University Bans Social Media, Political Content and Wikipedia Pages On Dorm WiFi

My understanding is that there was once a theory that America's public universities were havens of free speech, political thought, and a center for the exchange of ideas. I must admit that this seems foreign to me. I've always experienced universities primarily as a group-think center mostly centered around college athletics. That said, if universities want to still claim to be at the forefront of idea and thought, they probably shouldn't be censoring the hell out of what their students can access on the internet.

Yet, as btr1701 writes in about, that's exactly what Northern Illinois University appears to be doing.

Northern Illinois University enacted an Acceptable Use Policy that goes further than banning torrents, also denying students access to social media sites and other content the university considers “unethical” or “obscene.” A discussion on the ban was brought to Reddit by user darkf who discovered the new policy while trying to access the Wikipedia page for the Westboro Baptist Church from his personal computer in his dorm room. The student received a filter message categorizing the page as “illegal or unethical.” It seems possible to continue to the webpage, but the message warns that all violations will be reviewed.
While sites that only potentially violate the policy, such as the Wikipedia page for stupidest church in America, are still accessible after the warning, other sites that NIU has deemed offensive, defamatory, or threatening remain. These, oddly, include pornography sites, for some reason. It also includes social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIN, the latter of which seems like an especially odd choice since it's primarily a job networking site and I'd think that would be the kind of thing a university would want their students to be doing. Granted, this usage policy applies to staff as well as students, but that's the entire problem with a catchall filtering system like this: you block too much good along with the "bad."

But where this really goes off the rails is NIU's apparent attempt to stifle political discussion on their campus.
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...Isn’t it obvious that an institute of higher learning should be the last place to put a huge block in the information pathway?
It's not just obvious, it seems like the antithesis of what a public university ought to be doing. Forget the social media and pornography sites for a moment. Turning the filters up to the point when Wikipedia pages are blocked is insane. That site is a go to resource for, well, everyone, but probably especially for students. And the ban on political activism and traffic suggests NIU is turning a blind-eye to the important role that universities have always played in political thought and activism.

Shame on NIU for trying to strangle the internet access their students rely on as they learn and become adults.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:38pm

    LinkedIN, the latter of which seems like an especially odd choice since it's primarily a job networking site

    LinkedIn is primarily a spamming site, which is why it's not only widely blacklisted (same as any other spammer) but has faced litigation from its victims.

     

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  2.  
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    S. T. Stone, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:41pm

    Holy shit, they're going to lose the impending legal action over this so badly that even the Prenda Players will feel sorry for them.

    Okay last time I use that joke I swear.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:57pm

    Someone did some upgrades over the summer while students are out installed new systems and decided "Hey we should block x because it we get viruses and stuff from there... hey we can also block Y and put warnings up for a bunch of other sites". Now that students are back and bumping into the security warnings there will be a retreat and things will settle back.

     

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  4.  
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    Adrian Lopez, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:57pm

    Isn't it illegal for US public universities to restrict freedom of speech on campus?

     

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  5.  
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    Vidiot (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:58pm

    Re:

    Any sources or citations to share? Not sure I agree with that characterization... I only get periodic updates from groups I've joined, and those can be switched off.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:58pm

    HTTPS

    Wikipedia works perfectly over HTTPS (and in fact is already planning to automatically redirect to HTTPS).

    They would have to either block Wikipedia completely, or allow it all. There could not selectively block some articles but not others.

     

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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:00pm

    It is a life lesson for the students. The lesson is that this is what the world will be like with a corporate owned internet.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:02pm

    Re: HTTPS

    They can if they install a cert on the computers and man in the middle decrypt all of the traffic which is very common in the corporate world but not so much in academia.

     

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  9.  
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    AricTheRed (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Zoolander Refernce

    "Oh the files are IN THE COMPUTER"

    The interntet is not on campus, so, like, no problem man!



    Seriously however,
    By the way I think they are really going to enjoy their entree with a double side helping of lawsuit.

     

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  10.  
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    Trevor, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:09pm

    Well

    "It seems possible to continue to the webpage, but the message warns that all violations will be reviewed."

    I bet violators get placed on Double Secret Probation..

     

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  11.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: HTTPS

    They can if they install a cert on the computers
    Which they can't do on the students own computers accessing the WiFi

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re:

    I suggest searching for "linkedin spam" and reading what you find. You might also want to review relevant traffic on NANOG, mailop, funsec, sdlu and other cluefully-populated mailing lists of particular interest.

    My own spamtraps show LinkedIn activity going back to the middle of the last decade and continuing to the present day. They not only hit valid accounts but they target addresses which have never existed AND they continue to hit addresses which haven't existed in years AND they continue to target distribution lists AND...well, it just gets worse from there.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:15pm

    Re:

    What "impending legal action" would that be, exactly? They have broken precisely zero laws here, so I'd be very interested to hear about it.

     

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  14.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:15pm

    Re: HTTPS


    They would have to either block Wikipedia completely, or allow it all.


    HTTPS doesn't conceal what URL you're requesting.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: HTTPS

    HTTPS doesn't conceal what URL you're requesting.


    Yes, it does. What it doesn't conceal is the hostname. So they could see you are going to "en.wikipedia.org", but they couldn't see you are going to "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    very simple.. you install the Cert or you cannot load any HTTPS sites. Most companies roll the cert out but you can also setup self install- Browser gets redirected to a page that walks the user through installing the certificate into their browser.

     

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    Trevor, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:23pm

    Maybe this is an attempt by the Computer Science department to drum up interest.

     

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    Feldie47 (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    I've said for years that you certainly can get a pretty good high school education in America, but you simply have to go to college to find it.

     

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  19.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re:

    They've violated the students' right to learn.

     

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  20.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    Re:

    Yeah, dude, but this is on the intarwebs!

    And terrorists!
    And hax0rs!
    And think of the children -- attending university!

    Their young precious minds must be protected from encountering any controversial viewpoints. (Or things the university does not like.)

    So it's all okay. Like chill. This is a post 9/11 world and it's okay to censor things that might be dangerous.

     

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  21.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    Correct me if I am mistaken.

    Doesn't HTTPS actually conceal the hostname of the request?

    It just doesn't conceal the IP address, nor the fact that a moment earlier you did a DNS request for a hostname that happened to be for that IP address.

    And, you may be able to reverse DNS the hostname from the IP address after the fact.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Funny, but I don't recall that right in the current legal canon, nor do I think that it would be a defensible stance to take in this case. They're monitoring and policing their own network, not preventing people from learning.

    Is it shitty and stupid? Of course. Is it illegal? No way.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    AFAIK, the hostname in not hidden, because with multiple hosts on the same IP it is needed to select the correct certificate.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    It used to, but to enable virtual hosting (with different certs for each hostname), browsers now send a SNI extension with the hostname,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_Name_Indication

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:51pm

    Re:

    Answer: No, but with some qualifications.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A private school of higher learning might get away with this, however, I think NIU is a public university. It is not really "their network" is it?

     

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  27.  
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    Adrian Lopez, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re:

    College students have first amendment rights on campus as they do off campus. If there's any "qualifications" involved, they concern only exceptions to the general rule that on-campus speech is constitutionally protected.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    It is, after all, simply getting the students accustomed to the stifling censored corporate environment into which they will trust. So, it's a good education - right?
    /s jic

     

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  29.  
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    Ron (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Enrollment Drop

    If enrollment drops because they are censoring the internet they will backtrack on the censoring. North Western is in Ill.

     

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  30.  
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    Charles, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:30pm

    Allumni

    As a graduate of NIU some 5 years ago - I can just say that their techs were just as bad then as now.
    We used to have to install some cisco access client to every computer, and the client was only available on Windows... lol

    As must be typical for public college's the techs have more of a political leaning. All they care about is avoiding blame.

