Screening Twitter from Work or School

Employees Wasting Time with Micro-blogs?

Twitter is popular, and if it is not blocked or forbidden, it can depress workplace productivity.  Twitter is a free service that broadcasts text messages (also known as updates or tweets) of up to 140 characters in length.  Twitter can be addictive, as readers can enjoy the distraction of reading each little instant message as it comes in.

Twitter supports multiple media for sending and receiving.  Users can exchange tweets by way of web pages, electronic mail or mobile (cell) phones (text, IM or SMS).

Responsible use of Twitter can help employees perform their job. For example stock brokers might use Twitter to keep abreast of the latest financial gossip.

But many employers or teachers may have little tolerance for Twitter within their domains.  Although employees or students may need access to Internet-connected computers, Twitter can be a nuisance.  Administrators therefore might adopt a policy that bans Twitter, and take technical steps to block it.  Technical measures might include the deployment of software that blocks certain URLs (such as,,,, which support Twitter or its widgets).

Further, an administrator might use Internet monitoring software to discover which time-wasting sites users are visiting – the latest access points for Twitter and other worthless chat.

An administrator who monitors computer usage is wise to warn users of that fact.

Update:  Popular services like Twitter inevitably attract the interest of hackers.  Some Twitter users contracted the StalkDaily virus.  For some employees there is no reason for them to be on Twitter at work.  Security is an additional reason to block the access of these employees to Twitter.

–Ben Wright Mr. Wright teaches data security and e-mail records law at the SANS Institute.


4 Responses to “Screening Twitter from Work or School”

  1. Emma Says:

    Not entirely sure I agree with you … as blocking services such as Twitter because some people over use it is rather unfair to those who use it responsibly – and wouldn’t stop people with iPhones etc., accessing it – though clearly it would stop work owned hardware getting viruses.

    It would also, I’d have thought, be quite hard, in places like universities (or boarding schools for that matter), to block it from “work” places, but to allow it from halls/ accommodation blocks.

    SUre, if an individual is overusing social networks (and “socialising” on them, rather than it being a part of their work (e.g. if you’re a jounalist) – then prevent that particular user accessing social sites, but not everyone.

  2. Gando Says:

    I’ve been recently thinking that perhaps the average person doesn’t care about “productivity” as much as they care about communication with others. I see the use of these tools more as a rejection of a 60 hour work week, and a rejection of a fear of sharing and a move towards a life that includes being open and closer to others — even if it starts in a virtual way.

    A social revolution, as it were.

    Leveraging such tools, changing the bleak atmosphere of business in the US, and changing our ideas on productivity might soon be businesses only choice.


  3. Mike Says:

    Emma’s idea isn’t too bad, but it puts the burden the IT person to decide what is overuse and whose job it fits into.

    Owning my own business, I can’t see the gain for the business of risking yet more virus exposure for utterly idle chatter. The business doesn’t owe employees entertainment during working hours at all, especially outside of rest periods and meal breaks.

    There is obviously a disconnect between employer and employee when the average employee doesn’t care about productivity. Productivity is the difference between being the business that survives and the one that doesn’t. Big business is the worst for this with executives feeling the most entitlement of all instead of the most responsibility. And it is the responsibility of the owners (shareholders) to demand more of executives so that employees don’t feel like saps.

    But all of this begs the issue…it is the company’s computer so the company gets to decide how it is used. Ditto if you are using the company’s network. To me, work must be the focus and to do otherwise is like keeping on staff an employee who lets criminals in the door and makes them welcome.

    Employees that whine about it might consider that the time wasting employees are sinking the boat that supports them.

  4. jose Says:

    When your at work it is to work not to take 50 1 min breaks so you can tweet. if you add up all the time a person takes when going to have a cigarette, coffee, twitter and lunch that person has only worked less then 4 hours and the employer then need to pay them for 8 hours. Explain to me how that is a fair trade for the employer? Twitter and all those websites should be banned from the workplace. Do that on your own time not work time…

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