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The truths they don't want you to read....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Censorship - updated

CensorshipAccording to one comment placed on an earlier post about Castlebay School, this blog is now apparently blocked at that school.

If this is true, then there are two follow-up questions:
  1. Is it blocked by the Comhairle or the school? and
  2. Now the Comhairle know that the internet is being censored, what are they going to do about it?
Kim Jong-il
I know that the truth can sometimes be unpalatable, but acting like Big Brother is just a bit excessive and paranoid, isn't it.

What other sites are you going to block now?

So here is the agenda for the next Council Meeting - unless the Councillors have enough bottle to stand up and allow an open discussion about what is actually going on in Castlebay School.

I don't know the rights and wrongs of the matter, but it is obvious that there is a HUGE problem that is not being addressed to the satisfaction of many parents and pupils, and at the very least the Council needs to recognise that, rather than try to bury it.

I grant full permission for anyone/everyone to copy the blog post and the comments found here onto any other websites, social networking or any other medium you wish. Please, just link back to the original post.

Update: Is this site blocked from any other schools; from other Councils sites in Barra; or from any other Council sites.  It will be interesting to find out just who need 'protecting' from a free and open debate.


Anonymous said...

School net censorship in the Western Isles is disturbing, especially as it's often with little or no reason. At Liniclete Google Images was blocked in case the students see anything inappropriate - rather than set the safety level, it's just blocked. The attitude is to block by default.

A by-product of this is that many of the kids seem tech-savvy; they know how to get round various blocks and filters. Being tech-savvy will become useful when they get their one way ticket to the mainland, and not returning, as:

- they can get a better education
- their freedom of speech is not repressed by the corrupted and self-interested
- they can get decent net connections. 40Mb on BT fibre optic at the moment in a mainland city. What's the speed like in an average Barra house?

Anonymous said...


You have no clue about real internet use, it's clear.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to thank Angus Nicholson for having this blog on the internet.
This is first time for parents and chilren of Castlebay School to have had an opportunity to air their views democractilly!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have to confess to hypocrisy in that this post too is 'anonymous' but I agree with the Comhairle blocking this BLOG from School Computers.
Why - simply because almost all of the comments are anonymous.
Anyway the dear little darlings have access to home PCs and can peddle their anonymous vitriol from home rather than in school time!!
So long as posts to this or any other blog are made anonymously no one will ever attach any credibility to the comments made.

Anonymous said...

7:01 Yes, you're right, only 15 years successfully working in the IT and Internet sector. No clue at all.

Anonymous said...

Councillors? Bottle? You jest, surely.

Anonymous said...

Yes the council should block sites. Do you want your children able to access (and let the faint hearted stop reading here) during school time, sites where women are engaging in congress with horses or sites where you can see terrorists' prisoners having their heads hacked off ?

The proper question is not 'whether' some things should be blocked (and I would assume parents would also be blocking things on home computers) but 'what' should be blocked.

Anonymous said...

From the Comhairle: We will not have school property like computers used to propagate these comments.

Fair enough, but that doesn't actually address the underlying issues, it just tries to mask them.

If the moderator of these sites will not take action then we will

Have you had any requests from the Comahirle, Angus?

In classic bullying incompetent style, the Council is still trying to shoot the messenger...

When the BBC runs with this story, will that site be blocked too?

Why is the site only blocked in Castlebay School, if the comments are inappropriate.

Isn't it an issue about outgoing postings and not as the Council seem to think about incoming comments. BTW, the pupils are just accessing the blog from their phones at school as well as their home computers.

Hebrides News understands that some blog comments were sent during formal class times. When asked if it could be avoided by improved supervision of lessons the spokesman said: “I don’t know the details but we encourage debate amongst young people.

ROTFLMAO. The Council have a sense of irony and a sense of humour.

Oh no: they are actually being serious about their views.

Anonymous said...

In response to

8.25pm In total agreement

11.42pm No, many have no effective access to internet on Barra due to broadband limitations, therefore many can only access it at school.

The pupils should be allowed to speak and make their comments - this affects them and their futures, bear that in mind.

You say: peddle their anonymous vitriol - how insulting to pupils who lack teachers and are bringing this to public knowledge.

You too are anonymous and yet it is obvious who you are...a sad reflection, a denial at recognizing the truth and instead resorting to insulting the very pupils you should be caring for.

10.21 this is a BLOG that is being censored and blocked - not hacking of heads and other things you mention. This is a BLOG and pupils are making their comments on a topic that affects them and their future - that IS FREEDOM of speech, don't be confused!

