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Concordia Blocking Access to Facebook

Concordia University has taken the remarkable step of blocking campus access to Facebook for students and faculty connecting via a wired connection (wireless connections can still access the site).  The University claims that it is doing so because of "concerns that the continuing reliability of the Concordia network could be compromised because of spam, viruses and leaks of confidential information related to Facebook use."  Say what?  The University is concerned about spam arising from Facebook use and so decides to cut off access?

Leaving aside the obvious – (1) if there is a real issue it makes no sense to allow wireless connections but not wired connections and (2) since when is this a network issue specific to Facebook – this sends the wrong message to students.  Facebook is more than just a popular social network.  It can be a tool for advocacy and education as well as a mechanism for student groups to connect.  Even if it wasn't useful, this would still be wrong.  Simply put, universities should not be in the business of blocking access to legitimate, legal websites.

39 Comments

  1. woot
    ALSO the peterborough resource centre
    ALSO is blocking Facebook
    in fact they are actively trying to block and censor your internet totally.

    Stand up for your right to communicate with your peers.

  2. read facebook TOS
    I don’t agree with most forms of internet censorship especially sites that can be used as activism tools. No offense to all you Facebook addicts but it clearly is a data mine used by law enforcement, P.I’s, and anyone else looking for information on people. I suggest all current facebook users watch for a short doc called “the truth about facebook”.
    youtube: [ link ]

    If you dont care then continue feeding them data I prefer blogs for activism tools; msn and something called a “t-e-l-e-p-h-o-n-e” to communicate.

    The network administrators in this case must have noticed a large amount of resources being used. Which is probably why they decided to either block those individual ips of the spamming market data collectors from facebook, or simply block the entire domain on the local wired network to freeup necessary network space for people with (what they must feel) have legitimate educational needs. They didn’t block the site entirely I would have to agree with this decision, if it weren’t for the fact that not all students are in residences or on wireless connections.

    Oh, and best of luck to the people who want to remove their accounts. Facebook will only disable ‘public’ access to it

  3. condemn Concordia’s decision
    Dear Anne-Marie Curatolo,

    I condemn Concordia’s decision to block access to Facebook motivating it by spam, viruses and leaks. Facebook is more than just a social network, it is a democratic tool for advocacy and education.

    Facebook is no more dangerous than the food we are eating every day.

  4. Bandwidth
    I doubt that the bandwidth used by
    users of Facebook at Concordia is a big deal. Concordia isn’t claiming so, for one thing.

    A very strange story. It sounds like a crisis response decision made without considering whether the people involved really had the authority to censor the web sites visited by students and faculty.

  5. so employees should be using it?
    So Michael Geist

    Is it okay for the employees at the university to be using facebook to chat with people etc
    when lets say in ontario students are paying 5000+ to go to school?

    Really? it advocates whats? let me guess allows employee to contect? ahah i know personally people that work at university and are on facebook chit chatting with friends.

    really great

  6. Today Facebook, Tomorrow— something el
    Thanks for highlighting this Michael!

    Joe – today it’s facebook that the university wants to tareget. Tomorrow it could be be LinkedIn, and then gmail, online banking or Blogger.
    All internet applications could become a target. You’ve got to stand for something, or you will fall for anything.

  7. Joe: Facebook was banned for Ontario government employees, and it was also wrong. Yes, we do pay taxes, but government should be using Facebook to connect with their constituents, because it looks like a large fraction of them is on Facebook now. Otherwise, you get to situation when Prentice “discovers Facebook this morning” to delay Bill C-61.

  8. imobiliarias santamaria
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  9. Collaboration with Facebook
    This is extremly disapointing. This is another way Concordia IITS has shown that they are not there for the students.

    I am a current Concordia grad student. I am very involved in academic and extra-academic groups and activities sanctioned by the University. And we DO use Facebook as well as other online services for communication and collaboration. In my department building (and most buildings) there is not wired internet for students.

    Perhaps there are better services we could be using other than Facebook, but the fact is WE DO RELY ON FACEBOOK CURRENTLY.

  10. more to the story, clearly
    Michael Geist’s commentary appears to infer quite a bit from the news release sent out.

    The news release talks about wired computers attached to the university network. I imagine that these are largely the computers of university staff. I also imagine that some particular incident led to this — it would be interesting to know what.

