NETCOM, the Army command responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the military’s online network, has blocked access to Blogger, Google’s popular blogging platform, from government computers, according to Army employees.
Sources tell The D-Ring that Blogger blogs (which can easily be identified because they have the word “blogspot” in their Web address) were blocked for “security reasons” — there was concern about “malicious code” associated with Blogger blogs. A spokesman for NETCOM denies that they are blocking Blogger.
A public affairs representative for Joint Task Force – Global Network Operations, which oversees the global information grid, also said that Blogger was not one of the sites that was being blocked, and suggested that the problem might be due to local network restrictions.
Despite the official insistence that Blogger is not being screened, a D-Ring investigation found that Army employees at various installations on the East and West coasts, as well as the Midwest, could not access Blogger blogs, suggesting that the problem extends beyond network restrictions imposed locally by installation commanders.
In May, I defended the Army’s updated blogger policy by saying that it would not lead to a significant chilling of military bloggers.
This, however, is a different story.
If true, the decision to block Blogger amounts to a backdoor ban on blogging. By eliminating access to this blogging platform, the Army is removing the opportunity for Soldiers to blog.
Even if regulation allows Soldier the right to blog, without access, that right is meaningless.
The Blogger decision is especially disconcerting because many Soldier bloggers who had maintained MySpace blogs migrated to other platforms like Blogger after U.S. Strategic Command decided to ban MySpace. If one by one, the military starts blocking blogging platforms, it will eventually leave Soldiers no place where they can blog unless they buy their own blogging software — a step that I believe most Soldiers will not be willing to take.
And we wonder why we are losing the war of ideas. Maybe it is because our best spokespeople — our men and women in uniform — are being gagged. Let them share their ideas and their stories with the world.
Is Blogger blocked from government computers at your installation? Whether it is or not, leave a comment. The D-Ring wants to know. I’ll update as I get more information from NETCOM, US STRATCOM and folks from the field.
Update: A public affairs specialist in the National Capital Region just let me know he still has access to Blogger. I’d still like to hear from other folks outside of the public affairs community, since many computers belonging to public affairs have requested exemptions from the site blocks (especially in the case of MySpace and YouTube, which were blocked a few months ago).
Update 2: From the comments, it looks like blogger blogs are being blocked in Europe and Carlise Barracks. Anywhere esle?