I spoke with an obviously frustrated man yesterday on the phone. Bill Moore is the Chief Information Security Officer at Valdosta State University, and he has the unenviable job right now of clearing up issues over a story that came out about the school’s new harsher policies in regards to the use of peer-to-peer (p2p) software on the campus Internet system. “My inbox is full,” he said with his voice trailing off. Why the frustrations? Poor reporting.

valdostaOn Thursday Nov. 11th, the student newspaper, The Spectator, ran a story about new software that would alert the school to anyone using p2p software.  The students would then be disciplined by the school, and then be reported to the police where they could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The problem is that the story was incorrect.  “We have never reported students to the police, nor would we,” Mr. Moore told me.  He went on to add, “We have no idea where the piece of information came from as we never said it, but we are asking for a retraction, and we promise that no one is being reported.”  The school newspaper has now pulled down the story and the link only results in a 404 “page not found” error.

My original intention for calling was to learn how the school planned to deal with legal torrent instances like Blizzard disturbing World of Warcraft patches and updates via their customized torrent client.  In all of the articles I read about this story, everyone focused on the police aspect, and no one was mentioning if there were any exceptions where the software would be allowed.

I can understand calling for quotes or verifications is not exactly glamorous, and it did take me all day to track down Mr. Moore, but it comes with the territory.  He went on to add that they are requesting that the school newspaper run corrections this week, which with the original posting having been pulled they are obviously planning something.

Admittedly I was pretty worked up by the story when I first read it as I saw a lot of potential issues with students facing criminal charges, and now I feel for the university.  Between sites such as TorrentFreak and Slashdot running the incorrect stories, the school is having a lot of undeserved hate heaped on it.

It also makes me question the state of the nature of blogging.  It’s easy to see a story such as this and just run with it, but I felt I had to at least get some clarifications from them, and I’m glad I did.  Bloggers have been striving to be taken seriously as journalists, but yet a goodly number of us can’t be bothered to follow up on stories for clarifications or quotes.

All that said, this is not the end of p2p software or torrents at Valdosta.  Mr. Moore assured me that if there is a legitimate use for the technology they are quickly being approved and put on a list as being allowed by the school.  When I mentioned the World of Warcraft updates, he interrupted me and said, “They’re allowed!  They’re allowed!  Can you imagine the riot we would have had on our hands if they weren’t?”

Is it just me, or isn’t school for studying?

What say you?  Is Valdosta right for banning illegal torrents?