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To censor or not to censor

by Archives September 29, 2009

Concordia’s Internet system grants students access to valuable online research databases. It also allows students to access distractions like YouTube, Facebook and pornography. Last year Concordia banned access to Facebook on campus desktops, alleging the social networking site posed a security threat to the IT system. Though the ban was lifted over the summer, the move raised questions about was could be accessed at school.
As far as online porn goes, “we don’t really filter websites like that,” assistant director of communications with ITS Mike Babin said. “When we do block a site, it’s because the site is causing harm to our network.”
The accessibility of Internet pornography at school libraries has been in the media recently. Earlier this month, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke against using filters to block Internet pornography in school libraries. “You’ve got to take a personal interest in the technology in your home,” McGuinty said. “You’ve got to understand what your kids have access to.”
Babin explained how attempting to filter pornography is hard. “You can try to do it based on keywords,” he said. “But when you find these keywords . . . is it someone trying to read about pornography or look at it?”
As an example, Babin referred to the url whitehouse.com which used to be a pornography site. Filtering “Whitehouse” at a library would prove to be problematic, Babin said, since it could prevent students from doing legitimate research.
Uri Vabrikantov, a third year psychology student, spends a lot of time in the library. “I am not very much for censorship in general,” says Vabrikantov. “We are all adults here, if you want to watch porn, watch porn, but I think most people would be embarrassed watching porno in public.”
On the other hand, second year psychology student, Richard Patenaude said he believes porn has no place in a public library, because it could be offensive to some people.
Babin has not heard of any complaints being filed in relation to pornography. He has, however, received complaints for hacking and online harassment. Babin said he isn’t concerned about censorship at Concordia, or if a student wants to waste time watching pornography. However, he does care if a person is wasting time watching pornography on a computer that could have been used by another student for academic purposes. Babin affirmed the university would not ban a site unless it poses a risk to the system or uses too much bandwidth.

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