Internet censorship hits top tertiary institutions

21 Sep 2008

The use of free access to music downloads and social networks, such as Face Book, Skype, You Tube and Edumela via the internet by both students and lecturers, has been blocked within Botswana’s top tertiary school premises.
Early last week, students in different colleges started noticing pop up blogs that informed them of their particular institution restricting the use of the sites they were trying to access.
Restrictions of websites in schools have been known to happen mostly in cases of websites containing pornographic materials.

Known cases have been identified at the country’s number one institution, the University of Botswana (UB) followed by the Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) and Limkokwing University.

Sunday Standard investigations reached the administration of Limkokwing University to find an explanation or meaning behind the internet censorship.
According to Mk Cheng, Limkokwing’s Director of Administration, the school has, in fact, taken a decision to block the use of social networks within all its campuses.

He particularly singled out the restrictions the school placed on You Tube and the world wide famous Face Book.

“Students spent way too much time surfing the net, downloading music and socializing on Face Boo;, they were misusing the free access to the net and in the end spent a whole day on the computer while another student wanted to do school work,” said Cheng.

Cheng said that even though they didn’t inform the students of their decision at first, they became aware and asked questions to which they were told the new regulations imposed by the school.
“The Information Technology department in our school is the one which dealt with the proceedings and the students will adapt to the arrangement,” said Cheng.

Still on that note, the IT Department at UB refused to comment and referred us to the Public Affairs office which denied any knowledge of the school restricting social networks.

Public Affairs Deputy Director at the university, Tefo Mangope, said he is positively sure that the university had nothing to do with the imposed restrictions because he recently found out there was a problem too.

“Lately, I can not receive my mail from CNN, and the process of opening my email accounts is way slower than usual,” said Mangope. “This might be because of a network problem affecting Botswana Telecoms Authority (BTA); they are also the ones who can put up firewalls and restrictions on the net. I don’t know of UB restricting any social networks of late.”

Mangope says it’s right to point in that direction because the BTA controls the speed at which information on the net is received and they have access to restricting certain websites.

As for why the pop-up blogs explain the blocking as a restriction from UB, Mangope says that the issue is of technical nature and that he would refer us to the IT Department where, once again, our questions were not addressed because a certain figure was apparently on leave.

There has also been a case where the pop-up blog would appear on irrelevant subjects to social networks.

“The other day, I was trying and I was denied access to information on a research paper about global warming,” said Kereng Kgosi, a third-year student at UB. “Immediately after I typed in ‘global warming’, the pop-up blog came up. I don’t know what it is about global warming that rubs the university the wrong way.”

The BTA is to make its stand in the next edition because they have to go through procedural channels to be able to talk to the media.