TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: banned92.txt

Materials banned from net sites in 1992

Banned Computer Material 1992

Inspired by Banned Book Week '92, this is a list of computer material
that was banned or challenged in academia in 1992. Iowa State
University has the dubious distinction of being listed most often
(three times).

The list proper starts after a list of the academic institutions where
bans or challenges have occurred. The list proper is followed by
instructions on how to get more information about specific incidents
and then by instructions on how to get general information about
computers and academic freedom.

Please send reports, corrections, and updates to either
caf-talk@eff.org (a public mailing list) or kadie@eff.org (private).

-- Carl Kadie, kadie@eff.org, 
       co-editor Computer and Academic Freedom News
       Disclaimer: I do not represent EFF; this is just me.
   version: 1.09

=============  Academic Institutions ==================
   Ball State University
   Boston University (i)
   Carnegie Mellon University
   Iowa State University (i)
   North Dakota State University
   University of California at Berkeley (site of an unsuccessful challenge)
   University of Massachusetts at Boston
   University of Nebraska at Lincoln
   University of Wyoming
   Virginia Public Education Network
   Virginia Tech
   Williams College (the college not directly involved)
   Canadian universities
   Simon Fraser University
   University of British Columbia
   University of Manitoba
   University of Toronto (site of an unsuccessful challenge)
   University of Ottawa
   Wilfrid Laurier University (i)
   Wilfrid Laurier University (ii)
   Irish universities
   German universities
   Middle East Technical University in Turkey
   United Kingdom Net
   Iowa State University (ii)
   University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (ban ended)
   Boston University (ii)
   Iowa State University (iii)
   James Madison University
   Pennsylvania State University
   University of Newcastle
   University of Texas
   University of Toledo
   Western Washington University (& University of Washington)

=============== List of Banned Computer Materials ==============

+ USA:

Computer code at *Ball State University* to crack passwords
     ... even if it is never run. During a system-wide search, an
     administrator found the computer code. The user says "[i]t really
     bothers me that I'm going to get in a lot of trouble (probably
     anyway) just for the mere possession of a program."

Lyrics to Ice-T's Cop Killer in a .plan file at *Boston University*
     "Two people have complained to my department's chair... .He asked me
     informally to remove it.  I told him I would not do so voluntarily."

Articles in an open bulletin board at *Carnegie Mellon University* if
they offend
     The University threatened to investigate the author on charges of
     sexual harassment unless he stopped writing.

Material from the rec.arts.erotica newsgroup at *Iowa State University*
     To protest the University's ban of this newsgroup, a student
     reposted some of the articles to newsgroup isu.newsgroups. He was
     summarily expelled from the University computers. Later his
     account was restored. The incident made the front page of the
     student newspaper.

All "offensive" material at *North Dakota State University*
     Banned by the Policy on Misuse of Computer Facilities

Any electronic posting at *Princeton* that demeans a person because of
his or her beliefs
     banned by Princeton's Guidelines for the use of Campus and
     Network Computing Resources and the more general Rights, Rules,
     Responsibilities Policy.

Anti-Semitic material available at the *University of California at
Berkeley* via the Internet
     ... challenged by a student, but the University and the
     Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith said that censorship would be

All .plan files at the *University of Massachusetts at Boston* that would
not be given a PG-13 rating

All the alternative newsgroups (even alt.censorship) at the
*University of Nebraska at Lincoln*
     ... because someone might find some of the articles in some of the
     newsgroups "objectionable".  On April 6th the UNL Academic Senate
     Executive Committee voted to request restoration of the majority of
     the alt.* groups, but none have been restored.

Computer code at the *University of Wyoming* for Internet Relay Chat
     A student was told that if university searches turned up IRC code in
     his possession, he "would be disusered without hope for reinstatement."

Any network use on *Virginia Public Education Network* that violates
"generally accepted social standards"
     Such use is defined as "obscene" and is banned by PEN's Acceptable
     Use Policy.

Any "unwarranted annoyance" or "unsolicited email" at *Virginia Tech*
     ... banned by the Information System's Appropriate Use Policy.
      The policy is currently being revised.

The phrase "George Bush and his people need a bullet in the head" posted
to the Net from *Williams College*
     The posting led to a U.S. Secret Service and grand jury investigation.

+ Canada:

alt.sex.bondage and other "pornographic writing" anywhere in *Canada*.
     ... challenged in a CBC Radio show reporting that some police
     consider these legally obscene, and would like to suppress them
     if possible.  (The police haven't acted, but their statements may
     have caused some sites to ban material.)

