Northern Illinois University's terrible net policy censors political Wikipedia entries

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The university's new head of technology has instituted blocks for torrents, "obscene," and "unethical" pages, "misrepresenting identity," "political activities such as surveying, polling, material distribution, vote solicitation and organization or participation in meetings, rallies and demonstrations, among other activities" -- and any attempts to access blocked pages are logged and are grounds for disciplinary investigation by the school administration.

Included in the censorship regime are Wikipedia pages that deal with political issues -- for example, the Wikipedia page on the Westboro Baptist Church. Students and faculty are also prohibited from accessing social media from school computers.

When I teach university courses, my assignments require access to much of the material blocked by these rules, including anonymity tools. It's easy to see how totally unacceptable this is by substituting "head of technology's policy" with "head of the library's policy" and imagining a purge of all titles in the library that don't fit these narrow, absurd criteria. These kinds of rules have no place in an academic institution, and are an affront to scholarship.

Perhaps one of the most controversial of the terms is the restriction on political activities such as surveying, polling, material distribution, vote solicitation and organization or participation in meetings, rallies and demonstrations, among other activities. According to the policy, social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Foursquare are also unacceptable “unless associated with professional responsibilities.” However, students have reportedly been able to access social media.

To top it off, illicit activity discovered during “routine monitoring” is grounds for an investigation. The policy is loaded with phrases like “but not limited to” and “etc.” to make it all as vague as possible. What exactly each bullet point means is unclear, but the idea of such censorship is concerning students and Redditors alike.

“Explain to them that in the interest of advancing education you might need to access certain websites that may seem controversial or unethical/”illegal,” commented one logical Redditor.

University Bans Social Media, Political Content and Wikipedia Pages on Dorm Wifi [Sage Lazzaro/Betabeat]

(via /.)

(Image: big brother..., M.a.r.c., CC-BY-SA)

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