The Transportation Security Administration has taken a bold step forward in securing commercial air, sea, and ground transportation, thanks to a renewed focus on technology. Are they using state-of-the-art scanners? Perhaps, but that’s not their focus these days. Instead, they’re busy protecting their employees from, er, controversial opinions:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is blocking certain websites from the federal agency’s computers, including halting access by staffers to any Internet pages that contain a “controversial opinion,” according to an internal email obtained by CBS News.
The email was sent to all TSA employees from the Office of Information Technology on Friday afternoon.
It states that as of July 1, TSA employees will no longer be allowed to access five categories of websites that have been deemed “inappropriate for government access.”
What will TSA block? A few of these make sense, but as for others, well …
- Controversial opinion
- Criminal activity
- Extreme violence (including cartoon violence) and gruesome content
I’ve had to make decisions on Internet access and restrictions in the private sector, and I’ll grant that it isn’t easy. For some employees in a call center, the correct answer turned out to be no access at all; for others, Internet capability was necessary to do their job. Our company learned a lesson about gaming and chat early in our efforts, which was that granting access to it was a carte blanche to employees to stop working altogether. Even the application we used for intraoffice instant messaging became a problem at times. “Criminal activity” is a given, though, isn’t it?
However, the “controversial opinion” and “gruesome content” restrictions are just begging for arguments. Who decides what is “controversial” and what is “gruesome”? Do some opinion sites get through, while others get blocked, and on what basis will those decisions be made? Will Fox News get blocked but MSNBC approved, or vice versa? How about the HuffPo and Hot Air, or the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times? The Nation and National Review? “Controversial opinions” are, after all, the lifeblood of American politics and of free speech.
Or, given the track record of government agencies and Internet access, maybe the TSA would be better advised to cut off the Internet and tell people to pay attention to their jobs.