Jay Rosen has written a fascinating article in the Guardian today about Johns Hopkin’s response to this blog post by Professor Matthew Green.
The short version of the story is that Green wrote a blog post about the NSA and cryptography on September 5th. Last Monday, Green received a takedown request from the dean of the engineering school claiming that his blog post contained “classified” information and that his use of the NSA logo was a violation of some kind. In response, Green took to twitter and made public some behind the scenes machinations which led to the takedown request. Happily, as of now, Green’s original post has been restored and his dean sent him this note of apology.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the story is the possibility that the original complaint against Green’s blog post came from within the university, perhaps from someone working on a project which received government funding.
As Rosen notes at the end of his article:
In commenting critically on a subject he is expert in, and taking an independent stance that asks hard questions and puts the responsibility where it belongs, Matthew Green is doing exactly what a university faculty member is supposed to be doing. By putting his thoughts in a blog post that anyone can read and link to, he is contributing to a vital public debate, which is exactly what universities need to be doing more often. Instead of trying to get Matthew Green’s blog off their servers, the deans should be trying to get more faculty into blogging and into the public arena. Who at Johns Hopkins is speaking up for these priorities? And why isn’t the Johns Hopkins faculty roaring about this issue? (I teach at New York University, and I’m furious.)
Notice: Matthew Green didn’t get any takedown request from Google. Only from Johns Hopkins. Think about what that means for the school. He’s "their" professor, yet his work is safer on the servers of a private company than his own university. The institution failed in the clutch. That it rectified it later in the day is welcome news, but I won’t be cheering until we have answers that befit a great institution like Johns Hopkins, where graduate education was founded on these shores.