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FSU Internet censorship sparks social media uproar

By Cassandra Russo

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, resident students using the Framingham State Wi-Fi were unable to access websites with images that were deemed pornographic.

According to an email sent to students by Information Technology Services (ITS), the censorship was the result of a software product, FortiGate, which served a “purpose of preventing malicious intrusion” into FSU’s Wi-Fi network.

The pornographic websites were “unintentionally blocked” during this process “due to a malfunction,” the email stated. According to ITS, the “malfunction” was resolved at 11:20 a.m. on Feb 26.

Rick Popko, a spokesperson for Fortinet, said the software “can enable IT administrators to block certain sites depending on what the security policy is on the premises.”

Popko said the only person who has the authority to restrict certain sites is the IT administrator.

FortiGate’s “unintentional” blocking was so widespread that an FSU professor’s website was blocked when it was categorized as pornography.

“Can’t get onto my teacher’s website,” tweeted FSU student Maria Katinas, “because FSU considers it porn... OK.”

The professional website of Carol O’Malia, a visiting lecturer for the art department, was blocked by FortiGate as it was considered pornography.

In an email to a Gatepost reporter, Interim President Robert Martin said the University “does NOT control, restrict, or Wlter access to web sites.” He was not aware of the issue until the problem was already resolved.

The concern, he said, was not with any particular websites, but with “maintaining the integrity of the information technology network, that is, with preventing viruses or malware from infecting the network.”

Martin said each student complies with the University’s Acceptable Use Policy before using the network.

The policy states, “Protecting and preserving the University’s computing and electronic resources is a cooperative effort that requires each member of the University community to act responsibly and guard against abuses.”

This policy, Martin said, assures that “any user does not block or limit other users’ ability to access the network.”

Martin said ITS was made aware of the blockage through social media. However, “Intervention could have been quicker if individuals had called the help desk.”

The censorship was discussed so extensively on social media that the nationally recognized website, Barstool Sports, published a blog entry about the incident.

David Portnoy, who writes under the username “elpresidente,” titled the blog post, “We Got More Emails From Framingham State Yesterday Than Any School Ever Because They Blocked Porn.”

In regards to the incident, he tweeted there was a “Framingham State Revolution underway.”

According to Portnoy, Barstool received approximately 50 emails from FSU students about the Internet censorship.

One email posted on the blog from an anonymous student said, “Apparently any students who live on campus have been blocked and restricted to visit porn websites. ... Who ... gets the right to do this? Perhaps a story on the media somehow, hopefully through barstoolsports, can put this University on blast.”

A second email Portnoy posted from an FSU student stated, “You’re blocking my right to watch porn? Where does it say in the amendments that a student doesn’t have the right to watch porn when he truly feels it’s necessary? I’m baffled.”

Portnoy stated a majority of the students who emailed him said they believed their constitutional rights were being violated. In response to this, he said, “I agree. Like sure, it’s easy to make fun of how outraged everybody is, but it’s not funny if it’s happening to you.”

Over 30 people commented on the Barstool blog post. A person using the screen name phoneyhero33 said, “I don’t go there but this makes me mad. Those poor kids!”

A person using the screen name suffolk-downs-degenerate commented on the blog post,

Many people took to the popular social media site Twitter to voice their opinions about the Internet censorship.

A person with the Twitter handle @Armstrong617 tweeted, “Framingham State blocked porn sites? What? There’s got to be an amendment saying you can’t do that.”

A person with the Twitter handle @MikeyyRamss tweeted, “Framingham State blocking every porn site says something about the social life there ... #yallneedjesus.”

A person with the Twitter handle @JKSilva_27 tweeted, “Absolutely the most unamerican move possible by Framingham state to block porn.”

A person with the Twitter handle @saraapandaa tweeted, “All this talk about blocking porn websites at Framingham State ... like seriously? Grow up. All of you are horn dogs.”

Framingham State student Colleen Sullivan wrote a song about the censorship and posted it on her Facebook page with the lyrics, “They’ve taken away alcohol, they’ve taken away cigs and now they’ve taken away all the porn. ... FSU, we love you.”

A person with the Twitter handle @AlvatrazIsland tweeted, “Framingham State: Alcohol Free, Tobacco Free, Porn Free and soon to be student free.”

[Editor’s note: Editors Kaila Braley, Michael B. Murphy and Brittany Cormier contributed to this article.]

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