The Narco News Bulletin

June 2, 2000 Breaking News

University of California Censors Web Site on Colombia Conflict

June 9th: BURN IS BACK

The 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 stands vigilant.

Response from University printed blow

Attorney Harvey Silverglate: "A Pattern Emerges"

Harry Cleaver to UCSD: "This is already a BIG story and will circulate far and wide on the Internet"

see also Anatomy of Censorship

This notice came to the Narco Newsroom Thursday night:

(it was 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 anymore.

This decision was taken by the Department of Communication of the
University of California, San Diego (, where the
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 university.

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
Fax:(858) 534-7315

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:

story developing....

New at 12:47 p.m., San Diego Time, Friday June 2nd

University Replies to Narco News:

Mr. Giordano:

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 transferred.


Thank you.
dolores davies
senior public information officer
university communications office
uc san diego


Publisher replies:

Thank you, Ms. Davies, for your reply.

A few follow up questions:

1. If the people responsible for the web site are "difficult to identify" then how can it be that "the 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 in Colombia?

Thanks again for your response. We look forward to your answers to the questions above.

From somewhere in a country called América,

Al Giordano


The Narco News Bulletin

New on Saturday Morning, June 3rd:

Attorney 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:

Greetings Al Giordano!

It's been a long time.

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:

Please keep in touch on any such UCal stories. A pattern emerges...

Peace and out.

Harvey Silverglate
83 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02110-3711
Office tel: 617/523-5933
Office fax: 617/523-7554

Saturday afternoon, June 3rd

Letter from University of Texas Professor Harry Cleaver, one of the world's foremost experts on the internet and América, to USCD:

From: Harry M. Cleaver <>
To: Carol Padden <>
Cc: Harry M. Cleaver <>
Subject: re:closing burn

Dear Chairperson:

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.

Throughout the 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 generally.

(The Mexican 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 wrong.

According to 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 university affairs.


Harry Cleaver


Message Board 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


Anatomy of Censorship

Narco News publishes the private e-mails that led to this act of cyber-censorship