    While its weird to see NIU in the news on TechDirt I am not at all surprised

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:33pm

    Update

    Restricted access to social media sites only applies to university equipment and only following instructions to cease use of the equipment for such usage. The other restrictions still apply to personal computers on the network.

     

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  32.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Why should they get first amendment rights in college if they didn't have them in high school?

    Followup: why should they get first amendment rights in adult life if they didn't have them in college?

    That line of thinking can also be extended in the other direction prior to high school, but that is left as an exercise for the reader.

    Because terrorists!

     

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  33.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 2:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    Thank you

     

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  34.  
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    Eldakka (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    You don't have to install the cert on the computers.

    The firewall appliance that can be put in-between the student's computer and the internet can still do the man-in-the-middle attack, all it means is the student will get a warning in their browser that the cert isn't properly signed with an option to proceed anyway.

    This is what happens on my corporate network when I install a 3rd party browser that doesn't use the windows keystore (i.e. anything not IE) that hasn't had the appliance's cert put in it's keystore.

    I can still continue to the site, and the appliance still decrypts the stream, but I get a warning about it.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Legitimate question: are you not from America? Because "public universities" are still very much private institutions in America.

     

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  36.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    Yes, it does. What it doesn't conceal is the hostname. So they could see you are going to "en.wikipedia.org", but they couldn't see you are going to "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page".

    Cool, good to know.

     

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  37.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Legitimate question: are you not from America? Because "public universities" are still very much private institutions in America.

    In what way? They are owned and operated by the state, right?

     

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  38.  
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    Northern Ignorance University, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 3:36pm

    How cute, not like their a real school to start with.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Care to provide rational for your assertion, or should I just take your word for it?


    In the United States, most public universities are state universities founded and operated by state government entities
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_university#United_States

    I was unaware that a State government entity was considered a "private institution".

     

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  40.  
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    Aaron (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Re:

    It is remarkable how wrong you are. Public schools are not allowed to restrict the first amendment activities of their students, except for very narrowly tailored time and place restrictions. Many schools have been sued and lost over less than this curtailment of students' right to petition their government and to peaceably assemble.

     

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    Annonimus, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 6:36pm

    Re:

    Ha!

     

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  42.  
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    Vikarti Anatra (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 8:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    except when site in question eiter in preloaded HSTS list (in Chrome all google sites and a lot of others are here) or site asked client to use HSTS and client knew correct certificate (via other means)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 10:24pm

    "You can learn anything you want as long as it is what we want you to learn"

    seems a pretty clear message

     

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    Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 10:53pm

    I'm with Trevor

    I think this could be a means to get everyone in the habit of regarding a VPN as a necessary utility.

     

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    Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 10:58pm

    Clear messages

    "You can learn anything you want as long as it is what we want you to learn"

    seems a pretty clear message


    Reminds me of word usage regarding a child's education:
    ignorance concerns what parents / teachers want kids to know.
    innocence concerns what parents / teachers don't want kids to know.

    American society is becoming an ironic parody of human civilization.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 6:09am

    This is a situation for VPNs and TOR.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 6:28am

    Re:

    Yeah, NIU sucks. The English department probably doesn't even teach its students to proofread papers before turning them in.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 6:35am

    Re: Clear messages

    American society is becoming an ironic parody of human civilization.
    And nobody will be willing to admit it until Facebook tags us as [satire].

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 7:12am

    That's not gonna work.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re:

    Linkedin likes to trick its users. There are times when hard to notice check boxes are defaulted to 'yes' for options like 'send my entire address book an invite'. Anyone working for a large company has seen the effects of someone signing up at work and inadvertently spamming distro lists.