All Netnews discussions of sex at *Simon Fraser University*
     The _Globe and Mail_ quotes the director of academic computing
     services: "It's the same as if somebody wants Playboy or
     Penthouse.  We don't have them in the university library." In
     fact, SFU has _Playboy_ in its library.

All "vulgar", "reprehensible", "pornographic", or "poison[ous]"
material that might be accessed from, created on, or stored on
*University of British Columbia* computing equipment starting with
newsgroups alt.sex and rec.arts.erotica
     ... banned by order of the president of the University

All Netnews discussions of sex at the *University of Manitoba*
     ... banned the day after a critical article in the Winnipeg Free Press

All on-line material related to sex at *University of Toronto*
     ... challenged in a broadcast by CITY-TV (an independent Toronto
     television station) that suggested the U. of Toronto should deal
     with the "problem" like U. of Manitoba did, that is, by banning the
     material. The U. of Toronto resisted the challenge and refused to
     censor the material.

The alt.sex* newsgroups at the *University of Ottawa*

All "profane" computer file names at *Wilfrid Laurier University*

The alt.sex* newsgroups at *Wilfrid Laurier University*
     ... because the administration thinks they are "offensive" and "puerile".

+ Europe:

Newsgroups at *many German universities* that discuss sex, including
discussion of recovery from sexual abuse
     ... banned in response to an article in the German paper "EMMA" .

Netnews discussion in *Ireland* of abortion

Netnews discussion via Switzerland's SWITCH of gay rights, of drugs
and drug policy, and of sex and recovery from sexual abuse. Also,
United Press International articles related to terrorism or sex
     SWITCH is an academic network consortium. The official rational is
     that this information *might* be illegal under Swiss law.

All on-line political or religions "activism" at *Middle East
Technical University in Turkey*

Newsgroups alt.sex*, alt.drugs, alt.evil, alt.tasteless and
rec.arts.erotica on *United Kingdom Net*
     UKNet is commercial network that connects most academic institutions in
     the United Kingdom. They say that they fear UK law.

+ Updates:

Most on-line discussion of sex at *Iowa State University*
     Iowa State University restricts access to these newsgroups. The
     rational for the restriction is Iowa's Obscenity law. That law,
     however, explicitly exempts universities. Since the original
     restrictions were started rec.arts.erotica has been added to the
     restricted list, while discussion of drugs and drug policy were

Email send to or from the National Center for Supercomputer
Applications (NCSA) that verbally attacks the Center or the
*University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign*
     No longer grounds for a computer file search

+ No Changes Reported:

Any computer files at *Boston University* that anyone else finds
offensive or annoying
     The rules at Boston University prohibit a computer user from "making
     accessible offensive [or] annoying ... material".

All rude articles at *Iowa State University*
     On-line rudeness is prohibited by Iowa State computer policy. A
     student was reprimanded for posting a rude article to the net.

All email containing "offensive" material at *James Madison University*

The alt.sex.* hierarchy on PSUVM, the main general purpose computer at
*Pennsylvania State University*

All offensive messages at *University of Newcastle*

All email or Netnews articles that "bring discredit" to the *University
of Texas* or its Computer Science Department"

The alt.sex newsgroup at the *University of Toledo*

More than a dozen newsgroups, including alt.sex, at *Western Washington
     They were removed from Western Washington University on the order of
     one person, the Vice Provost for "information and communication".
     Alt.sex remains at the *University of Washington*, but other
     newsgroups were removed right before a negative article was printed
     in the Seattle _Post Intelligencer_.

========= How to get more information about an incident =========

Following each item in the list above is one or more references.
For example:

In the first example, "news/cafv02n11" is the name of a file and
"<9202161945.AA24863@bsu-cs.bsu.edu>" is a message-id within the file.
The other example references consist of just file names. If a
reference includes a message-id, retrieved the named file first, then
edit it and do a text search for that message-id.

The files are available by anonymous ftp (the preferred method) and by
email. To get the files via ftp, do an anonymous ftp to ftp.eff.org
(, and  "get" the files.

For example:

  get pub/academic/news/cafv02n11
  get pub/academic/news/cafv01n10
  get pub/academic/policies/virginia.pen.edu
  get pub/academic/cases/wlu.ca
  get pub/academic/batch/oct_06_1991

To get the files by email, send email to archive-server@eff.org.
For the files in the example, the email should contain the lines:

send acad-freedom/news cafv02n11
send acad-freedom/news cafv01n10
send acad-freedom/policies virginia.pen.edu
send acad-freedom/cases wlu.ca
send acad-freedom/batch oct_06_1991

========== Other Information of Possible Interest ===========

All these documents are available on-line. Access information follows.

