More thoughts (it was a banner day for thinking)

More news from the front of Why Censorship Is Crap:

I received an e-mail this morning from my advisor/counselor/guru at school, describing an incident she faced as the manager of a large listserv for school librarians.  She learned that a list member had been removed from the list by her school’s ISP, which automatically scans incoming emails for offending terms and bounces back spam and “adult” content.  In this case, after some investigation, it was discovered that the term that was being rejected was “LGBT”. 

The premise is itself somewhat ridiculous – first of all, who ever heard of an offensive/spammy email using such an innocuous term as LGBT?  Second, it’s always seemed odd to me that teachers and administrators aren’t trusted to monitor their own e-mail.  I’ve struggled to contact people within my alma mater, as even my highly professional emails from my .edu address are always flagged as spam and are sometimes even rejected. 

The consequences?  As my advisor pointed out, the people at this school have been blocked from receiving any and all resources that might have been sent out dealing with bullying, support for diverse student bodies, and resources relevant to those students (the email in question was about lists of award winning books). 

The incident serves to illustrate my longstanding belief that it is impossible to censor without blocking content of quality, whether intentionally or not.  Censorship is driven by fear – fear of the world as it is, fear of offending somebody somewhere, fear of letting people think for themselves.  It’s a shame if we let a minority judgment of “appropriateness” determine access to resources.

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