Is Northern Illinois University Banning Students' Access to Social Media?

- DEKALB- The Internet responded with a storm of anger this week after several reports surfaced online that that Northern Illinois University had banned students from accessing any social media, political activity or pornographic websites. Some websites compared it to the internet policies in China and North Korea.

However, the reports are false.

"That's [both] the beauty and dilemma of the Internet," says Jim Fatz, of NIU's Information Services, of the Internet's ability to disseminate information quickly and often without the proper context.

The rumor was started when anonymous student, under the username "Dark F", posted a screenshot to Reddit of what popped up on his screen when trying to access Wikipedia.  Dark F also attached NIU's Acceptable Use Policy, which was updated in July, claiming that it bans students from certain Internet websites.

"That's where the biggest misconception is. [The Acceptable Use Policy] does not apply to students," says NIU's director of media and public relations, Paul Palian.

Palian says the policy, derived from the Employees Ethics Act, restricts the use of NIU resources by the faculty, including computers and wireless networks, for personal use. The only part of the policy that applies to students is the restriction of malicious websites or pornographic material involving children.

According to Palin, NIU is "in the process of modernizing [its] network capabilities" and that the warning screen is a new feature to protect their servers from external threats.  The warning screen is displayed when the server detects a website that have shown a high frequency of being malicious or unethical.  Users still have the option of going through the warning and accessing the site, but currently, a user will have to enter their NIU credentials first.  Palin claims the system is "a work in progress."

Jim Fatz says, "Had there been a question and someone just called our help desk, we could of cleared it up immediately".  Websites like DailyDot and ran with the story without checking with the university.

The July 25th revision date for the policy is due to the name change for the Information Technologies Services department, which is being renamed the "Division of Information Services".

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