Why Did Johns Hopkins Try to Censor This Professor’s Private Blog?

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Johns Hopkins usually likes it when its faculty member have smart, incisive things to say. Apparently that doesn’t hold true, though, when the “things to say” criticize the National Security Administration.

Yesterday, Hopkins computer science prof Matthew Green announced on Twitter that someone at the university had asked him to take down a blog post that apparently bothered someone at the NSA. The blog post — which isn’t even all that crazy! You can read it it here — included an image of the NSA logo and linked to formerly classified, now public material. According to Green, the Hopkins official also told him that if he didn’t take down the blog post, he should probably enlist the services of a lawyer. Yike.

Like any good advocate of freedom, Green declined to remove his blog post — which, incidentally, is in no way affiliated with the university. He did, however, remove the NSA logo, but kept the links to the (ex)-classified material.

Ultimately, it seems like Green was smart to call the university’s bluff. Later in the day, faced with potential bad press, the school backed down. “We did not receive any inquiry from the federal government about the blog or any request from the government to take down the mirror site,” Hopkins spokesman Dennis O’Shea said. “(And we did not, of course, receive any inquiry or request from the government about the personal site, though that never was taken down and we never asked that it be taken down).” Who, then, cared enough to pressure the university into pressuring this professor about his private blog? “I don’t think we’re ready yet with an answer on that,” O’Shea says. Hmmm.

“I’m baffled by this entire thing,” Green wrote on Twitter. “I hope to never receive an email like that again and I certainly believe JHU(APL) is on the wrong side of common sense and academic freedom, regardless of their obligations under the law. That said, I have no desire to cause trouble for any of the very good people at JHU so I’ll keep my posts off JHU property. I have no idea if this was serious or a tempest in a teapot.”

Conspiracy theorists take note:  Johns Hopkins receives twice as much money from the federal government as any other university — nearly $2 billion, according to the most recently available data. I’m just saying…

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