Students express frustration over Internet filtering on campus

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Maddison Shook | staff writer

The Internet can be a source of knowledge, but inappropriate images and websites can also be accessed, whether deliberate or unintentional. And because college students spend so much time online, APU has subscribed to an Internet filtering service that protects all students, faculty and staff from accessing any offensive or inappropriate content on the Internet.

Some students feel that the Internet filtering policy has affected their online experience negatively. “I have found that several of my regular sites have been blocked. Most often, the sites that I try to visit that are blocked are humor-related stuff such as,” junior graphic design major Caleb Barefoot said.

In an official statement from Information and Media Technology, or IMT, the purpose of this policy is “to inform, educate and set expectations for the members of the university community of their individual and corporate responsibilities towards the use of information, products and services obtained from the Internet.”

But what is deemed offensive or inappropriate is causing a stir among students.  Many feel that pornography and known source of viruses and scams are worthy of being blocked.

“I do not agree with the policy in its entirety. Yes, there is content that should be blocked such as porn sites, but to moderate content because it’s ‘PG-13 (or R) rated material’ seems to be overbearing,” Barefoot said.

Likewise, freshman international business major Kristi Shevkun is concerned that filtering sites with “questionable” or “tasteless content” is all too similar to the recently censored SOPA and PIPA debacle.

“We [students] came to APU to get a well-informed education. By blocking certain websites that might not completely support school policy APU is limiting our ability to learn different opinions and views. The whole ‘questionable’ category reminds me too much of a communist country, where propaganda is a norm and everything against the ruling party is banned.”

IMT explains that the filtering system has several different methods to how they filter websites. These include human review. Websites are reviewed by student life, faculty, and the deputy chief information officer for their content.  There is also a licensed contextual URL filtering engine, internally developed neural net analysis programs, and automated recognition of content labels generated by the Internet Content Rating Association, which Web developers often put on their sites.

This same group reviews appeals to unblock particular sites. Barefoot submitted an appeal due to the blocking of a site that was needed to his work.

“In early January, I found that I could not access my portfolio website because the host site, Deviant Art, a massive artist community, had been blocked. Thankfully, I was able to appeal the block, so I am able to access my site again,” Barefoot said.

Many students, though, feel like the policy is unwarranted and unnecessary. “The problem with the policy, in my opinion, is that everyone has a different definition of “questionable” and college students should be able to use their own judgment,” Shevkun said.

“I can understand wanting to censor the internet for the safety of the school network, against viruses and malware, found especially through file sharing, but I think it’s a waste of energy, resources, and time to try and censor internet access as if to protect us from the scourge of the internet,” Barefoot said.

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