Mormon-affiliated university lifts YouTube ban


June 28th, 2009

PROVO, Utah — Brigham Young University, the Mormon church school where students agree to live a chaste and virtuous life, has lifted its almost three-year policy of blocking access to YouTube.

Administrators lifted the ban on Friday, citing an increasing amount of educational material on the popular video-sharing site, university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said.

YouTube has its own filters for porn, but BYU added it to the list of Web sites blocked by campus online filters in 2006 because administrators felt there was too much content that could violate the school’s strict, conservative standards.

The university’s software also blocks pornography, adult content and violence from other sites.

BYU cited limited bandwidth as another factor when explaining the decision. But some professors have since complained that they couldn’t access relevant YouTube content in the classroom.

“I think there’s no other way but to provide all of it,” Jenkins said.

Students and faculty at the university agree to follow the school’s honor code, a list of standards in line with the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The code includes provisions against alcohol, tobacco and caffeine use, among other things. It also specifically labels pornography as taboo.

Also on Friday, BYU launched its own new Web site — — which explains the school’s Internet guidelines and advises readers how to avoid online threats like phishing and viruses.

The site notes that students and faculty at BYU agree to avoid Internet content and activities that are not “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.”


BYU considers unblocking YouTube on campus

Education » The move comes after the LDS Church embraced the medium

By Brian Maffly

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 06/10/2009

No one has ever been "rick rolled" at Brigham Young University, but that may change after administrators review a policy that blocks the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube from the campus Internet network.

The site -- which includes content generated by millions of users, including the very church that operates the school -- has grown into a potent cultural force since its 2005 launch, offering free access to a dizzying array of video snippets. These include ever-popular, though silly clips such as "Bizkit the Sleep Walking Dog," "Hammer Pants Dance," and the Rick Astley video behind the Web's most notorious prank -- the bait-and-switch gag where someone tricks a friend into opening an e-mailed YouTube link to Astley's 1987 dance hit "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Students critical of the BYU policy say much of YouTube's content has redeeming social and educational value, and that the school's unwillingness to allow access is somewhat incongruous for an institution committed to the free exchange of ideas.

"It's a pretty universally disliked policy," sophomore Kevin Blissett said. "Students understand why they block it, to protect the bandwidth to save it for academic material. But it ignores the larger cultural significance of YouTube."

Freshman Jeff Verhaaren enjoys music videos, especially clips of live concerts that are mostly unavailable outside of YouTube.

"It has so much content on it. Everybody uses it," Verhaaren said.

"It was pretty infuriating during the election season."

The Provo school's policy has survived even as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraced YouTube as a vehicle to disseminate Mormon teachings. The church's homepage offers a YouTube link to a 93-second clip featuring a devotional message by church president Henry Eyring.

According to BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins, administrators are re-evaluating the block because of the growing amount of educational material on the site.

"We aren't reviewing this policy exclusively because of the church information," Jenkins said, stressing that BYU students have always been welcome to view YouTube, just not from campus.

While the site features some material that arguably would not belong on a Mormon campus, the blocking policy impedes BYU students' access to clips like "Why Mormons Build Temples" and other Mormon Messages, the church's official devotional videos. They have been viewed almost 3 million times on YouTube, according to church officials.

Speaking at a BYU-Hawaii commencement in December 2007, church Apostle Russell Ballard celebrated the power of the Web to project church teachings and implored graduates to use the Internet "to share what you know to be true."

"We cannot stand on the sidelines, while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the church teaches. Perceptions of the church are established one conversation at a time," Ballard said in the speech, which is available on YouTube. BYU-Hawaii does not restrict YouTube.

Officials at YouTube, now owned by Google and headquartered in San Bruno, Calif., have no idea how many institutions block the site. Users upload 20 fresh hours of content every minute, but it is carefully policed, principally by other users and proprietary software that automatically flags images with excessive fleshtones and other attributes consistent with porn, said site spokesman Scott Rubin.

"We think YouTube is an important forum for free expression. People from ages 13 to 113 enjoy sharing videos and ideas," Rubin said. "We have hundreds of millions of members. We count on them to know our community guidelines and flag questionable content."

YouTube policies bar sexually explicit or violent material, as well as clips depicting "bad stuff like animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, or bomb making."

"We review flagged content very quickly," Rubin said. "We remove it in less than an hour."



BYU-Idaho administration promotes use of filters

By Christopher Reed - 10 Dec 2008

BYU Newsnet

BYU-Idaho's administration is urging students to use Web filters on their personal computers to guard against pornography and other unwanted material online.