The fact that they are not being supervised or taught at school and have time to make the comments just highlights the lack of teaching in the school!

10.40 From the Comhairle: We will not have school property like computers used to propagate these comments. If the Cohmairle was dealing with problems in the school and working with parents then pupils would not have to resort to making comments on the blog. The Cohmairle should take their comments very seriously because it highlights a failure in education provision and THIS IS WHY THEY HAVE BLOCKED IT.

Anonymous said...


No - you misunderstand me. I appreciate that this is a blog and I also ask whether access to it should be censored. My question is simply - ask the Council not 'whether' they should be blocking sites but what their 'policy' is for blocking. Their reply (if you get one) should be illuminating.

Anonymous said...

In fact, (post script) if anyone felt like putting a quick FOI request to all of Scotland's councils asking for a statement on their policy of blocking access to sites for pupils and council staff, it might be quite interesting.

Anonymous said...

After 15 years in the IT/Internet industry, have you learned nothing? Do you honestly believe that setting the safety filter within Google images blocks all unsuitable images in a school!?
Let's face it, kids are very tech-savvy anyway - that's a fact. But I don't believe that fact is related to the level of web-filtering in a school. I suspect many parents would be horrified by the materials accessed by their little darlings in the comfort of their own homes! But if this same materials were accessed in the classroom the press would have a field day!

exactly right.....apart from the part about parents blocking access to unsuitable materials at home - I suspect this is rarely the case.

Anonymous said...

At least when children are at home it is the parents responsility to monitor their children's internet access nobody elses.

When you send your child to school you have no power over this.

ps ask some of the children who witnessed a teacher last week when doing a "please take" whether she enjoyed her internet shopping!!!!

Has this been censored too?

Anonymous said...

11:52 Of course it isn't perfect - no method is. Blocking merely means the more tecc savvy kids find a way around it. The general attitude of blocking things because they *might* cause harm, no matter how unrealistic the risk, is pathetic. Might as well shut the schools as kids *might* be in an accident, or *might* meet someone unpleasant, on the way from home.

Better to use sensible mechanisms and educate kids (properly) at an early age about IT, information literacy and information safety.

Anonymous said...

The point here is not internet censorship or blocking of material unsuitable to children.

It is the shocking blocking of a blog on which pupils were commenting on their problems at school.

This blocking was not done to protect the pupils from google images or unsuitable material.

It was blocked to shut them up.

The pupils have a right to be heard.

Silencing pupils on "an education relevant topic" does not fall into the same category as protecting children from unsuitable material on the internet.

The difference is as wide as the ocean.

As for teachers shopping on-line whilst children are not being taught, that is something that needs to be dealt with by the council!

Not silencing the children!

Anonymous said...

I think you should rename the blog...

Shining a light into the Council's dirty cracks

Anonymous said...

This censorship action also follows on from the recent Scottish Natural Heritage incident, also in Barra and also involving the Education Department.

In both cases Barra, and in both instances the Education Department have been seen to block critical comment.

Thats pretty poor form and one which needs an explanation.

I think that the parents in Barra might want to submit a freedom of information request seeking access to minutes of meetings concerning these decisions, related e- mails etc and seeking a copy of the relevant council policies pertaining to internet usage and pc usage in schools.

Anonymous said...

For all those who seem to think that Angus is solely responsible for this blog and for filtering responses please take note of the comment at the side of this blog as follows:-

The team
The various bloggers who now contribute to this blog have taken over all responsibilities for allowing posting, for vetting comments and for all opinions expressed. Angus no longer has any responsibility for approving any comments made on any postings.

This has been the case for quite some time. I think the censorship and related Comhairle comments are yet another effort by them to discredit Angus due to other actions that are in the pipeline. What they don't realise is that they only make themselves look even more dictatorial.

Anonymous said...

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (China Division).

Anonymous said...

Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People (Tam Baillie) has a relevant and interesting publication on their web site, of some interest I'm sure to the parents and pupils of Castlebay School at this difficult time for everyone:

News & Events
SCCYP issues guidance on consulting with children and young people
15th Mar 2010
Scotland's Commsissioner for Children and Young people publishes guidance on consulting with children and young people on school closures and other significant changes.

News Download

Read the full article on the SCCYP Publications section of this website

Children's views are regularly sought by the Children's Commissioner on a number of topical issues and concerns. There is a web page and telephone number that children can regularly use, on any subject of concern and worry to them.

Perhaps the time is now right to take the problems of Castlebay School to an external source, willing and ready to listen.

