Advocacy group sues Education Department over blacklisted website
- By Mark Rockwell
- Apr 10, 2019
The left-leaning political advocacy group Public Citizen is suing the Department of Education, alleging the agency is blocking access to the group's website on its internal networks.
The complaint, filed April 9, alleges that a Public Citizen member and attorney who was at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters discovered that the group's website was blocked on the guest Wi-Fi network he was using. A message declared that the website was "in violation of your Internet usage policy."
David Halperin, the member making the allegations and who is also a named plaintiff in the lawsuit, indicated that the blocking had been going on for a year. Another Public Citizen employee also directly experienced the website blocking, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit also alleges "on information and belief" that the Public Citizen website is not accessible at all to users of the agency's internal network.
The lawsuit chalks up the situation to the Education Department's displeasure with Public Citizen's criticism of departmental grant management and of agency Secretary Betsy DeVos. The suit complains that the Education Department is violating the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment for viewpoint restriction and the Administrative Procedures Act for engaging in conduct that is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law."
Public Citizen wants the Department of Education to unblock Public Citizen's website and pay court costs.
A Department of Education spokesperson told FCW the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.
Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.
Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.
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Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.