     

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  51.  
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    DNY, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 8:20am

    Two out of three ain't bad

    Actually as a university professor, I think discouraging students from using social media -- generally a way of ignoring one's studies -- and wikipedia -- the lazy student's approach to scholarly research -- by refusing to allow access to them using university hardware might not be such a bad idea.

    On the other hand, for a public university to try to suppress political activism is highly dubious on both Constitutional and academic grounds.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 8:30am

    Constitution Day

    Constitution Day is coming right up, September 17.

     

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  53.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 8:37am

    Re: Two out of three ain't bad

    Blocking access to such sites because students might get lazy is crazy talk. First, if their research is substandard, you address that by giving them a lower grade. Second, these are adults. If they want to throw away their tuition by actively avoiding learning, that's their business.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 8:41am

    Re: Two out of three ain't bad

    How is censorship "not such a bad idea"?

    Pointing out to the students how and why something may not be in their best interest is good, but at the same time not allowing them their own investigation is treating them as though they were children. This will not work. Treating college students as though they are adults, even if they do not act like it, will typically render better results than not.

     

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    nasch (profile), Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re: Two out of three ain't bad

    If they want to throw away their tuition by actively avoiding learning, that's their business.

    Besides which, if they really really want to spend time on Facegram or Snapvine (which apparently they do), they will find a way.

     

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    TestPilotDummy, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 10:36am

    I hate to say it, but...

    Who owns the WiFi? That's who decides what is used on it.

    I got no current love for colleges and their financial skulduggery, on that alone they ought be boycotted.

    Student Loans cluster "F."
    Who are these stupid people even going to a college at this point? It's time people take the "Think and Grow Rich" attitude. You don't need to spend all that time in college only to come out and not even know the first thing about how to build a telemarketing network for example. Instead, you should be getting an education which drives your Dream, and makes it so you CAN get your idea converted into reality.

    You might be a mechanic who can mount solar panels like a band of illegal aliens can slap a roof up in 15 minutes, but if you are STARTING a SOLAR business, you MIGHT need to GET some AC/DC, Digital Logic, RX/TX, Test Equipment skills, Soldering skills, IEEE skills/book(I just buy the current book), etc.

    Not much of that NEEDS to be LEARNED in a COLLEGE PHYSICAL.
    I went through it before we had calculators. Well the bowmar was out back then.... ya know with the "Konstant Key"

    Going to a college in light of all the crap--I say you need a pretty compelling reason to have to break boycott to gain skills needed to HOLD your business together.

    What difference does a degree matter if your still a fucking idiot who can't think independently?

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 5:30pm

    No problem there. If Mommy and Daddy do not like that censorship, they can set up the family computer at home to act as a VPN relay, then their son or daughter, while at school, can make a secure VPN connection to the family computer at home, and the university will not be able to monitor what they are up to. All they will see is an encrypted connection going back to the family computer at home.

     

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  58.  
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    Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 6:26pm

    Campus WIFI should be offered as "Limited"

    If they're going to have limited wifi, then it should be advertised as limited wifi, or it should be specified in the college prep disclosures that the internet service provided on campus is limited, and that students wanting full internet access will want to bring their own (say, via a telecom service, or via a local ISP)

    I suspect they don't make such a disclosure, or at least don't make it obvious.

    But the inference of their wording ("other content the university considers unethical or obscene") means that their intent is to block access by their students to this content as opposed to prevent such content from passing through school networks. The intent is parallel to unlawful restraint, to inappropriately restrict the legal actions of another person.

    Students should be advised of the dangers of lingering too much on social networks. They should be advised as to the dangers of referencing Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia, since Wikipedia is not especially inaccurate) when doing research for academic works. Students might even be advised to the ethics or obscenity (?) in question when going to sites that would raise such issues (and be allowed to challenge these opinions). But the way we learn things is by exploring why. If a campus official believes a given site is obscene, why is this not, in an institution of learning, instead being used as a debatable question?

    It sounds more like a codgery Luddite administrator lording his opinion over everyone else on campus because he as the power to do so, not because there has been some critical consideration of the consequences.

