The Narco News Bulletin
June 2, 2000
University of California
Censors Web Site on Colombia Conflict
immediate history told on this page and in Anatomy of Censorship is a useful case study
in fighting for free expression on the Internet. And the BURN
battle isn't over: they've bodly retaken terrain from UCSD without
asking for permission. Officials have yet to respond. Narco News
Harvey Silverglate: "A
Cleaver to UCSD: "This
is already a BIG story and will circulate far and wide on the
notice came to the Narco Newsroom Thursday night:
submitted by a reader on a North American email list)
Today (wednesday May 31th, 2000), about
15:00 (local time) the Burn!
machine has been disconnected, and cannot be reached at http://burn.ucsd.edu
This decision was taken by the Department
of Communication of the
University of California, San Diego (http://communication.ucsd.edu),
Burn! machine used to operate. The reason was the "unusual
increase of the
protest calls that the Department of Communication regularly
receives." It seems
that this increase was caused by the attention payed by Burn!
to the FARC in
Colombia. It seems that this increase is not only quantitative,
but also qualitative: they were from important people in the
Last week, there was a meeting between
a Burn! comrade and the direction of the Department, trying to
find a solution. I guess this meant to remove the info about
the FARC. The page was not changed, and, because the "persistence
of pressures," the director of the Department of Communication,
saying he was "very sorry," disconnected the server.
I don't know what the Burn! comrades plan to do.
Those who want to express their concerns,
can write to the director of the
Carol A. Padden
Tel: (858) 534-2843
Narco News Commentary:
To those who believe that
freedom of speech and ideas exists in US academia, this developing
story offers a somber reminder of just how fragile the right
to free expression becomes each time the drug war heats up.
As US officials gear up
for increased military intervention in Colombia, the University
of California at San Diego -- even worse, the politbureau of
the "Communications" Department -- has now censored
an English language web site that translated some communiqués
from the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Not only does this electronic book burning demonstrate the lack of respect
for free study and speech by the state university, it also reveals
the top academics there to be just plain boneheaded.
How does censoring the
words of the Colombian insurgent movement contribute to
the peace efforts? (To the contrary, when words are not allowed,
violence becomes more necessary.)
The Narco News Bulletin
offers to publish the web pages censored by the University of
California as soon as we can locate copies of them. If anyone
knows how to contact the publishers of the censored Burn site
please contact us:
at 12:47 p.m., San Diego Time, Friday June 2nd
Replies to Narco News:
We would appreciate it if you would incorporate
the following statement into your story.
The UC San Diego Department of Communication
is no longer housing the server for the Burn web site. As you
may know, for the last several years, Burn, a student-run online
collective that hosted web sites for various non-profit and political
organizations, has been located on the Communication Department
web site. Over time, the Burn site has expanded considerably
with multiple links throughout the world.
Although the department has, until recently,
housed the server, neither the department nor the university
have ever been responsible or have had any editorial control
over the site's contents.
The UCSD Communication Department housed
the server because of a belief in the importance of providing
students with the informational resources to fully express their
opinions, political or otherwise.
However, as the Burn site has expanded,
and the university began to receive numerous inquiries on its
contents, it became increasingly difficult to identify who was
responsible and accountable for the web site, as the site does
not list names of individuals who are responsible for the page
and many of the pages also have no contact information.
Therefore, by default, the department
and the university have become the focus of communications about
and to various groups and anonymous individuals of whom we have
no knowledge or relationship.
Consequently, the Communication Department
has asked the individuals who are responsible for the maintenance
and content of the Burn site to move the server to another location.
As soon as the responsible individuals find a new location for
the server, the web site will be available again. The Communication
Department regrets the temporary break as the server is being
senior public information officer
university communications office
uc san diego
Thank you, Ms.
Davies, for your reply.
A few follow
1. If the people
responsible for the web site are "difficult to identify" then how can it be that
Communications Department has asked the individuals who are responsible
for the maintenance and content of the Burn site to move the
server to another location"?
2. If, as stated
in your letter, "The
UCSD Communication Department housed the server because of a
belief in the importance of providing students with the informational
resources to fully express their opinions, political or otherwise,"
why has UCSD
now ended its purported belief in free study and speech?
3. Has the University
of California at San Diego's Communications Department applied
this new standard to all the web sites hosted on your server?
And if not, why the arbitrary censorship of the Burn site?
4. Your response,
welcome and printed in full and uncensored (except for the correction
we made in the spelling of my name, which is Giordano and not
Gordiano) does not explain what content in the site was troubling
to UCSD or its Communications Department. The only allusion to
this in your response was your statement: "Over
time, the Burn site has expanded considerably with multiple links
throughout the world". Is there a rule or regulation
at UCSD that web pages on your sever must limit its links to
certain parts of the world and not others?
5. Do you confirm
or deny that the content that caused the censorship by the University
of California at San Diego was that which related to the conflict
for your response. We look forward to your answers to the questions
somewhere in a country called América,
Narco News Bulletin
on Saturday Morning, June 3rd:
Harvey Silverglate of Boston, one of the leading experts on civil
liberties in the United States, writes to Narco News about the
U. of Cal. censorship case:
It's been a
I was interested in your tale of censorship at the University
of California, mentioned by Declan McCullagh of Wired. In connection
with a non-profit academic freedom foundation I co-founded, THE
FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION (FIRE), I've been
working on the case of Chris Brown, whose situation with the
Univ of Cal at Santa Barbara is told on FIRE's Website:
in touch on any such UCal stories. A pattern emerges...
Peace and out.
83 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02110-3711
Office tel: 617/523-5933
Office fax: 617/523-7554
afternoon, June 3rd
University of Texas Professor Harry Cleaver, one of the world's
foremost experts on the internet and América, to USCD:
I am a professor
of economics at the University of Texas at Austin. I am also
the "owner" of the Chiapas95 lists operated out of
the Department of Economics. It has been with considerable dismay
that I have read reports that you ordered the closing of the
Burn! operation which has hosted the
Chiapas-l news/discussion list since it moved to UCSD from the
National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.
operation of chiapas-l from within UNAM we worried that the government
of Mexico might intervene to close down this important source
of independent news about events in Chiapas and in Mexico more
government controls the major mass media and has repeatedly kept
information it didn't like off the airwaves.) When chiapas-l
moved to UCSD those of us who do research on Mexico were relieved
because we assumed the list would safe from political pressure.
According to the reports I have read on the Internet we were
those reports you, or others in the UCSD administration, ordered
the closing of Burn because of protests letters from Colombia
from those opposed to the existence of a FARC webpage! I have
read several of those letters. None of them threatened anyone;
they were just the normal sort of protest letters one expects
from those who don't want the other side's story to be told.
This is common in cyberspace and it is what makes it a freer
media than any other.
Burn may be
able to move its operations to another server, but it should
never have been shut down in the first place if the stories in
circulation are accurate.
However, I don't
know the real story and I am trying to piece it
together. I would appreciate hearing from you about your role
and your understanding of the sequence of events that have occurred.
I can tell you that this is already a BIG story and will circulate
far and wide on the Internet. For the UCSD to shut down a student
internet operation just because someone objects to the content
is a clear violation of academic freedom.
If there is
more to the story than that, if there are any
mitigating circumstances, any good reasons why this decision
should not be reversed, please let me know. My interest in this
is both academic and personal. On the one hand I publish on the
role of the Internet vis a vis public policy making, and on the
other I "own" a list that might be the next target
of what appears to be politically motivated intervention into
about the Censored Burn site:
On the Chris
Brown censorship case at University of California at Santa Barbara:
The Shadow University:
The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses