USPTO blocks web access to "Political/Activist Groups" including KEI, ACLU, EFF, Public Citizen, Redstate, DailyKos

Update: At 5 pm the USPTO called and said that the public access wifi network was using a filter, provided by a contractor, to block "political activist" sites. This filter was not used by the network providing Internet access for the USPTO staff. After our meeting, the USPTO reviewed its policies, and has removed the filter. USPTO says the filter was implemented by a contractor, and no one we talked to at USPTO was aware of who was being blocked. In any event, the filter has been removed.

Today I was visiting the USPTO, for a high level meeting on global negotiations on intellectual property and access to medicine. The meeting was held in the Stockholm Room, on the 2nd floor of the USPTO library, at the main USPTO building at 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, VA. The USPTO also uses these meeting rooms for its Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA). The USPTO offers free Wifi for the visitors. But when I tried to login to http://keionline.org, I received this message:

Access Denied (content_filter_denied)

Your request was denied because this URL contains content that is categorized as: "Political/Activist Groups" which is blocked by USPTO policy. If you believe the categorization is inaccurate, please contact the USPTO Service Desk and request a manual review of the URL.

For assistance, contact USPTO OCIO IT Service Desk. (io-proxy4)

We checked and found that the USPTO blocks access to a number of groups that have followed SOPA and the TPP intellectual property negotiations, particularly those critical of the USPTO positions on intellectual property issues. Among the NGOs that were blocked were aclu.org, cdt.org, citizen.org, eff.org, healthgap.org, keionline.org and publicknowledge.org. Among the sites NOT BLOCKED were the industry lobby groups BSA, MPPA, RIIA, and PhRMA.

The USPTO also selectively blocks certain blogs and new sites, including, for example, dailykos.coms, firedoglake.com, redstate.org, rushlimbaugh.com and talkingpointsmemo.com.,

Here are examples of what the USPTO blocks, and does not block.

Blocked NGOs aclu.org
cdt.org
citizen.org
eff.org
healthgap.org
keionline.org
publicknowledge.org
NGOs that are NOT blocked bsa.org
creativecommons.org
iipa.com
iipi.org
ipi.org
mpaa.org
PhRMA.org
pubpat.org
RIIA.Org
stockholm-network.org
Blocked Blogs and news outlets dailykos.coms
firedoglake.com
redstate.org
rushlimbaugh.com
talkingpointsmemo.com
Blogs and new outlets that are NOT blocked 71patent.blogspot.com
aljazeera.com
boingboing.net
dailycaller.com
democracynow.org
drudgereport.com
groklaw.net
huffingtonpost.com
ip-watch.org
itcblog.com
lessig.org
michaelgeist.ca
nationalreview.com
spicyipindia.blogspot.com
techdirt.com
washingtonmonthly.com

Cause of foul up

'Ex-Patent Examiner here. If this was anything other than a contractor foul-up, I'll eat my hat. There were a dozen instances where I'd need to call the help desk to access a website that would enable me to do my job.' If true, this means no one at USPTO tried to access those sites and asked for the filter to be removed since it was implemented.

... (OP here)

"If true, this means no one at USPTO tried to access those sites and asked for the filter to be removed since it was implemented."

You're making two faulty assumptions - that Examiners would

a) try to access non-work websites while at work (which we were encouraged to do as little as possible) and
b) complain to IT when they couldn't access non-work websites (another variant of block pages used to say "if you have a legitimate business reason to access this page, please click here, your IP will be logged," etc., etc.