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Not Violations of University Policy

This article applies to: Policy


Refer to Policy 6.4, Prohibited Discrimination, for obligations that apply in the Cornell employment setting.

Unsolicited Email or Junk Email

The amount of unwanted or unsolicited e-mail (junk mail) has increased as more people take advantage of Internet communications. You get things like this in the U.S. Postal mail on a regular basis - catalogs, advertisements, solicitations, and political propaganda are some examples. This form of speech is usually protected under the First Amendment, even though some people may find some of the content objectionable. Cornell does not monitor or censor email and therefore cannot prevent the flow of junk mail.

When you receive ordinary junk email, you may be tempted to retaliate by flooding the sender with numerous or large email messages in an attempt to disrupt their site (also known as "mail bombing"). However, mail bombing constitutes a violation of the university Responsible Use of Electronic Communications policy and violators will be referred to the campus judicial administrator. This is because more often than not mail bombing will either cause problems for your local system or disrupt service for thousands of other innocent bystanders.

Remember that junk mail is NOT illegal and it is NOT a violation of university policies or codes. You can either delete and ignore junk e-mail (this is the recommended approach) or if you feel the sender is legitimate and will honor requests, contact the sender and ask to be removed from any mailing list they have. Do not contact unknown or unreputable senders, or you run the risk of confirming that yours is a real email address, thus making them more likely to write to it.

Since 2003, e-mail delivered through the Cornell email system has included an extra header that indicates the probability that a message is spam. You can set up filters in your email application to send spam messages to a separate mailbox or directly to the trash. The Spam Control web pages have more information.

Many people ask why the university does not put a stop to junk mail. Most junk mail comes from sites around the Internet, not from within Cornell. We have no control over what these sites send and cannot distinguish unwanted junk mail from email that people want to receive. Note that chain mail is a form of junk mail that is a violation of policy and can be reported. 

Breaches of Online Etiquette

Things like off-topic postings to lists and news groups, advertising by posting the same message to numerous lists (also known as "spamming"), rude or impolite behavior, heated arguments (or flame wars), and some forms of hate speech will often annoy others. Remember that the Internet spans the globe as well as numerous diverse cultures and societies. What is acceptable in one may be totally inappropriate in another. Keep in mind that it is easy to misunderstand electronic communications due to the lack of personal contact involved. You can avoid problems by "listening" for a while when you join a group. After you determine what is acceptable, then go ahead and post. If you participate in a discussion and someone posts off-topic, be polite in pointing out the mistake and do not assume it is deliberate.

Cornell is not in a position to control etiquette. When these sorts of problems come up, you should try to work them out with the other people involved, just as you do in other areas of your life.

In some cases, rude behavior can cause disruptions. Any behavior that interferes with the ability of others to access or use a system is a violation of policy. See the section on Interfering with activities of others.

Hate Speech

Uncivil, antagonistic or derogatory speech that is disrespectful of classes of people is commonly referred to as hate speech. Although hate speech may be extremely offensive (particularly to members of the targeted group), posting hate speech does not generally constitute a violation of university policies or codes. This is because, especially as an educational institution, Cornell is committed to the protection of freedom of expression. In exceptional cases, however, the university may decide that hate speech directed to classes of individuals presents such a hostile environment that certain restrictive actions are warranted. Refer to Responsible Use of Electronic Communications for more information.

Adult pornography

Possession of adult material is not a violation of policy or code unless the material is illegal. See sections under Illegal Activities about Obscenity, Child Pornography, and Distribution of Pornography to Minors. Cornell does not monitor or censor newsgroups, electronic mail or any other electronic communications. However, if you would like to set up your personal computer to block pornography, you can obtain one of the many tools available for this purpose, such as CyberPatrol or Net Nanny.

Because the university does not censor adult materials, these materials are easily accessible on the network. If you are concerned about exposing your children to such materials, this is another reason why you should not share your password with them. In any case, please remember that it is a violation of university policy to share your password with anyone, including members of your family.

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Last updated: 

Monday, January 9, 2017 - 11:04am

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