MaltaToday: No more Facebook for Government employees
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NEWS | Sunday, 23 December 2007

No more Facebook for Government employees

Charlot Zahra

Public sector employees are up in arms after the Government blocked access to social networking site Facebook on its Internet network, citing productivity issues.
Until now, a number of Government employees, including senior officials, have been quite active on Facebook during working hours, setting up their own profiles and sending messages to their online friends.
However on Wednesday, Malta Information Technology and Training Services (MITTS) Limited, the Government-owned company which manages the Internet network used by Government employees, blocked access to Facebook.
Even employees at the Ministry for Information Technology and Investments, which is more than keen to transform Malta into a top-notch Information and Communication Technology-based society, were out-smarted by the MITTS move.
For instance, Emanuel Delia, Corporate Communications Coordinator at the Ministry, vented his fury at the MITTS’ decision to block Facebook in a status update posted on Wednesday at 8.45pm.
“Emanuel is furious. The Torquemadas (sic) at MITTS decided Facebook reduces productivity. Could it be that in IT managers we have found a profession worse than lawyers?”
This brought the immediate reaction of Andrew Borg Cardona, President of the Chamber of Advocates, who posted the following message on Delia’s Facebook profile at 11.03 pm: “IT Managers are, indeed, like lawyers - they’re the people you run to when you have a problem only they can solve....”
Delia then replied the next day at 6.57am, still angry at MITTS’ decision. “You’ve fulfilled your function of defender of the faith (or profession as it were!) but you demean your trade with the comparison. Do you really believe IT Managers solve problems?
“As far as I can tell they fiddle with your machine and after a lot of mumbo jumbo say your problem can’t be solved and you need to spend a lot of money to buy a new machine. Come to think of spending a lot of money, the comparison can be stretched again!!” he told Borg Cardona.
“Glad to see you’re bright and cheery this morning....,” the eminent lawyer known for his girth, his defence of the tobacco industry and his weekly articles under the I. M. Beck pseudonym in The Times retorted a few minutes later.
At 7 am, Delia posted the following message on his profile in Facebook: “Emanuel is still angry at bloody IT Managers but having been reprimanded by the lawyer of lawyers is withdrawing relative comparisons of the professional food chain.”
For instance, a number of Communications Coordinators at various Ministries have their own profiles on Facebook, including those at the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment, the Ministry for Resources and Infrastructure, the Ministry for Investments, Industry and Information Technology, and the Ministry for Gozo.
Even Ministers have not been spared the craze, as some of them have now set up their profiles on Facebook, recognising its utility as a tool to get across to their constituents.
For instance, Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Frendo, Tourism and Culture Minister Francis Zammit Dimech, Rural Affairs and Environment Minister George Pullicino and Parliamentary Secretary Edwin Vassallo all have their profiles on Facebook.
Asked for the reasons why Facebook was blocked, MITTS chief executive officer Alex Attard told MaltaToday: “Use of the Government Internet Services which are managed by MITTS, is restricted for Government business use.
“There are no benefits from a business or Government perspective to be derived from accessing and using entertainment websites or services,” he insisted.
Attard explained that MITTS procures two website filtering services from specialised third party suppliers for the networks used in the public sector and also in public schools.
“These third-party suppliers classify websites under a number of different categories such as Entertainment, Lifestyle, and Hacking, among other things.
“MITTS gets an updated list of the categorised websites on a regular basis and blocks or allows access to specific categories.
“Therefore, if a particular website is categorised by the filtering service as Entertainment and MITTS blocks the Entertainment category, then filtered users will not be able to access any websites in that category,” Attard told MaltaToday.
Web filtering services have been in place ever since the introduction of Internet services by the Government.

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