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  Acceptable use policy for web features. Web Sightings
Acceptable Use PolicyEvery time you add a web feature that is interactive, such as a guestbook, bulletin board, or event posting calendar you should have an acceptable use policy in place so these features do not become subject to abuse.

As a feature becomes more popular you always get to the point where you need to edit or remove submitted content.

Although a message or posting may be related to the topic or subject, you need to balance the concept of free speech with messages that can sometimes be inappropriate.

The idea of moderated or edited postings can be also less appealing in terms of encouraging users to post content so the application of a policy needs to be appropriate and not discourage legitimate postings and discussions.

You may also need to help users as they often post messages with incorrect spelling and grammar, and for certain content, such as a public events calendar, errors need to be corrected.

Posting features can also be enabled or disabled for specific users through passwords, but with public and higher volume sites can create additional work and you need the resources in place to manage the process.

The idea of editing submissions is also more difficult than reserving the right to remove submissions and for some web features you may need to do both.

You also need to consider the volume of submissions. If the volume is high, then editing is even more difficult compared to removal of inappropriate items.

Another strategy is to send an inappropriate posting back to the user before the item is posted and request them to resend, therefore allowing them the opportunity to make the appropriate changes.

Acceptable use of computers/technology policies exist on most campuses, but may need to be modified more specifically for web features.
Specific Feature Strategies for Editing and Removal
Feature: High volume: Low volume:
Guestbook Right to remove entries. Right to remove and edit all posted entries.
Bulletin Boards Right to remove entries. Specific disclaimer regarding nature of content. Right to remove entries and edit all posted entries. Specific disclaimer regarding nature of content.
Class Notes Posting Right to remove entries, and all entries should be edited. Consider password protected sites although password maintenance can be difficult with high volume. Right to remove entries, and all entries should be edited. Consider password protected site.
Employment All items need to be edited and verified for accuracy. All items need to be edited and verified for accuracy.
Events Calendars All items need to be edited and verified for accuracy. All items need to be edited and verified for accuracy.
Some Key Elements to Reference in an Acceptable Use Policy for Web Features
  • Should discuss an environment which encourages free exchange of ideas and a commitment to academic freedom in accordance with the overall institutional policy.
  • The policy should recognize that all members of the University community and users of a site are bound by local, state/provincial, and federal laws relating to copyrights, privacy, security, and other statutes regarding electronic media.
  • There should be a statement that connection to the web site and campus network is a privilege based on adherence to the policy and if abuses of policies or standards, resources, or abuse of other web sites are detected the network/web connection may be suspended.

    Users may not attempt to modify the system or network facilities or attempt to crash systems and that they should not tamper with any software protections or restrictions placed on computer applications or files.
  • There should be a statement that the institution protects the confidentiality of data and privacy of its users, to the extent required or allowed under federal and state/provincial law.
  • There should be a reference in the policy to protecting the safety and freedom from harassment for individuals, but that the institution cannot protect individuals from invasions of privacy and other possible dangers that could result from an individual’s distribution of personal information.
  • The policy should include reference to claims of infringement of electronically posted copies of copyrighted materials.
  • The scope of the information assets the policy covers should be addressed.
  • Roles and responsibilities of various users including external users accessing the campus through the Internet.
  • That all users, including those visiting through the Internet are expected to act in a responsible, ethical, and legal manner.
  • That abuse  may result in termination of access, disciplinary review, expulsion, termination of employment, legal action, and/or other appropriate disciplinary action.
  • That the institution reserves the right to edit or remove content deemed inappropriate.
  • That the institution cannot protect individuals against the existence or receipt of material that may be offensive to them and as such, those who make use of electronic communications are warned that they may come across or be recipients of material they find offensive.
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