Province blocks, then restores access to anti-Enbridge site
Sarah Bercic, 17, student at Eric Hamber Secondary School holds up her phone with a blocked anti-pipeline website noenbridge.ca, in Vancouver, B.C. on Tuesday May 6, 2014. Parents and students are outraged after the province blocked access in schools to the anti-pipeline website noenbridge.ca, but not pro-oil sites. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)
Just days before an anti-Enbridge protest hits Vancouver, students are expressing outrage after a government agency blocked school access to an anti-pipeline website — with a message labelling it a “sex” site.
After inquiries from 24 hours, the ban on noenbridge.ca was lifted late Tuesday afternoon, with a technology ministry official saying it had simply been “incorrectly categorized” because other domains on the same server had a poor “reputation.”
On Monday, Eric Hamber Secondary Grade 12 student Sarah Bercic discovered the site was blocked in her school, part of the Vancouver School Board.
24 hours contacted teachers and school district staff across the province, and confirmed the site was also blocked in Greater Victoria, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam. Several IT staff said the filter is provincewide, administered by the B.C.-run Provincial Learning Network. Sources said they had no problem accessing pro-oil sites ethicaloil.org and capp.ca.
“It makes me feel extremely mad that the government is censoring what we can see in our schools,” Bercic told 24 hours. “The pro-oil sites are available — I don't see any reason why the anti-oil sites shouldn't be available too. It's biased and only showing one side of an issue.”
Bercic provided screenshots from both her smartphone and a school library computer showing a red screen of text explaining the “connection has been refused.”
“The Internet site you are attempting to access has been designated by a web classification service as containing material that contravenes the BC Government's Internet usage policy,” read the message.
The blocked website is run by the anti-pipeline group ForestEthics Advocacy, which is planning a protest on Saturday in Vancouver. Accessing noenbridge.ca automatically forwards visitors to the ForestEthics website, and one Surrey school district employee — who asked not to be named — speculated that the forwarding address might have been inadvertently flagged as inappropriate, since ForestEthics was accessible on school networks.
Patti Bacchus, chair of the VSB, said the red screen came up for her at the school district office.
“It says blocked because of sex content,” she said. “If someone's done it deliberately it's a story, but even if it's a glitch, it's an ironic one.”
Coquitlam school district's IT manager Stephen Whiffin confirmed the site was blocked by PLNet, and that “school districts are not specifically informed about each” filter.