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MAPPING-CYBERSPACE  March 2001

MAPPING-CYBERSPACE March 2001

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Subject:

Re: Web Censorship

From:

Steve Franklin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Steve Franklin <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 24 Mar 2001 09:58:13 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (224 lines)

Here's a link I got from http://www.theregister.co.uk/ .
This ( http://www.maptricks.com/ ) is Ian Thomas' webpage. It has links
to various maps he previously posted and descriptions of the games the
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland continues to play with
others. A suit has been filed under the Freedom of Information Act. And
you thought maps were just fun to look at.
______
Steve Franklin

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jeremy J. Shapiro" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, March 17, 2001 03:40 AM
Subject: Fwd: web censorship


> To: pol-sci-tech <[log in to unmask]>
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: web censorship
> Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2001 20:54:48 -0800
> Reply-To: [log in to unmask]
> X-Topica-Loop: 700000438
> Return-Path: <[log in to unmask]>
>
> A good reason to archive websites!
> ++++++++++++++++++++
>
> Check out the LA times story as well:
> http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/20010315/t000022700.html
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
--
>
> Hi All,
>
> Well, I have been fired for posting to the internet a single web page
> with some maps showing the distribution of caribou calving areas in
> the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
>
> My entire website http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/geotech/ has now
> been removed from the internet.  This represents about 3 years
> worth of work and 20,000 plus maps showing bird, mammal and
> amphibian distributions, satellite imagery, landcover and vegetation
> maps for countries and protected areas all around of the globe.  As
> far as I aware it was one of the biggest collections of maps online
> and certainly the biggest collection showing maps of biodiversity
> and the environment.  The website was often visited by over a
> thousand visitors each week.  In addition, I was fulfilling roughly a
> dozen requests for geospatial data and information from
> colleagues, other researchers and the general public each day.
>
> All of this comes as a rather big surprise to me.  I was given no
> chance to remove the webpage or even finish writing an appeal
> before my position was terminated.  I was working under a contract
> so I believe I have very little legal recourse.  I have received no
> written explanation (or even an email) stating the exact reasons for
> the termination decision and I understand that even though this
> would be a reasonable courtesy to expect, it is unlikely to be
> forthcoming.
>
> >From my viewpoint my dismissal was a high-level political decision
> to set an example to other Federal scientists.  I base this belief on
> the following information I received from a colleague in Alaska who
> is a leading researcher on the issues involved:
>
> "I really hope you don't get fired.  In fact, had the timing of what
you
> did not been so inappropriate based on everything else that was
> going on, I doubt that anyone would have noticed.  Your work
> showed a lot of initiative..."
>
> "...the fallout would not have been so great had the subject matter
> not been one of the three USDOI super hot topics with the new
> administration and had we not been briefing the Secretary at the
> nearly exact time your website went up.  Everyone is nervous and
> as I mentioned earlier, consistency in presentation is paramount."
>
> So now, I believe my only recourse is to appeal to the general
> public in the hope that in the future what just happened to me will
> not happen to others.
>
> I would recommend anybody in a similar circumstances to contact
> the fine people at Public Employees for Environmental
> Responsibility (http://www.peer.org) or a similar organization.
>
> The response and support I have received from friends online has
> been truely amazing.  I very much appreciate how quickly people
> have acted on my behalf and helped publicize my plight and I
> especially wish to thank the international mapping
> community...receiving letters of support from far away places
> cheers me up no end.  Please feel free to forward this email to
> other lists and media contacts!  I would also be grateful if anybody
> who misses all the maps I put on the internet please contact the
> USGS to let them know and to ask that the maps be reposted.
>
> I feel very bad that these events are also affecting my colleagues at
> Patuxent.  Patuxent was a great place to work, has amazing
> researchers and everybody I worked with is very supportive.
>
> Many, many thanks for your support,
>
> Ian Thomas
> [log in to unmask]
>
>
> The Details:
>
> Nobody instructed/authorized me to post the web pages on Arctic
> National Wildlife Refuge.  It was done on my own initiative.  I was
> working on land cover maps for all National Wildlife Refuges using
> the new National Landcover Datasets.  Last week I published over
> 1000 land cover maps online covering every National Wildlife
> Refuge and National Park in the lower 48. (These maps have now
> been removed from the internet too).  Similar land cover data for
> Alaska were not available but the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
