Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blocked

Last week, folks in the CapitalNews 9 newsroom found that they were forbidden from reading Albany Eye. Why? Because the words bullsh*t and fu*king appeared in our Wednesday edition. This triggered whatever software they use to keep people away from nasty web sites. We later sanitized the words to circumvent the restriction. I suspect that it was the F-word that set off the alarm.

While aggressive internet filtering may make sense in a regular workplace, it's a bad idea in a newsroom. Researching stories sometimes leads to unsavory places ---and missing something on the web may mean a lost opportunity. We've heard that some media outlets block commerce sites like eBay; that's another bad idea. If someone is doing inappropriate things with their internet access it takes a network administrator about thirty seconds to figure that out, without resorting to draconian filtering.

There's no doubt that the web is a can of worms for employers. Last month, after Jun Wang was arrested on export violation charges, the Health Department fired him because he allegedly used his computer to "access nonwork-related Internet sites." By that standard, the entire Empire State Plaza would be vacant.