    Geist also says that there can be no reason to block a particular application from wired and not from wireless networks. Apart from the obvious difference in user base (students hook up via wifi, staff is connected via ethernet), those of us who administers large enterprise networks know that this statement is incorrect and really missing quite a lot of issues.

    There is a danger sometimes when lawyers try and play network tech. Maybe this is one of those times.

  11. Say What?
    If Concordia is worried about compromising the main network, then why not limit Internet access? Singling out Facebook makes very little sense since compromises can come from any Internet source.

    Even more puzzling is the wireless access and stating that there are ‘some’ dangers–okay… Also, when was the last time the RCMP stormed a campus, knocking down doors, demanding IP addresses?

  12. Re: Collaboration with Facebook
    Oops. I read the story wrong. I’m happy to hear IITS isn’t blocking Facebook for wireless students.

    Still, I know some faculty also use Facebook for academic social networking. I hope the “concerns that the continuing reliability of the Concordia network could be compromised because of spam, viruses and leaks of confidential information related to Facebook use” are actually significant enough for blocking this means of communication.

    I’d suggest that Concordia concentrate on improving their network security infrastructure instead.

  13. employees
    employees should be doing their job

    and not chit chatting on facebook or checking personal emails.

    your not getting paid to talk to friends or check what is going on with gmail etc.,

    your at work for a reason to WORK.

  14. CENSORSHIP = FACISM says:

    CENSORSHIP = FACISM
    enter the hacker, OH want to filter do you, ahh but i unfilter it and spread the word , then you spend taxpayers doallars and student cash to amke another one , and i redo a new way, adn so on.

    Big waste of cash and your all doomed

    get a dsl account wiht teksavvy
    go get xampp ( apachefriends.org )

    then google blog software
    then set up your own blogs.

    WOOT the isp alloweth me too.
    YOU can’t filter everything , cause when you do its a

    INTRANET not an internet.
    They tried this at my college and i “convinced” them of the errors of there ways.

  15. @ Joe
    Joe,

    You say \\\”employees should be doing their job\\\”. How is blocking Facebook going to resolve that? If they are productive employees they will use FB responsibly; if they are not productive employees, they\\\’ll find the next thing on the \\\’net that will waste their time.

    This move is bone headed; it does nothing to resolve the issue at hand. Rather than dealing with the root problem, they have shot one symptom.

  16. Not censorship
    I think many of the comments here are missing some important points, as is the original post. Targeting Facebook individually makes sense from a sys-admin perspective, as Facebook is extremely widespread and has lax security policies, probably moreso than any other website, which makes it an important issue for the school to deal with. This has nothing to do with privacy or data-mining or the other accusations that get flung around, but just with the fact that there are so many third-party applications related to it and they aren\’t sufficiently regulated or checked for malicious content.

    Addressing the issue of wireless vs. wired connections, there is a significant difference between the two, again from a sys-admin perspective. Wireless connections and dorm room connections are used by computers which are owned by students and are not actually connected to the Concordia network. They just use an access point provided by Concordia to get online. The wired desktops on campus are owned by the University, and each one has direct access to the University\’s servers, which is necessary for students to be able to connect to their own account and have access to their files from any desktop. Therefore, if a laptop or dorm computer is compromised, only that computer is effected and it isn\’t Concordia\’s problem. If a wired, on-campus desktop is compromised, this can take down their whole system.

    I am with you that censorship is unacceptable and I agree that the bandwidth related to Facebook is probably irrelevant to Concordia, but in this case, they are making a reasonable decision.

    For the record: I\’m a graduate of McGill and have never before been a defender of Concordia. :) I guess there\’s a first time for everything.

  17. @Astudent the malicious third party apps your referring to retain data and abuse privacy.

    Now imagine an entire network of perhaps thousands of people at any point in time downloading the crap that comes with the cookies and packets you accept while viewing Facebook.

    Each tracking cookie, each market data collecting IP, these are all very real and DO slow down connections (in a large network). All of these instances could have factored into the decision made by Concordia network administrators. On the other hand facebook isn’t the only social networking site that abuses your trust. Still don’t agree with this decision but I see where they are coming from.

    the office of the Canadian privacy commissioner opinion on facebook [ link ] (nov 2007)

  18. bone headed? no
    why is it bone headed?

    facebook, myspace etc, should at least be banned in the work places and centralized computers where people are getting paid to do work.

