More social communications news from the Vatican!
MySpace, Facebook users at Vatican hit firewalls
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Vatican employees are now banned from accessing some social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace while at work. [You know the old story. John XXIII was asked how many people work in the Vatican. He said, "About half." But I don’t imagine that Facebook et al. are really going the reduce productivity that much. The coffee breaks, maybe.]
People trying to poke a friend or post a status update on their Facebook page from a computer connected to the Vatican network will instead hit a powerful firewall that says the requested page cannot be viewed because it does not fulfill the network’s "access protection criteria." [I have experienced this infuriating page in a residence for priests who travel to Rome, a sacerdotal hotel as it were.]
The Vatican spokesman said the move is a "normal and prudent" measure that reflects similar strategies taken by other companies around the world that have blocked employee usage of social networking sites on office networks.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, told Catholic News Service June 16 that "there is nothing surprising" about the new ban. [You can say that again.]
Like many employers, the Vatican has long had firewalls installed on its network to block access to pornography, online gambling, and, according to the firewall warning page itself, any site that contains "inappropriate material." [Apparently the internet office of the Vatican doesn’t consider anyone adult enough to budget their time properly. There is, of course, the risk that some idiot would use the internet connect provided the Holy See to visit bad sites. Someone who cared and who was checking IP addresses of visitors might be amused to see that the IP sis registered to "Amministratizione della Patrimonia della Santa Sede". But this is being too restrictive by a long shot.]
Some Vatican employees noticed in late May that social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace were now being blocked. Other information sharing sites like Twitter, YouTube and Flickr were still accessible as of June 16. [I suspect their days are numbered.]
Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told CNS June 16 that the ban on social networking sites on an office computer network "is a fairly normal and prudential measure."
His office has been strongly encouraging the church to get more involved in using new digital media. It unveiled a new "Pope2you" Facebook application [Which Vatican employees cannot see now.] in May which lets people send and receive "virtual postcards" of the pope along with inspiring text culled from his various speeches and messages.
Pope Benedict XVI has urged everyone, especially young people, to use the new media in positive ways. [Except if you are in a Vatican office.]
When asked why the Vatican would institute the bans after it has been promoting these new forms of communication, Father Lombardi said the two things were not related. [They sure aren’t!]
Extending the firewall to include some social networking sites "is a rule concerning the internal use of work-related equipment in the office," he said. [Fair enough. If someone was spending the whole day online, that would be wrong: in justice employers deserve work for the wage they pay, etc.]
Msgr. Tighe said he believed online social networking is more appropriate from home and not the office.
Some Vatican employees said they were amused or outright angered by the Facebook ban.
One employee who asked not to be named said, "It’s understandable that people who grew up without computers would be upset that people are using (these social networking sites) on work time, but Facebook has replaced e-mail and has become a major news source." [Yes… and these tools could, potentially, by a major leak source as well.]
The Vatican employee said a ban on Facebook makes it much harder to keep in contact with individuals and issues that are intricately tied to their work. Also, when phone lines are down in Italy or in a country they are trying to call, Facebook is the way they can get in contact, the employee told CNS. [As the rest of the world surges ahead in the use of new tools of communication, the Holy See is crawling into the 21st century.]
Banning Facebook indicates a lack of knowledge about how the Internet functions and how it can be a valuable work tool, the employee said.
[This is good…] For example, Facebook users immediately posted news that in an interview aired Jan. 21 traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X had claimed that reports about the Holocaust were exaggerated and that no Jews died in Nazi gas chambers. [But… now employees of the Vatican won’t be able to access some tool, in their offices, which could help them stay in contact with certain sources of information and therefore avoid embarassing moments. I am not thinking so much of Facebook, but other tools.]
One Vatican employee said he read about the interview on his Facebook newsfeed Jan. 22, two days before the Vatican made public Pope Benedict’s decree to lift the excommunication of Bishop Williamson and three other bishops. [Oppps.]
"If Vatican cardinals had had their Facebook newsfeed going, they could have nipped that one in the bud," he said, referring to the controversy that erupted about why the Vatican would go forward with lifting an excommunication after the bishop’s objectionable comments had been televised.
"Given the Vatican’s foul-up with communication in the past, (the online networking ban) shows they haven’t learned their lesson," the employee said.
Well… I guess the old technology battle-cry I coined years ago when working there still applies!
"Yesterday’s technology tomorrow!"