Educational Dilemma – Is Censorship OK?

It’s a difficult problem facing most educational centers who allow access to the internet – how much should be restricted?   In an ideal world of course it would be great to basically allow unfettered access but unfortunately some students (and teachers) would be bound to abuse this situation.  Fortunately most methods now allow a fairly granular set of policies to be applied to a college or school internet connection.

The basis of most filtering technologies are white lists and black lists.  These contain sites which should always be allowed through and those on the black lists which will always be blocked.   Groups of sites can be applied to these filters – for example you can put all pornography sites in the black list so that they can never be accessed.  You should also include the sites which can be used to bypass the filters in the black list – such as ninja proxy and VPN sites used commonly for access media sites like BBC iPlayer in France.  It is essential you block these sites or installing the filter is pointless.

Alongside the technology should also be a set of procedures and policies.  Arguably the most  important is the ‘Acceptable Use Policy’ which tells all users of the network what they can and can’t do.  There is no need to be too specific in this document otherwise it could get rather large.   The document should however clearly state what is not acceptable when using the educational network.   It is also important to state that all activities are logged by the owners – which in itself should deter inappropriate use.

With these basic restrictions in place, there is no real need to implement any heavy handed censorship policies.  In fact these can sometimes be counter productive with users either not using the network or discovering ways to bypass any filters you implement.  If a network is heavily filtered it will create extra support requests when legitimate sites are blocked by accident

Further Reading: – http://www.uktv-online.com/bbc-iplayer-on-the-ipad-abroad/

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