Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is UNC's new Twitter policy a First Amendment violation?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 12:16 PM

Did you hear? UNC has updated its social media policy. The university has added rules that require a coach or administrator to be "responsible for having access to and regularly monitor the content of team members' social networking sites and postings."

Is this healthy? I mean, in a country that values free speech so much that we made that right part of the very first amendment to our constitution, is paying university staff (i.e. state employees) to police the social media ramblings of our youth a healthy and wise thing to do? Does this new M.O. sound Big Brother-ish to anyone but me?

The phrase "chilling effect" comes to mind. What that means is, essentially, the students whose accounts are being patrolled may censor themselves because of this policy, which stifles their First Amendment rights. And, what if they do post something their censors don't like? What then? I'm willing to bet that the first athlete who gets punished, and I mean beyond a slap on the wrist, for something they posted online will get a call from the ACLU.

Is this really what we want to teach our college students? That you should beware of everything you post online for fear of getting in trouble, and that if you do get in trouble you should sue? I suppose those questions open a larger can of worms, but I think it's a discussion worth having. Of course this isn't just a UNC-thing — this is an issue facing everyone who has an online life outside of their professional or academic life. (And who doesn't?)

There's offering advice to help guide people through choppy situations, then there's suppressing people's basic rights. One is reasonable, the other is unconstitutional.

Read more about UNC's new social media policy here: UNC goes harsh with Twitter policy -- ESPN.com

What do you think? Are the students' rights being infringed upon, or is this type of policy for their own good?

Here's Penn and Teller and MIT's Dr. Noam Chompsky (and some other smart dude who's not identified) on American colleges and universities violating students' First Amendment rights with "speech codes," everyone's charge to speak up for what they believe in and what to do when you're offended by someone else's speech:

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