More info on this web site, please access -

Anonymous said...

Extract from the Foreward to the most recent report from Scotland's Children's Commissioner, Tam Baillie (on Consultations with Children and Young People):

* every child’s right to an education that
supports the development of their
talents, their abilities, and their
personality to the fullest possible extent
(article 29).

This guidance will help local authorities to
make sure that their consultation with
children and young people is meaningful,
credible and commands the respect of
children and young people, their
parents/carers and the wider community. It
sets out central principles of consultation
with children and young people, and
provides practical tools to make the key
decisions about how to run programmes
of consultation in a meaningful and
sensitive way.
Ensuring children and young people’s
views are heard and heeded will enable
local authorities to make better decisions,
based on a richer understanding of what
will be the impacts of their decisions.
I commend this guidance to local
authorities across Scotland to support
them in that endeavour.
Tam Baillie
Scotland’s Commissioner for Children
and Young People

Worth reading in full:

This guidance sets out principles of
meaningful and sensitive
consultation with children and young
people and explores methods that local
authorities may want to use in carrying out
consultations with children and young
people on proposed school closures or
other significant changes to the running of
a school under the Schools (Consultation)
(Scotland) Act 2010. It further provides
examples of good practice in consultation
with children and young people and tips to
support local authorities in putting
principles into practice. This guidance
should be read alongside the relevant parts
of the Scottish Government’s statutory
guidance on the 2010 Act.

Anonymous said...

"Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (China Division)."

More like North Korea division.

Captain Swing said...

Now here is a strange thing, hypocrisy even, if it were thought that Comhairle employees were sitting at their desks spending time corresponding with whatever Blog happened to take their fancy, wouldn't we as those who pay their wages be a just a little bit upset that our money was being wasted.

Judging from comments on other posts here about Comhairle employees this is what we believe they do all day anyway, wouldn't any sensible person advocate that the Council or any other responsibe employer for that matter, remove the right for their employees to do such things. Is this censorship or just an employer saying you come here to work not undertake social comment on a blog? Clearly as with most things to do with the Internet, as music downloads demonstrate, you can say we would rather you didn't do it, or it is illegal to do it even, but unless a physical restriction is in place people just carry on as they believe it is their right to do so.

Is this not the case with Castlebay School? Pupils go to school to learn, yes they have to learn how to use the internet and use it to further their studies. But surely if a school decides that a social comment blog is not a part of this learning process and does what we would expect the Comhairle to do about its employees missuse of its facilities, this is not censorship but just good practice.

Anonymous said...

Surely if the kids were being supervised they wouldn't have the opportunity to be blogging - I can't imagine 'Hold on Sir, I'm just tweeting' would have gone down well. However during free time is accessing the internet now an acceptable activity?

Anonymous said...

This issue is a classic reaction from CNES. Rather than find a useful solution they just ban it and pretend all is well.

Several students supposedly being taught for a higher exam by a 'retired' stand in allegedly witnessed (and I believe them) this individual internet shopping during class time. Now this allegation can very easily be proven one way or the other. First this individual will have had to log in with a password. This being the case an independent IT expert will very quickly be able to identify all the IP addresses that this password accessed. This is not rocket science. However, even if someone does FOISA this information I get the feeling that the beloved leaders within CNES will allow the information out.
Censorship of valid debate, especially when it involves young people who are trying desperately to get through their education is not healthy. These young people are not slandering teachers, they are trying to bring to public attention the problems that they face on a daily basis because of CNES's incompetence. Hence the real reason for the censorship decision!

Anonymous said...

7:58, "..if someone does FOISA this information.."

The council's record of compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is, um, less than perfect. I know this from personal experience and from what others have told me happened to them. They regularly break the law and in some cases don't even answer follow-up queries for non-delivery of information they have a legal obligation to disclose.

I wouldn't be surprised if this blog was blocked from all council computers next. Wouldn't want the workers to get any revolutionary least until they get home in the evening.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't want the workers to get any revolutionary least until they get home in the evening

What workers are there in the Comhairle? Revolutionary ideas are about as far as it goes. Revolutionary action involves just that, so we won't have to worry.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see

Totalitarian tactics in Castlebay censorship 17/3/10


Its rather like living in a totally socialist / facist state to see the line taken by CNES in regard to protest from Castlebay school.

When has free speech been banned ? The way government is supposed to work is that the government - national and local - work for the people and not the other way round.

So, get it right, and listen for a change. Don’t dictate. For the Barra folk, I hope you get the support you deserve on both the school and the hospital issues. Keep the pressure on.