California firm agrees to drop gay websites ban in schools

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A California web filter provider has become the first major company to drop a feature which allows schools to ban gay websites.

Lightspeed Systems says it is working to remove a filter which allows schools to block the non-adult educational or supportive LGBT websites.

It says that LGBT websites will now be listed under categories such as politics, history social science.

The change comes after a campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union which asks school districts to stop blocking access to the websites.

The organisation has written to school districts asking them to explain their policies and asked students to report whether their schools block the sites.

Lightspeed Systems previously categorised the sites under “education.lifestyles” but now says this category will be discontinued on Monday.

In an email, the company said: “The sites that are currently in the education.lifestyles category will now be placed in the broader society, society.politics, education.history or science categories. These changes are intended to properly categorise the sites by their content, without regard to their political or moral viewpoint.”

“Lightspeed Systems should be commended for responding quickly and responsibly to fix a problem that we have seen in school districts across the county,” said Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project.

“Websites should not be singled out for special treatment by public schools simply because they contain LGBT content. Educational websites addressing LGBT history should be treated similarly to other history websites, and websites urging support for the rights of LGBT people should be treated similarly to other political websites. Lightspeed’s new categories will ensure that all public school students have viewpoint-neutral access to important online resources.”

Blocked sites include the Gay Straight Alliance Network; the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the official website for the annual Day of Silence to protest anti-LGBT bullying.

The ACLU is continuing to pressure other web filter providers to drop their blocked categories on LGBT issues.