Jun 29, 2009

BYU Lifts Ban on YouTube

Here we were all worried about China and the filters they are insisting be put on computers sold to Chinese citizens, when lo and behold it turns out that Brigham Young University (BYU) has been blocking student access to YouTube almost since it went online in 2005. Concerned about the lusty nature and bad language of some of the videos shared, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints originally condemned YouTube because it allowed “inappropriate sexual media throughout its URL’s,” and school filters could not clean things up enough for student viewing. Google Video was not subject to the campus-wide ban because BYU officials could selectively block videos containing offensive material. Unlike the Chinese who want control over all social networking sites, however, BYU curiously chose not to block Facebook and MySpace. I guess they never checked out the “30 Reasons Girls Should Call It a Night” group.

But that is all history; a new day has dawned. Effective last Friday, the BYU ban on YouTube is lifted. Evidently Church Elders had a change of heart and decided that the value of the website’s educational content outweighed the sinful. It turns out that certain BYU classes were already using a secret password to get around the ban to broadcast approved YouTube videos. You can bet they weren’t looking at anything irreverent, violent, or pornographic, and that's fine. But now, all students may access Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” or Paul Potts singing Nessun Dorma. In fact, the Church has launched a YouTube channel and posted public affairs videos showing Elders explaining church beliefs. And if you have any lingering questions about the appropriateness of website content, BYU has opened a new site called BeSafe Online, which covers spam and phishing, viruses and malware, web content, social networking, and gaming.

BYU’s honor code requires all students and faculty to avoid internet content that is not “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy." Unless I missed something, YouTube hasn’t changed much since last Friday and there is plenty that is not praiseworthy. At least the school administration has backed off, and students have the choice whether or not to use good judgment in their viewing. Sounds like growing up to me.


  1. Ms. G. - I was wondering whether the BYU students were being aware of what was censored or why? That is, did the school publish its policy (and did it block sites other than youtube -- presumably there are a lot of other sites that are far less "lovely" than youtube) or were students just mysteriously faced with error messages when they tried to access the site? It's interesting to think how much influence a policy like this can have over what students learn about what's going on in the world...

  2. JGS,
    Evidently BYU routinely blocks sites found offensive by a group of school officials charged with monitoring the internet. Violence, pornography, and adult content are the three most-frequently given reasons for sites being eliminated. For example, BYU blocks Fredericks of Hollywood. Blogs believed to be offensive or insulting to the Mormon faith are also filtered by their system. And yes, students receive a huge red message that reads, "Blocked," if they attempt to access a banned site.

    The original reason given for banning YouTube involved some complicated explanation of limitations in bandwidth which needed to be reserved for academic purposes. As of Friday, that problem went away.