Skeptic News: The 21st Floor blocked at Robert Gordon Univeristy

Today it tranpired that The Twenty-First Floor has been blocked by Robert Gordon University.

Students from the University emailed us to let us know that under the Universities “Tru-View” system the site had been blocked under the heading “hate and discrimination”.

The 21st Floor, as I am sure regular readers will be aware, contains no hate speech nor does it promote discrimination on any grounds.

I have emailed Robert Gordons IT support dept. for more details and to enquire why a site dedicated to science and skepticism has found itself listed in such a way.

I am currently awaiting their response.

But why would we be blocked under the heading “hate and discrimination”? Well we have recently run stories in two potentially controversial areas: Scientology and Burzynski.

Supporters of both these groups have accused critics of discrimination and hate speech against them for what can only be described as fair comment.  Thus our working theory is that supporters of one of these, or indeed another unrelated group, are attempting to censor our website for criticising them.

We are investigating how this censorship has been allowed to occur and will update you when we know more.

Apologies to any students studying at Aberdeen University or other institutions and organisations who find themselves similarly blocked and cannot access the site.

If anyone else has had similar issues please let us know so we can further investigate and discover just who is attempting to censor us.

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0 Responses to Skeptic News: The 21st Floor blocked at Robert Gordon Univeristy

  1. Richard says:

    I’m pretty surprised they actually implement an internet filter – the various university systems I’ve used never have. Is it because under-18s are common at Scottish institutions (though no similar filter at Edinburgh as far as I remember…)?

    Sounds bonkers anyway.

  2. Alan Henness says:

    Tru-View looks like a corporate system that is not directly maintained by the University, but by the supplier. However, the University will be able to override the block and reinstate access. Usually they just need to be asked to unblock the site.

    It might be worthwhile contacting Tru-view and asking for it to be removed from their database because it is likely to be used by other organisations, but it may be futile – I can’t seem them making individual changes and they don’t seem to have a way of making a request on their website.

  3. rgu says:

    Hello – please can this be updated to say the correct University – That being Robert Gordons University.
    kind regards,
    RGU.

  4. Adam Creen says:

    You could use this form: http://bloxx.com/support/request-support to submit URL for whitelisting

  5. Alan Henness says:

    I can confirm that this page isn’t blocked by Aberdeen University!

  6. Jim W says:

    The way these filters work (often but not always) is that “offensive” sites are reported to the administrator who adds them to the blacklist. This is open to all sorts of lobbying and special interests. The administrators usually do respond and correct errors if there is sufficient pushback but the problem is that the weight of evidence required to institute the block is minimal and quite often formulaic (i.e. not given much thought by whomever is responsible for adding the site to the blacklisting). Further, blacklists are shared and so propagate making it a lot harder to correct.

  7. Lee Christie says:

    Hi, I was the one that pointed out to Keir that I couldn’t see The 21st Floor from within RGU. Although it was in a tweet and the 140 character limit prevented me from explaining what I think the filter does and the exact name of my university.

    Tru-view may not have The 21st Floor in it’s blacklist database, and it may never have been reported. Although Tru-view probably contains both a blacklist and a whitelist, I think the way it works for most pages is it that it looks for certain keywords and so on and applies some kind of data mining / machine learning algorithm and then guesses that it looks naughty. Also, sometimes it will block a page, then change its mind an hour later.

    I’ve seen it block some other sites too randomly especially if I’m reading feminist-related material, I’m assuming it picks up on words like ‘rape’ and then block it for containing violence and sexual material.

    Anyway, I’ll go back to studying now.

  8. Tim Farley says:

    My experience is to look toward the vendor first, then to the particular site. Most sites install products like Bloxx Tru-View because they don’t want to bother with classifying sites themselves, it’s a mountain of work. Installing a commercial vendor like that gets you pre-classified site list with little effort.

    So pursue it with the vendor first, because if it is them getting your site reclassified will have a wider effect.

    Now, if it turns out it is in fact a local rule that was put in place, you’ll have to pursue it with the University. I have no experience there. Most of the university networks I’ve experienced in the U.S. are “wide open” just to avoid issues like this.

  9. Elkin says:

    Why wouldn’t you just tell the helpdesk like it says in the screenshot you posted? They seem to be offering to change it if you think its wrong, but your repsonse is to post it on the internet! Too weird.

    btw.. I study at RGU (not Aberdeen University – an error on your part) and its fine, so this has either changed since you posted this, or you’ve been fed misinformation….. or I’m skeptical, is that ironic?

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