> had a good landcover map so I included it.
>
> In the past, I helped produce the only set of maps online showing
> all bird species distributions in Alaska.  In addition I have produced
> online mammal distribution atlases of Africa, maps for tigers in asia
> and I was working on digitizing North American mammal range
> maps produced by the Smithsonian Institution.
>
> I have also been conducting background research to prepare
> proposals to study the effects of mineral extraction on biodiversity
> and protected areas on a very large scale.  One such proposal that
> I was preparing would have looked at exporting analysis and
> mapping methods applied in the United States to other regions of
> the World such as Africa.  The proposal was co-sponsored by the
> Mineral Division of USGS and the World Resources Institute.
>
> The migration of caribou in North America is the closest thing that
> we have to the great mammal migrations that occur in Africa.
> African protected areas are also under great pressure from possible
> development for mineral extraction.  So the carribou distributions
> that I found on the Fish and Wildlife Service public website were of
> particular interest.  I have also worked for several years on maps of
> migratory bird distribution patterns. I therefore have a great
interest
> in other migratory animals as many of the temporal mapping
> problems are similar.
>
> I was completely unaware that there was anything wrong with
> publishing ANWR maps. I have never been informed of any agency
> restrictions or any other guidelines on publishing maps depicting
> ANWR...I only now have been informed that there is a two week old
> agency "communications directive" that limits who is allowed to
> distribute new information on ANWR within my agency.
>
> I thought that I was helping further public and scientific
> understanding and debate of the issues at ANWR by making some
> clearer maps.  I also hoped that colleagues in USGS would see the
> maps and then contact me if they needed additional mapping help.
> I was careful to quote my sources and explain what I had done.  I
> made no statement about what the maps might mean with regard
> to oil development of the refuge.
>
> The web pages were put up on Wednesday, March 7, last week.
> The first thing I did when I put the ANWR pages up on the internet
> was to inform other USGS Biological Resources Division mapping
> people and other agency (Fish Wildlife Service and National Park
> Service respectively) GIS people through email that they were on
> the web.  Informing other Federal colleagues and agencies
> immediately upon publication to the web appears to me to be the
> only reasonable review process available, seeing as there is no
> internal review website currently available...I have never been
> informed of any other established proceedure for review of web
> content on our site. I actually haven't had any complaints about or
> requests to change any other map on my website...
>
> I assumed that if anybody had a problem they could contact me
> directly and quickly and appropriate steps could be taken almost
> immediately. I received one warning from a colleague that the maps
> I put on the internet should be removed.  Unfortunately, it was sent
> on Saturday so I did not receive it in time.  I think the decision to
> terminate me was taken before I even got to work on Monday.
>
> I also assumed that because all I was doing was esentially
> presenting existing public information in a clearer and improved
> format, there was very little need for any extensive review other
> than the steps I took.  Indeed the changes that I made to the
> original Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) web maps were simply to
> digitize them ("trace"), then overlay them on satellite and
> vegetation maps and then summarize how may years specific
> areas were a high density caribou calving area.  I found a similar
> (poor quality) summary map on the FWS website that allowed me
> to check the accuracy of my simple analysis.
>
> I was unaware that FWS had updated the data.  There is no
> mention of updated information on the FWS website.  This new
> data has still to be made public. If my maps were inaccurate in any
> way so are the public FWS maps I copied.... (please refer to
> http://www.r7.fws.gov/nwr/arctic/pchmap2.html#section6)
>
> I think that over the last three years I have put more maps up on
> the internet (at a guess approaching 20,000 to 30,000 static
> individual maps) equalling any other website on the world wide web.
> So out of the tens of thousands of maps (and hours) I finally
> publish one that got me fired....I suppose the odds were going to
> run out eventually....
>
> I am concerned that other Federal researchers may easily make
> the same mistakes I just made and should learn from my example
> what happens if you're not careful.
>
> Patuxent was a great place to work, has amazing researchers and
> everybody I worked with is very supportive.
>
>         Ian Thomas
>
>
>         Former Mapping Specialist at the:
>         GIS & Remote Sensing Unit
>         Biological Resources Division
>         United States Geological Survey
>         Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
>
> Old Homepage (no longer available)
> http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/geotech/home.html
>
> The Global Environmental Atlas (no longer available)
> http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/geotech/cindi/world.html
>

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