Saturday, February 07, 2009

Maryland legislature bans Myspace, Facebook from its computers out of "fear" of viruses


The Maryland General Assembly has banned Facebook and Myspace from assembly computers. When a user attempts to access either site from a legislature computer, he or she gets a DNS error.

The Assembly has said that the increase in viruses on member pages or applications in the past few weeks is the reason. Facebook has created some controversy with a few applications that it permitted, but reportedly tightened controls and supervision.

Although Facebook is now open to anyone to join, it has long been associated with the academic community and has always been stricter about acceptable use and has been viewed as a little more “conservative” or “professional” than Myspace, which has a reputation of appealing to teens. Many people have been particularly critical of pulling the plug of Facebook, which legislators could use to stay in tough with constituents (as they could use Myspace).

In fact, many political candidates have pages on both Facebook and Myspace (as well as Linked In, which is not affected by the Maryland policy).

One wonders why the Maryland Assembly does not have more confidence in the ability of its own IT staff or contractors to keep the system safe, with a variety of anti-virus tools. It may well be wise to use more than one tool. Instead of relying just on McAfee and Norton, Best Buy’s Geek Squad, for example, suggests that users and companies look at some newer specialized products like SpySweeper.

Neither Virginia nor the District, nor United States Congress has imposed such restrictions on social networking sites. I’m not aware at the moment of infections in any state legislature’s computers from a social networking site.

Some public school systems ban Facebook and Myspace out of concern for inappropriate conduct or predators, and some employers ban them out of productivity concerns, although in many cases social networking is part of the job and such bans are counter-productive.

A blog called “Legum’s New Line” as a detailed news story with links, here. (I don't think the blog bears any relation to "New Line Cinema"! But it calls itself "Fresh thinking from the Old Line State"!)

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