Kentucky Settles Internet Censorship Suit, Agrees to Lift Ban on Blogs

June 17, 2008

Kentucky Settles Internet Censorship Suit, Agrees to Lift Ban on Blogs  

Public Citizen Client Was Blacklisted After Criticizing the Governor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Commonwealth of Kentucky has settled a lawsuit with a political blogger whose critical comments of then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher resulted in the state “blacklisting” all blogs on state-owned computers.

Public Citizen’s client Mark Nickolas, author of the blog BluegrassReport.org, agreed Tuesday to dismiss the suit in the U.S. District Court in Frankfort, Ky. after Kentucky officials approved the settlement agreement. Louisville attorney Jennifer Moore also represented Nickolas.

Under the settlement, Kentucky officials agreed to no longer single out Web sites just because they are considered blogs. State officials reserve the right to block sites they consider inappropriate but agree to use a “viewpoint-neutral” standard that applies equally to all Web sites.

Public Citizen filed suit on behalf of Nickolas after the state started using a filtering program to censor all Web sites categorized as blogs. The state’s former top computer official stated in a court filing that the filtering policy was implemented because the governor’s office was unhappy with Nickolas’s blog, which was widely read by state employees and frequently criticized the governor.

Kentucky’s blog ban went into effect June 20, 2006, the same day Nickolas was quoted in The New York Times criticizing Fletcher, who was facing misdemeanor charges for claims that he had forced Democrats out of state civil service jobs in order to give them to political allies. Fletcher has since been defeated by current Gov. Steve Beshear.

“The state of Kentucky targeted Web sites it considered ‘unfriendly’ and, in doing so, violated the First Amendment rights of Mark Nickolas and other bloggers,” said Greg Beck, the Public Citizen attorney who handled the case. “We applaud the current administration for recognizing that the state cannot impose special restrictions on Web sites just because they are run by bloggers instead of big media companies.”

READ the case documents.

###