when the government is applying a filter to political speech based on content."

Rush Limbaugh’s website, for example, was not blocked by Fletcher’s Administration. Nickolas likened blogs to talk radio shows, labeling both genres "opinion journalism."

Freedom of speech and the blogosphere were the focus of another nationally-covered snafu on the part of the state government. Recently, Rep. Tim Couch introduced a bill to the state legislature that would ban anonymous online commentary. Rep. Couch said it was just "to make a statement" about online bullying and that he didn’t expect the bill to succeed or to be enforceable if it did.

"The notion that government is threatened by speech is scary," said Nickolas, who called Rep. Couch a "blowhard." "We should be clamoring for more speech not less….Kentucky has enough problems to deal with that require real legislative leadership."  

Ky. Governor Unblocks Blogs
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  • Ed

    I do not think that Blocking the blogs on state computers is a violation of freedom of speech.Nor do i think that anyone should be using a state computer to vistit any website that is not related to their Job. It is a waste of  taxpayers money. If state employees have the time to Surf the internet at work It sounds to me like that  is where the Governer Need to be making Job cuts in the buget . If you want to read blogs and shop online that should be something that you need to be doing at home on your own time and computer.

    Employees in the private sector loose their jobs if they use the internet for personal Use and so should state and federal employees. WE do not have the money to properly fund our schools. But we have the money to let state and federal employees to surf the internet on tax payers money.

  • http://www.encyclopedia.com/ Find articles

    That is just insane that they would block blogs from being viewed.

  • Guest

    stop blocking stuff

  • arthur budke

    this school district has blocked all blogs, yet the superintendent of schools encourages staff  to use a website blog! Many net sites are blocked with

    various reasons: "alcohol content" on music sites?? etc. etc. no answers from tech. director or administration concerning reasons. There have been political

    sites blocked etc. How do we maintain our 1st amendment rights & democractic ideals in bush/usa? The Kentucky governor sounds reasonable.

  • pam

    HEY, be careful blog sites,,,,

    If the Gov of Ky does not like what you say, he will take the tax payers money and use it to sue you in court for the control and ownership of your Domain.

    Yes indeed, he has done just this against the internet gaming sites that do business on an international level.  He is working very hard using fruadulent ways to sway courts that he is deserving of the control over internet international businsses.  Using reasons like "protecting our children, and protecting the horseracing industires"

    The things this Gov is doing is an outright violation of tax payers rights, and a violation of our court system.

    Protecting our children, ummmm, we dont need people like you to protect our children, so please stop. When your mouth is open you are lying mr gov.

    Protecting horseracing industry, ummmmm, arent these the people who were standing firm against you when you tried to get legal gambling in Ky?Why would you want to protect them? Yeah right?

    We dont know just yet what your are up to, but, you know it always comes out, 

    Maybe the starving children in the eastern part of the state need your protection, for I think maybe you have forgotten they are there while you spend our tax dollars so freely.

    Maybe the jobs that are being lost on a daily rate could use some protecting, do you think. Is there any money left for this after you use tax dollars to chase an unlawful cause?

    How about all the international and Federal Trade Laws and Agreements you are breaking, will there be enough money left to defend yourself?

    Maybe if you would, throw just a couple dollars at the Correctional Dept in Ky, then you could keep the criminals in jail instead of letting them out to committ worse crimes due to the lack of funds set aside for the jails.

    Umm I understand that the things I have mentioned here are not very important to Ky as you prove everyday. I also understand that this very unlawful attempt to steal from the tax payers needs to be first in your eyes, even if it is a violation of our rights and a gross violation of laws, but, if you could just take a few seconds out of your busy fraudulent schedule to just look at some other possiblities, and also maybe not open your mouth as much, for all Ky knows what happens when your mouth opens,,,,OUT POPS YES,  another lie.






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