Why Did Maryland Block Facebook All Together?

Are social networks to blame for viruses running on company computers? The Maryland General Assembly has completely blocked social networks Facebook and MySpace from the computers of state legislators and their staffs, citing an increase in viruses and malware that are affecting the computers of the Maryland General Assembly, according to New Line. Michael Gaudiello, who is the Office of Legislative Information Systems Director, sent out a memorandum telling the staff of the new 2009 policy.

It seems a bit strange that the social networks themselves are to blame for malware, but the memo states that weeks of analysis concludes that many of the infecting programs are originating from pages hosted on Facebook and MySpace. So to decrease the number of viruses affecting the machines of the Maryland General Assembly facilities, both Facebook and MySpace have simply been blocked all together.

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt, however, responded to the New Line by saying that the memo “incorrectly asserts that viruses are on Facebook” and goes on to suggest that the Maryland General Assembly machines may need more up to date browsers. Some up to date spyware protection on the machines could be helpful as well.

MySpace, Facebook and a number of other socially oriented web services are often the targets of phishing scams and the spreading of malware, but there are a number of ways to get around the issue if users are made aware of potential risks and machines are equipped with the right programs to prevent detrimental consequences of malware. Which makes Maryland’s response to the malware problem seem extreme and maybe even biased.

When MySpace and Facebook began to rise in popularity we saw many offices banning access to the social networks, namely to curb counterproductivity and strain on bandwidth usage. Could either of these more common reasons be contributing to the Maryland General Assembly’s decision to block the social networks all together?

It’s especially disheartening to see the Maryland General Assembly blocking these social networks as sites like Facebook have become great ways in which colleagues can keep in touch with each other, and offices like the General Assembly can reach out to others outside of their internal office. Whether for brand building, information dissemination or increased transparency, many offices, government and otherwise, have taken to Facebook for these reasons, and dealing with legal restrictions around access to and use of these sites is often a reflection of cultural acceptance (or lack thereof) within the work environment.

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