    May the students of NIU all master computer hacking during their studies. May the NIU network become a wretched hive of scum and villainy as a consequence of this policy.

     

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  59.  
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    Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 6:41pm

    That's a very feudal attitude.

    Who owns the WiFi? That's who decides what is used on it.

    That's a very laissez-faire position. If you apply the notion to any other commodity (land, library, country club, commercial service, restaurant, whatever) then we see situations in which has been decided to be in the public interest do regulate how its use is governed. Part of the problem is that not all registrants to the campus are necessarily informed of this restriction and may not be prepared to adjust for a closed internet on the fly.

    I'm suspect that this censorship policy will create a perverse incentive to use and explore the very parts of the internet that the school's administration hopes to block off.

     

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  60.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 9:34pm

    Re: I hate to say it, but...

    Who owns the WiFi? That's who decides what is used on it.

    It's a public school, so they cannot just do whatever they want.

     

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  61.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 9:35pm

    Re:

    If Mommy and Daddy do not like that censorship, they can set up the family computer at home to act as a VPN relay, then their son or daughter, while at school, can make a secure VPN connection to the family computer at home, and the university will not be able to monitor what they are up to.

    Just because there are ways around the censorship doesn't mean it's not a problem.

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2014 @ 1:51am

    Re: Re:

    How are they going to know what you are up to when connecting to the family computer back home.

     

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  63.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2014 @ 7:12am

    Re: Two out of three ain't bad

    I can agree with farcebook and beeper but Wikipedia? I hate Jimbo as much as the next man but it is a site that was useful for my learndings back then.


    sarcasm away : got my masters in 2007 and yeah, sometimes wikipedia was very helpful at completing our textbooks, organic chemistry books of that level tend to be pretty old

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Aug 24th, 2014 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How are they going to know what you are up to when connecting to the family computer back home.

    I didn't say they would. I said that just because there are ways around the censorship (ie your plan would be effective) doesn't mean it's not a problem. It's a problem not because the censorship is insurmountable, it's a problem because it's censorship.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    icon
    Austin (profile), Aug 24th, 2014 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: HTTPS

    Yes and no.

    Assuming that NIU doesn't have their own Cert, valid and signed (which, since I assume they offer at least 1 online class and accept online payments for said class, is doubtful) then this is correct.

    However, all NIU has to do is re-sign the page with their own cert, then do some DNS masking, and the user will get no warnings, as long as their own cert is valid for the masked domain. I've seen it done at a K-12 school here in Alabama. Since all the URLs are rewritten as being on schooldomain.edu, and the cert for that is valid, even visitor's browsers get no warning.

    Of course, then it's blatantly obvious that the site is being filtered because instead of wikipedia.org the address bar says schooldomain.edu, but if you're not paying attention or aren't tech savy, the transition is totally seamless. Especially on mobile devices that hide the URL bar after a few seconds (basically every browser on Android and many on iOS) then you probably wouldn't notice.

    But yeah, without a DNS masking, you'd have to accept their cert, or at least accept that it applies to *.com (and net and org) rather than a specific domain.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 25th, 2014 @ 8:26am

    Re:

    LinkedIn manages to achieve the dubious distinction of being even more annoying than Facebook. At least, it was that way before I deleted my account. I suspect it still is because I still get spam from LinkedIn, but when I Facebook stopped spamming me pretty quickly after I deleted that account.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2014 @ 9:39am

    Or there could be a reasonable explanation

    I've discovered as a busy tech person that when my company got a new web filter, the default setting was pretty darn strict.

    It is entirely possible that the filter was upgraded and that QA concerns that it is working as advertised must be completed before requested changes of sites to be unblocked can be processed.

    Any filter I have worked with has a setting to allow users to pass-through a block, but will log the IP address of the computer and the site visited.

    Did anyone put in a tech request to unblock Wikipedia? Did someone respond to that request?