    If i had a school and people i paid spend their time on facebook or whatever u dam sure i would fire them.
    Example at TD where i work, its banned all over the place, msn messenger etc etc, and that is great, people should focus on work and do that crap at home. Big diference when someone is paying you to work.

    As for the students, e and e, i guessi can see why they would do that, but also it’s a ballzie choice to do. facebook, google, yahoo, etc etc all use the same techniques to track users so it doesn’t make sense why just ban facebook? maybe cause students spend to much time on it?

  19. Pathetic!
    I can’t believe I am seeing this many people support this corrupt and ***obviously politically motivated*** decision to block access.

    If you are wanting to restrict freedoms, you don’t deserve any yourselves. Plain and simple.

  20. what?
    @gregg I hope your not or never become a network admin at any school or institution
    but I can tell your a very good ‘MASTER deBATER’

    Comparison between facebook and freedom is hilarious, I guess it would be freedom too if Facebook knocked at your door every day and kindly asked to take every bit of information about you for free.

    what political motivation is in this? Everything you can do on facebook you can do elsewhere.

    That being said I would only agree with this decision if the network administrators truly felt (perhaps could prove) they were benefiting: the overall network security, the ability for students/teachers to access materials, and student/teacher privacy.

  21. @2008-09-12 21:53:30: Fail.

    If admins can’t secure wired computers, then how can this be Facebook’s problem?

    As for phishing, it looks like too many people simply deserve to be scammed: it’s Darwin’s theory at work. Closing Facebook or scanning with campus-wide antivirus won’t help, as users will persevere to open the infected ILOVEYOU file elsewhere. And Facebook is not necessary, there are plenty of other site where you can post your personal information for all to see.

  22. @Serge
    “I also imagine that some particular incident led to this — it would be interesting to know what.”

    I second this, the same thought idly crossed my mind while I was reading the article. I’m guessing something unpleasant happened involving an online indiscretion on the part of one of the faculty. But that’s just a guess.

  23. @what?
    Have you forgotten the driving force behind the Fair Copyright protest is a Facebook group? As well as the Vote Swapping group?

    Now tell me this blocking isn’t politically motivated.

  24. it would be politically motivated if every isp in canada blocked facebook; this is one university. Im sure their are other institutions and business\’s that are blocking it as well probably months if not years prior to the introduction of the bill. I do not have a facebook anymore, I fought for months to have my account removed. I fight for faircopyright the same as you I just choose to do it in the right setting where privacy can be properly advocated.

  25. a family friend was suspended from highschool in her last year over her comments about a librarian on facebook. The librarian tried to have her suspended for drinking juice (shes a diabetic known to seizure) in the library (with more computers than books)to balance her blood sugar. So the student wrote her thoughts in a facebook group filled with students and teachers from that school. What she didn’t expect was the amount of people who hated that particular librarian; she was referred to many times as “the book nazi”).

    Little did she know this librarian also has to much free time and managed to find out about the online negative comments. The girl was then hauled out of class one day to be served with a suspension. She even had to write an apology for the ignorant woman.

    That was the day my family left facebook.

  26. concordia
    I think the real reason Concordia is doing this is because they have such a lack of space and infrastructure for computer use that there is always a line for computers.
    Thus, by discouraging facebook use, they will discourage a line up for computers.

    The argument that people will socially organize so the university stopped it, is weak because what stops student groups from meeting and then blogging and creating facbook groups frmo home where they ususally access the internet.

  27. Their network, their rules.
    Do I agree with them banning Facebook? No.

    Do I think that Facebook is beneficial to education? No.

    With this said, it’s their network. Don’t like their rules, then write them a letter as to why you’re not choosing them.

    One might say “It’s publicly funded, therefore, the public has a right”. However, the Federal Government has banned facebook in most offices and so have some provinces, so, obviously the source of funding is irrelevant.

  28. And bill C-61 is THEIR rules
    @Trevor:

    And bill C-61 is THEIR rules, so, stop whining and take it.

    Or really????

  29. David Sanftenberg says:

    overreaction
    Calling this ‘censorship’ only serves to raise the noise floor so that real cases of censorship are harder for people to notice.

    This isn’t censorship. Wired connections at Concordia are mostly serving university employees. The university is acting here in its role as an employer of that staff to ensure they’re not wasting time on facebook when they should be working.

    This isn’t some elaborate political manoeuvre to subvert student activism. As has been noted, most students get on the network using WiFi, and facebook remains completely accessible.

