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Ask Slashdot: Web Censorship on the University Campus?

Summary: A private university in Texas is censoring their internet feed. Students and staff get the willies. The CIO says this is a common practice and to get used to it.

Um, not around here. Heck, until very very recently we didn't even have a box with the name 'firewall' in the title between our network and the greater internet. We used router rules for that, good ole stateless packet blocking. Very complex router rules, but router rules none the less. Our staff and faculty are very sensitive to issues of freedom of speach, and have spoken out loudly about it over the past decade.

At OldJob we were just getting some form of web filtering in place when I left. It hadn't quite hit prime time but was really close. OldJob was also much more corporate than a public University. All it takes in a corporate environment for the censorship boom to fall is for multiple people getting caught with smut on their work machines (or a single person with anything that could be mistaken for kiddie porn). On the other hand, our Legal department had legitimate need to be able to go everywhere, so our filter needed to accomodate that.

My history may be a bad, but I've caught rumors that we operated an optional web-cache proxy for a while. That also caught grief for spying, since the squid access_log can be used to trace web usage. Yes, we're touchy.

ResTek is another issue. A while back we segregated our Campus and ResTek networks. The ResTek network is paid by student housing fees, IIRC, and not general fund, and is managed completely separately from the Campus network. Because it is the network that is in the dorms, it is used for everything from p2p to gaming to web surfing to skype to podcasting. SOME form of controls are absolutely required over there, which is why they have a packet-shaper and we don't. I don't know if they outright block any traffic, but I doubt it. I do expect that they slow it down a lot rather than prevent it outright. The ResTek network is much more ISP-like than the Campus network, and we have a lot of ISP-like qualities as it is.

So no, we're not going to be filtering our internet feed any time soon.

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You're right, we don't really block much at all other than a couple of ports (common windows exploit vectors).The goal is to protect the students (their computers) more than anything. We're not concerned with the sites they visit, but we do have to keep the health of our network as a whole in mind.Packetshaper has some definite issues...but all things considered, it's a great device and we'd be in big trouble without it!