For roughly a 24-hour interval towards the end of last week, the Ferris State Torch website was blocked by our university.
The block was issued because of a virus scare, which after thorough testing by our Webmaster and the university proved to be a “false positive.” No malicious content was found, despite the warning bells being sounded if a user was surfing the site on Internet Explorer with a specific anti-virus program.
The block was especially suspicious because of its timing. It seemed to be synonymous with an article that we published about new, strict policies being issued towards Greek parties. The story was drawing a lot of buzz, and some were stating how unfair the new policies were. That is, until the content was blocked.
People reading from home were able to continue accessing our content, but any computer connected to Ferris’ Internet network was unable to open the website.
Ferris’ Technology Assistance Center received 14 complaints of the false positive, and in response blocked the website. Admittedly, this is initially a fair approach, especially in the wake of a serious security breach back in the summer of 2013.
However, the block was initiated and a university-wide notice distributed without any contact with any representative of Torch staff.
In addition, why the website had to remain down after ample testing on multiple fronts remains a mystery to me.
The Torch is more than just a rag to read over breakfast in the dining café.
We have our ears to the ground. Our eyes are inquisitive, and constantly searching for new and interesting stories to share with our readers. We are the bullhorn that allows our community to get their message out to a mass audience. We are the voice of Ferris State University.
For over 24 hours, that voice was silenced.
Of course, there were still newsstands carrying the Torch around campus and the greater-Big Rapids area. Though the reality is, news is consumed online in the modern age.
Blocking the website, even for a short time, was a form of censorship.
One of the fundamental rights listed in the Constitution is the freedom of the press. That right was violated when the university refused to lift the block on our website.
I understand the initial caution and measures taken to protect Ferris’ network, but after proving that our website was clean, there is absolutely no reasonable excuse as to why it had to remain inaccessible for so long after the testing.
We serve Ferris State University, just as we hold it accountable for its actions. When the university chose to block our website it chose to block our rights.