    This reeks of overreaction, and isn’t something I’d usually expect from MG’s site.

  30. themusicgod1 says:

    Social Lubricants
    “Do I think that Facebook is beneficial to education?”-Travis

    Just because you’re incapable of using a tool to benefit you’re education doesn’t mean we all are. I have taken part of quite a few student activities that were organized from facebook, now. If your idea of a university is a bunch of profs telling you to read a bunch of books…that’s fine. But it can be much more–interacting with other students on a face to face basis, same with local businessmen, foreign leaders in your field, and so on, all within varied contexts.

    And organizing these things requires active student organizations, to put on seminars and to get people in contact with the right other people. And *that*, my friends, is what facebook can help with. It’s overhead, and unfortunately a proprietary layer on top of existing more or less democratic institutions, but only because there really wasn’t anything there before it that could do the job. The days of the lone academic working in the ivory tower might work sometimes(say in the case of Knuth), but Erdos outmoded that way of doing things long ago—today learning, and university in general, done right, is a very social activity. And facebook is a social lubricant. It reduces barriers to social interaction, in a very Coase-like way.

  31. themusicgod1 says:

    yes I know the difference between your a
    “benefit you’re education” ack ack, damn my posting on forums before bed. your your your your.

  32. I want to know who to contact about this. is there any office in the administration i can go to about this? or write to??

  33. write to Anne-Marie Curatolo
    You can write to Anne-Marie Curatolo who is mentioned in that press release.

  34. @Anon
    You’re drawing comparison between C-61, where our _elected_ officials are attempting to write into policy that anyone who (including myself) frequents this forum will obviously consider not in the better interest of the country.

    And the blocking of facebook, by a university which while receives public funding, are free to control their networks pretty much any way they please, without the need to ‘consult’ with the people that pay to go there.

    Concordia has every right to say some site is not going to be available to the general populace of their school. However, they are a business (yes, schools are businesses), if their clientele (the students) are overwhelmingly against this decision, then chances are Concordia will cave.

    But, if it is not an overwhelmingly negative response, you won’t see Concordia budge.

    Is it censorship? Yes.
    Can non-students do anything about it? Unlikely without attacking it from a political level.

  35. Stuart | Design Meme says:

    I wouldn’t worry about students voluntarily listing their email addresses in 3rd party systems if you have a publicly accessible email directory on your homepage.

    Like a number of other systems, Facebook can be used for goofing off or chatting with friends, but it can also be used for liaison work with potential students, alumni and donors; coordinating on campus groups and group events; and as another channel for communicating campus news and public on campus events.

    Concordia’s approach is certainly not a strategy I’d encourage other Universities to adopt…

  36. Written by Matt Forsythe on 2008-09-17 17:02:49I teach a new media class in the journalism dept at Concordia. We use computer labs to explore the concepts we discuss in class. Those labs don’t have access to Facebook any more.

    My gut reaction is this is a well-intentioned but overly bureaucratic IT department, that does not realize it’s violating some fundamental rules of free speech and access to information in a democratic society.

    CBC montreal called me today for an interview. Here it is:
    [ link ]

    Matt

  37. a university employee says:

    Facebook is a symptom not the cause
    Facebook is not any more dangerous than hotmail for phishing or spam. It is not more of a diversion than any other web application, like youtube, msn, flickr or the even the weathernetwork.

    As the poster above states, he uses Facebook for teaching his class. University employees use Facebook for recruitment, liaison, alumni relations, study group management, community relations, activism and a myriad of other legitimate reasons.

    Someone has probably done something wildly inappropriate. Concordia should set policies that govern codes of conduct and discipline those who don’t comply. Banning Facebook altogether from wired computers is a bit draconian and the rationale makes their IT department sound completely incompetent.

  38. don't click here says:

    Time Doctor
    Want to block Facebook at work?

    This software http://www.timedoctor.com/1 is better than blocking Facebook as it only monitors Facebook in work hours. Team members still can use Facebook when on lunch. Also some employees must use Facebook for their work so it’s silly to just indiscriminately block it.

  39. Whether an application is blocked or not, self-control comes from within

    Ive been using http://bit.ly/bJwmma .
    It uses a better method than blocking social media sites because it only monitors sites like Facebook during production hours. People/Employees still have the option to use it for a breather or during breaks really . Sometimes they use it for work too in helping reach decisions. For me its really unnecessary to block Facebook.