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School computers blocked NoEnbridge website ahead of rallies

Computers in British Columbia schools using the government's internet service were blocked from visiting the website until the matter was raised with the ministry responsible.

"They've got to get this fixed," said Spencer Chandra-Herbert, the New Democratic Party's environment critic, in a morning interview.

"This just seems on the surface censorship," he said. "Stopping students who have a legitimate concern about climate change and the Enbridge pipeline and tanker project from getting information about rallies in their own communities this weekend is wrong."

Anti pipeline groups are organizing rallies across the province on May 10, including one at Sunset Beach in Chandra-Herbert's Vancouver-West End constituency.

Schools have internet access through the provincial learning network which filters out certain kinds of sites deemed inappropriate, and Chandra-Herbert said he suspected the block was the result of a filtering error.

"I'm hoping it's accidental because it would be just dumb if [it's not]," he said. "Mistakes happen, so I'm not going to claim it's the government doing this, but they better fix this right away and have a good explanation for why it happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."

The website was inadvertently blocked because of some of the material on other websites that use the same server, said a spokesperson for the ministry of technology, innovation and citizens' services which administers the network.

"The security team has overridden the block so the site is now available," he said in an email.

The province contracts out to a company that restricts access to websites based on the Human Rights Act. Categories of blocked sites include racism, hate, sex and adult content, as well as "extended government inappropriate". They also block sites that are known to include security risks such as spyware, phishing and keyloggers.

The system blocks servers based on their reputation, not individual sites, the spokesperson said. "In this instance, the webserver that chose to use is known to host a variety of less reputable sites," he said. "As a result, was blocked due to the reputation the other sites have earned the webserver. This is a standard industry approach to web content filtering."

The site was automatically restricted because of the other websites sharing the server, but by mid-afternoon the block had been overridden, he said.

As of publication time was redirecting traffic to a Forest Ethics page with information about the rallies against the pipeline.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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