    Having said that, it this really is some policy decision to block social media sites, then by all means, break out the pitchforks and torches.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 25th, 2014 @ 9:48am

    Re:

    "If Mommy and Daddy do not like..."

    Aside from the fact that technical workarounds don't address the problem, mommy and daddy is not always involved in the first place (and may not even exist, literally or effectively.) Increasingly, college students aren't there on mommy & daddy's dime.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 25th, 2014 @ 9:52am

    Re: Or there could be a reasonable explanation

    "I've discovered as a busy tech person that when my company got a new web filter, the default setting was pretty darn strict"

    There is no reasonable excuse for an IT department to accept the default blocklist without review prior to deployment. If this has happened, someone wasn't doing their job right.

    "It is entirely possible that the filter was upgraded and that QA concerns that it is working as advertised must be completed before requested changes of sites to be unblocked can be processed"

    Only if the college is deploying the upgrade prior to testing, in which case the IT department is failing at its job.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  70.  
    icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), Aug 25th, 2014 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Or there could be a reasonable explanation

    I really like that reasonable explanation.

    Though given that the university cited blocking cites that were "unethical" or "obscene". Those are the wrong reasons for an academic institution to be blocking sites.

    Contrast "people using the library computers for social networking are crowding out the people wanting to use them for research." While I still don't like it, it seems more reasonable to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  71.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2014 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: Or there could be a reasonable explanation

    Only if the college is deploying the upgrade prior to testing, in which case the IT department is failing at its job.


    Or they're like the IT department at my alma mater, who would install bug-ridden, untested, or entirely non-functional software simply because some faction which was doing well in the staff politics at the time had been convinced by a flashy marketing presentation and insisted it be installed right now, whatever it would cost, no excuses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  72.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2014 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: Or there could be a reasonable explanation

    "Obscenity" could be an issue in computers visible from anywhere other than the user's seat, because typical sex discrimination law includes rules saying that displaying anything obscene or sexually charged creates a hostile work environment, and employers are responsible for preventing their staff being exposed to it.

    Of course, in the US that raises issues for government employees dealing with the public, because the public's First Amendment free speech rights allow sexually-charged speech.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  73.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 26th, 2014 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Or there could be a reasonable explanation

    That's an example of the IT department failing at its job too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  74.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2014 @ 4:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Or there could be a reasonable explanation

    True, but the failure was externally-imposed, and if the board tells you to do something stupid after you tell them it is stupid (and why), the failure is theirs not yours.

    For one particularly bad package, it was pushed by an over-powerful administrative office against the hostility or disinterest of everyone else, and the conversation went approximately:

    Admin: We've decided that XYZ will be the new standard, to be introduced next semester and used for all courses a year after that.

    IT: That software is incompatible with the package in use in some schools already, it is horribly buggy, and doesn't fit existing administrative practices and policies.

    Faculties: We're not changing all our rules and policies for your convenience, sort it out yourselves.

    IT: We'll have to monkey-patch great big chunks of XYZ, that will take at least a year and cost $lots.

    Admin: Just install it and the lecturers can stick to the parts that work for them, and you can fix it while it is running.

    IT: That will be even slower and more expensive.

    Admin: What do we care? It is your budget not ours, just make it work.

    Board: They're right, do it the way they want.

    [A few years later, just as they've finally got it working...]

    XYZ's vendors: There's a new and incompatible version out, with all new exploits, bugs and misfeatures, and we're dropping support for the old version.

    Admin: Guess what, we've decided the new standard will be XYZ v n+1! You just need to get that working now.

    IT: *headdesk*

    Fortunately, that office had been acting like the worst seagull consultants everywhere else, and eventually all the other factions in the staff political landscape manage to gang up on them and get them disbanded.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  75.  
    identicon
    JP, Nov 19th, 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Re:

    I'm sure the University already applies some form of vpn blocking

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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