A description to the comp-academic-freedom-talk mailing list. It is a
free-forum for the discussion of questions such as: How should general
principles of academic freedom (such as freedom of expression, freedom
to read, due process, and privacy) be applied to university computers
and networks? How are these principles actually being applied? How can
the principles of academic freedom as applied to computers and
networks be defended?

A list of computer material that was banned at universities during (or
before) 1991. It summarizes incidents and policies at Ohio State U.,
the U. of Illinois (two campuses), Case Western U., Boston U., U. of
Waterloo, U.  of Toledo, Western Washington U., Iowa State U.,
Pennsylvania State U., U. of Texas, U. of Newcastle, James Madison U.,
U. of Wisconsin, and others.

This is an attempt to codify the application of academic freedom to
academic computers. It reflects our seven months of on-line discussion
about computers and academic freedom. It covers free expression, due
process, privacy, and user participation.

Comments and suggestions are very welcome (especially when posted to
CAF-talk). All the documents referenced are available on-line.

This is a critique of an attempt to codify the application of academic
freedom to academic computers. It reflects our seven months of on-line
discussion about computers and academic freedom. It covers free
expression, due process, privacy, and user participation.

Additional comments and suggestions are very welcome (especially when
posted to CAF-talk). All the documents referenced are available

q: Should my university remove (or restrict) Netnews newsgroups
because some people find them offensive? If it doesn't have the
resources to carry all newsgroups, how should newsgroups be selected?

q: Should my university allow students to post to Netnews?

q: Does a University reduce its likely liability by screening Netnews
for offensive articles and newsgroups?

q: Must/should universities ban material that some find offensive
(from Netnews facilities, email, libraries, and student publications,
etc) in order to comply with antiharassment laws?

q: Since freedom of the press belongs to those who own presses, a
public university can do anything it wants with the media that it
owns, right?

q: What guidance is there for creating or evaluating a computer policy?

The Library Bill of Rights from the American Library Association.

"Diversity in Collection Development"

An interpretation by the American Library Association of the "Library
Bill of Rights"

It says that collections should be inclusive, not exclusive. And that
materials should cover the needs and interest of all patrons. "This
includes materials that reflect political, economic, religious,
social, minority, and sexual issues."

On Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes Expression - An
official statement of the American Association of University
Professors (AAUP)

It says in part: "On a campus that is free and open, no idea can be
banned or forbidden.  No viewpoint or message may be deemed so hateful
or disturbing that it may not be expressed."

Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students -- This is the main
U.S. statement on student academic freedom.

The full text of UWM POST v. U. of Wisconsin. This recent district
court ruling goes into detail about the difference between protected
offensive expression and illegal harassment. It even mentions email.

It concludes: "The founding fathers of this nation produced a
remarkable document in the Constitution but it was ratified only with
the promise of the Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment is central to
our concept of freedom.  The God-given "unalienable rights" that the
infant nation rallied to in the Declaration of Independence can be
preserved only if their application is rigorously analyzed.

The problems of bigotry and discrimination sought to be addressed here
are real and truly corrosive of the educational environment.  But
freedom of speech is almost absolute in our land and the only
restriction the fighting words doctrine can abide is that based on the
fear of violent reaction.  Content-based prohibitions such as that in
the UW Rule, however well intended, simply cannot survive the
screening which our Constitution demands."


These document(s) are available by anonymous ftp (the preferred
method) and by email. To get the file(s) via ftp, do an anonymous ftp
to ftp.eff.org (, and get file(s):


To get the file(s) by email, send email to archive-server@eff.org.
Include the line(s) (be sure to include the space before the file

send acad-freedom caf
send acad-freedom banned.1991
send acad-freedom/statements caf-statement
send acad-freedom/statements caf-statement.critique
send acad-freedom/faq netnews.reading
send acad-freedom/faq netnews.writing
send acad-freedom/faq netnews.liability
send acad-freedom/faq censorship-and-harassment
send acad-freedom/faq media.control
send acad-freedom/faq policy
send acad-freedom/library bill-of-rights.ala
send acad-freedom/library diversity.ala
send acad-freedom/academic speech-codes.aaup
send acad-freedom/academic student.freedoms.aaup
send acad-freedom/law uwm-post-v-u-of-wisconsin

TUCoPS is optimized to look best in Firefox® on a widescreen monitor (1440x900 or better).
Site design & layout copyright © 1986-2024 AOH