Finnish university disables student’s anti-censorship mirror

Yesterday, the Finnish IT magazine Tietokone confirmed that a user’s directory on the home page server of Helsinki University of Technology (HUT/TKK) was taken down due to it containing a copy of the wrongfully censored anti-censorship site (mirror). The article hints that the student’s access to other parts of the school’s IT services may have been affected as well.

Helsinki University of Technology, auditorium of the main building

It seems like the world desperately needs another rant on censorship in Finland.

An institution such as a university is of course free to do whatever the law allows it to do with its resources. In this case, some limited non-research related use of the web server from which mirror was removed, is generously allowed by the university’s policy:

“IT services at TKK must not be used for commercial or political purposes. For example it’s forbidden to advertise a trademark, a product, a vendor or a company in email, newsgroups or web pages.

Information and discussion on students and staff associations is acceptable, but, for example, advertising around communal and state elections isn’t allowed.”

“Users can create a homepage on the TKK web server. Legislation determines restrictions on using pictures and music in web pages. Everyone is responsible for his or her own web pages. The same restrictions about advertising, commercial or political use apply to web pages, as well.”

I see. Mirrors of sites discussing unconstitutional law enforcement practices are political material!

I sincerely hope that anything related to politics isn’t advertising. WTF is a “personal page” without political commentary anyway? Policies like the one quoted above always sound a little bit like spineless encouragement of apathy to me, but I’m of course not burdened by responsibility for the public relations of an educational institution.

However, the statement of one Esa Luomala, Director of Administration at HUT, seems odd, unless your views on ideal handling of public relations in cases related to the removal of controversial material includes blabbering nonsense like this:

“Hän oli pannut meidän palvelimella olevalle sivustolleen linkin poliisin lapsipornoasian vuoksi kieltämälle sivustolle.”

which translates to:

[The student] placed links to sites ‘forbidden’ [sic] by the police due to the child porn affair, on his site hosted on our server.

I wonder if a person making such a statement is at all familiar with the issues at hand and their legal background. The Police haven’t “forbidden” anything. They’ve compiled a hugely unreliable list of sites that supposedly contain child porn, which some ISPs chose to cripple their customer’s Internet access with.

I’m not familiar with what kind of views HUT’s leadership has on censorship; the removal of the user’s directory may just have been an attempt to ensure that the university’s server wouldn’t be blacklisted by the Police. But this would be spineless apathy indeed. As I see it, not making sure that the server wouldn’t be added to any Police maintained list would be the only ethically sound alternative, until it is proven that the content of the removed site is illegal.

It’s clear that action is needed. If you are in Helsinki on the upcoming Tuesday (2008-03-04), you are invited to join a demonstration against censorship which will take place outside the Parliement  at 1 PM.

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