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CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS: CPS clarifies how Substance website was blocked. Substance requests that sites be notified when blocks are put into place.

Chicago Public Schools Office of Communications has clarified how the Chicago Public Schools blocked access to the SubstanceNews website. Although Substance still has not determined the precise duration of the block (it appears from our Site Stats that it began around April 16 and was finally ended April 20, late in the afternoon), data since the block was lifted show that during the time of the block, roughly 50 percent of the hits to www.substancenews.net were eliminated. Since April 21, access to www.substancenews.net from CPS sites has been completely restored.

CPS communications specialist Malon Edwards (above right, standing) observers some of the more exciting moments during the November 2008 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, the meeting that took place between the election of Barack Obama and the appointment of Chicago CEO Arne Duncan as U.S. Secretary of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In my response to the e-mail below, I requested that CPS notify websites that are blocked. This is for the sake of the site (which loses business during the block, like happened to Substance) and for the sake of Internet integrity (we'll begin calling it). After all, if someone is tampering with the SubstanceNews site and the tampering is discovered first by someone else, we need to know, too. During the time we were making the transition from www.substancenews.com (our "old" site, which we sustain as an archive) and www.substancenews.net (the current active site), we spent nearly six months debugging the site and fending off hackers and spammers. At one point, for example, we shut down comments to a particular article because of quasi-porn spamming, probably from children. Given the importance of the Internet — and the danger of both viruses and the problems of spam — major institutions and minor sites all need to arrive at ways to encourage the free flow of information while monitoring nonsense or worse (viruses and the like). When Substance learned of possible hacks into our site, our Web editor went through everything inside the site, but it wasn't until the following was received from CPS that we had an indication that some outfit had hijacked what we thought was our exclusive server space via Network Solutions. Now we'll work on how that happened.

Substance has also stopped all legal explorations resulting from the block for the time begin. In the context of the U.S. District Court decision in Lynch v. Huberman, however, teachers are advised to keep a sharp eye out on CPS censorship.

The following e-mail was received from CPS on April 27, 2010 and is being reprinted here as it was received:

CPS EXPLANATION OF THE BLOCKING OF THE SUBSTANCE WEB SITE RECEIVED APRIL 27, 2010

George,

Below is the clarification/correction regarding the recent issue with the Substance website. We would appreciate it if you would post it on your website. Thank you.

The CPS Information and Technology Services Department utilizes technologies from several vendors to protect the CPS network from malicious content. One of these technologies is a web filtering system that blocks access to websites that contains spyware, viruses, Trojans, and other malicious code.

During the week of April 12, 2010, the CPS web filtering system alerted ITS that the web address www.eyetide.com posed a spyware threat to the network. Based on that information, ITS manually blocked the IP address associated with the eyetide site. The blocked IP address is associated with an ISP operating under the name Network Solutions. ITS later learned that Substance News used Network Solutions to host its on-line newspaper. Unfortunately, the eyetide site shared the same IP address with www.substancenews.net. When ITS blocked the IP address associated with the eyetide site, it inadvertently interrupted access to www.substancenews.net and other sites that shared the same IP address.

As soon as the issue was brought to the attention of staff in ITS, they restored access to all sites associated with the Network Solutions IP address other than www.eyetide.com.

This action re-established access to www.substancenew.net through the CPS network. ITS later learned that www.eyetide.com was shut down by Network Solutions. At the time it acted to protect the CPS network from the eyetide site, ITS did not know that www.substancenews.net was hosted on the same IP address.

There was no intent by ITS or CPS to interrupt access to the Substance News site. When the issue came to the attention of ITS staff, they reestablished access to the IP address, with the exception of www.eyetide.com, by instructing the network to present an erroneous IP address when the eyetide.com URL address was requested from within the CPS network.

Malon Edwards, Chicago Public Schools, Office of Communications, 773.553.1616



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