Internet Censorship in Schools

This post is a direct response to this entry, which was a comment on this article.

(Some of this is based on my experience with the Ministry of Education and discussions re: Internet censorship.)

There are problems associated with any attempt to censor Internet access. Censorship software is not and never will be the complete solution in itself.

For example, it is (always) possible to work out a way around such software. They also have a tendency to block legitimate websites. So, even if you have the filtering software, they will create problems of their own and you will still need to keep a close eye on things.

An improved solution (in my opinion) is to educate users and to also let users know that you are always watching.

You begin by stating clear policy on what is acceptable and unacceptable use of the Internet. This is the education aspect. The best way to do this is still the most general way: to say that the Internet is intended for work and that any unusual use will not be tolerated (give examples: searches for Herbie the Love Bug are okay, Herbie the Love Slave less so, and Lolita the Love Slave certainly not).

Next, you keep logs and occasionally peruse them. Here, you can use some sort of monitoring software. Note that you don't block the access, but you are notified when access happens.

If (or rather, when) somebody crosses the line, you approach the student/teacher involved and you have a nice, long talk with them. This is reinforcement of education, if you like, although I prefer to call it the "are you stupid or what?" phase. You explain what they've done wrong, and (because you've given them fair warning) you punish them. Punishment can range from informing the parents to disabling their account to the usual ritual humiliation in front of the rest of the school.

Note that in this scenario, the monitoring (not filtering) software is only a small part of the whole process and, even then, not strictly necessary. The cost of these software (especially the maintenance) is not trivial and I would argue that the return on investment is poor.

What I have outlined above was exactly what was done in one of the schools I was working with. The headmaster was going through the logs and noticed that teachers were using the Internet to surf dodgy websites, as well as logging on to the Bursa Saham during work hours. He called them up to the office and talked to them. He did the same to a few students.

As a result, word spread through the school that although the Internet was uncensored and free, somebody, somewhere always could find out what you were doing, even days after the event, and self-censorship became the norm.
posted on Friday, May 27, 2005 - permalink
Well, Jeff Ooi is considered "Block pornography" in my college system.

how stupid is that?
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BTEFNET is dead; Long Live Bittorrent!

Experienced Internet users out there would have noted the recent crackdown by the MPAA, filing lawsuits left, right and center. More than a few Malaysian bloggers have felt this loss and although they moan about it, none have suggested how to help alleviate it.

I'm sure you realise that btefnet is only a directory, a list of pointers to .torrent files. Rest assured that the people sharing their videos are still around; you just need to be able to find them.

I'll focus at where you can get torrents for TV shows, and give the direct links to them, but most of these are links to general torrent sites anyway. I've also ignored sites that require registration:

If that doesn't satisfy your hunger, you can always check out, a continually updating directory of bittorrent sites. Unfortunately, sites that require registration are high on their list, so it's a case of caveat downloader.

If you're still really, really desperate to get the same BTEFNET service and don't mind using IRC, then you can log on to #BT on efnet.
posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 - permalink
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Times Warehouse Book Sale

Wow. Haven't written for sooo long. Anyway, big news of the weekend (amongst other large bits of news) is the Times The Bookshop Warehouse Book Sale. I found out about thise from Eyeris and only then The Star. There is an essay knocking around somewhere about how much easier it is to get Klang Valley related news from Project Petaling Street than from conventional news media, but now I want to talk about books.

The joy of a warehouse sale is rummaging through the dross to occasionally stumble across a bargain. Sometimes it's a book you've been wanting to get, but never really had the money for (The Clinton Wars, hardback edition). Sometimes it's a book that looks interesting, but you wouldn't otherwise buy (The Baghdad Blogs). And sometimes it's a book that just goes "look at me, look at me!" (No More Buddha Only Football).

And there are some real bargains if you look at hard enough. E got a box set of Stephen King's Dark Tower (Vol 1-4), still in its plastic wrap, for RM30. The travel books by Let's Go normally retail at RM110, but you can get them at the sale for RM20.

There are also some not-so-bargains. About a third of the room are novels that go for RM20-28, which is still cheaper than normal, but makes me go "Urr, I don't know if I want this" category.

My advice? Arrive early (before 10am), bring a shopping trolley (or one of those wheeled suitcases), lotsa money and clear at least half the day. I managed to get plenty of excercise hauling a box around the room that slowly filled to the brim. The only reason I stopped was because my arms were being pulled beyond their natural length.

For the curious, here is what I managed to rack up in five hours of browsing:

And, yes. I am assuaging my guilt over spending RM198 by telling myself what I actually did was save more than RM850.

Would I go back? Erm, yeah. There were copies of Michael Palin's Sahara that I was mulling over for RM40 (RRP RM120), as well as rumours of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell being sold (but I didn't see any on the Saturday). And a few other odds and ends.
posted on Monday, May 02, 2005 - permalink
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