"It's not a policy or a mandate. It's just a suggestion," said Kirk Rawlins, of University Communications Strategy at BYU-Idaho.

Rawlins said the initiative spawned at BYU-Idaho, and President Kim B. Clark has fully endorsed it.

BYU-Idaho created a Web page dedicated to the campaign, on the university's Web site. The university points out that in today's world, students and faculty are required to spend large amounts of time on the Internet for work and school. LDS church-owned universities and institutions provide Web filtering for Internet users using a campus or on-site connection. This BYU-Idaho campaign focuses on individual personal computers with off-campus Internet connections.

Erin Tolbert, 21, from Colorado, is currently a BYU-Idaho student and said while she hasn't heard about the campaign, she already has a filtering program that works for her.

The campaign is intended to educate students on the importance of staying protected from virtual hazards. "BYU-Idaho has spent time researching and testing various filtering software applications and recommends a product by Blue Coat called K9 Web Protection," according to the site. The software is free and available online to all students.

The campaign's Web site provides links to talks by LDS church general authorities as well as statistics to inform readers of the dangers of pornography.

"We wanted to educate students and employees," Rawlins said.

Rawlins said the university hasn't created any specific study to verify whether students and faculty have followed the council.

"The feedback that we have received informally is that they appreciate the recommendation," Rawlins said.

A warning from the late LDS prophet Gordon B. Hinckley is a key visual on the Web page.

"Stay away from pornography as you would avoid a serious disease," Hinckley said. "It can become habitual, and those who indulge in it get so they cannot leave it alone. It is addictive. " (Was Hinckley speaking from experience?)


BYU-Idaho Suggesting Web Filters For Students

Dec 5, 2008

By Amada Chabra

Local News 8 Reporter

Brigham Young University-Idaho is known for encouraging its students to strive for a higher moral standard. 

The school continues to live up to its reputation.  The administration recently encouraged students to download a piece of internet filtering software to their personal computers. 

Computers on campus are already protected from objectionable content by a firewall run by school administrators.  However, this firewall is designed to help students avoid stumbling onto questionable internet sites when working on their computers at home. 

The main concern for the administration: pornography.

"Right now, we're trying to get the word out to students so they can just be aware of what's out there, and have a resource to combat whatever bad content they might come across," said Kirk Rawlins with University Relations.

The service is called K9 Web Protection.  It's a free service provided by Blue Coat, a company specializing in corporate web filtering. 

K9 is free to download, and can be up and running on any computer within minutes. 

"The program is great because it's easy to use, and allows the user to determine just how much content is blocked," said Rawlins.

The service isn't required for the students to download.  However, the administration is hoping students will take advantage of the opportunity. 

"It's not that we're trying to monitor everyone on the internet, but we want students to know that we're working to help them stay away from temptation, especially with pornography, because that is an addiction," said Rawlins.

BYU-Idaho students appreciate the administration's concern.

"They wouldn't suggest it unless there was a reason, and the fact that they're watching out for us is nice to know," said Sarah May, a student studying Communications.

Coincidentally, Blue Coat, the company that runs K9, is the same company that provides the web filtering services for the Administrative Offices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  BYU-Idaho administration says they did not realize the connection until after the decision to choose K9 was already decided upon.


Mormon-affiliated university Brigham Young blocks YouTube access for students

The Associated Press

February 17, 2007

PROVO, Utah: The popular Internet video-sharing site YouTube has been blocked on campus at Brigham Young University, the Mormon church school where students agree to live a "chaste and virtuous life."

BYU's filtering software blocks pornography, adult content and violence. YouTube has its own filters for porn, but BYU decided last fall to add the site to the list of those blocked through the university's Internet service, The Daily Herald newspaper reported Friday.

"We use the filtering process for two reasons," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "First to protect students from inappropriate material. The other is because of our limited bandwidth. That bandwidth is used for academic purposes."

Students who live off-campus and have a private Internet provider can view whatever they want, although it may violate the school's strict, conservative standards.

Student Megan Timothy, who lives on campus, said she finds most YouTube videos humorous and wishes she could access the site from home, but she understands the campus-wide block.

"It's BYU, and they block everything," Timothy said.

Students and faculty at BYU agree to follow the school's honor code, a list of standards in line with the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The honor code includes provisions against alcohol, tobacco and caffeine use, among other things. It also specifically mentions pornography or other offensive materials as taboo and says using the BYU computer network to obtain or distribute pornographic material is inappropriate.

Jenkins said pornography access on campus is "not a huge problem, given that our students are understanding of our campus environment."

Students can access Internet video through Google, which Jenkins said is more easily filtered than YouTube.