TSA Backs Off Censoring 'Controversial Opinion' Sites

After intense media scrutiny, the Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday backed off a new policy that would have restricted employees from visiting "controversial opinion" sites at work.

Employees at the TSA were initially informed last Friday that five categories of websites would be blocked on internal computers. They included: chat/messaging, criminal activity, extreme violence and gruesome content, gaming and controversial opinion.

But following questions about how broadly the last category would be interpreted, the TSA sent around an e-mail to employees on Tuesday saying "controversial opinion" sites would not be blocked.

"After further review, TSA determined this category may contain some sites that do not violate TSA's policy and therefore has concluded that the category is no longer being considered for implementation," the e-mail said. "Our intent is not, and never has been, to limit your ability to access or share 'controversial opinions.'"

The TSA explained that the five categories had been defined by their "IT software" and were based on concerns that those kinds of sites could either pose an "increased security risk" or violate the agency's "acceptable use" policy.

The TSA said in a written statement earlier Tuesday, before the revised policy was announced, that the agency "routinely" improves its computer system to stay ahead of "cyber threats," and that the technology limiting website access is part of that. The TSA clarified that it would not block access to "critical commentary about the organization."

The statement said the agency created websites like The TSA Blog to "promote diverse opinions."