Student athletes at various universities have found out that they have no expectation of privacy with their use of social media. A recent revision in the handbook of the University of North Carolina states:
“Each team must identify a minumum of one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members\’ social networking sites and postings. The athletics department also reserves the authority to have other personnel monitor athletes\’ posts.”
These students in many cases are required to \’friend\’ either a coach or compliance offer to own school use of content behind the social media sites own privacy-wall. Once this has been granted the school can monitor all public and semi-public posts through the student on that site, or make use of a social media monitoring service as provided by UDiligence or Carsity Monitor to automate the job for them. This granting of the access is far from voluntary in most cases, as if the student refuses to give use of their social media, the school can refuse to provide access to sports.
This practice raises obvious First Amendment concerns. Bradley Shear, a DC lawyer is worried at the implications free of charge speech and just how far the slippery slope extends downwards.
“I can’t believe many people think it’s Alright to do this,\” he explained. \”Maybe it’s OK if you live in a totalitarian regime, but we still have a Constitution to safeguard us. It’s not really a far leap from reading people’s Facebook posts to reading their email. … As a society, where shall we be going to draw the line?”
Two years ago North Carolina defensive linesman Marvin Austin had become the subject of the NCAA investigation into improper conduct after he tweeted about expensive purchases. Incidents like these have led to some schools pursuing aggressive policies with regard to social media.
But avoiding an unpleasant moment is not a good enough reason to squash freedom of expression, Spear says. Lots of settled case law in the U.S. sides with students’ rights to convey themselves publicly, he said, including numerous cases involving student newspapers.? Public displays of protest are also protected: A landmark 1969 Top court decisions known as Tinker vs. the Des Moines School District said school officials couldn’t prevent students from wearing armbands protesting the Vietnam War as long as they weren’t inciting violence.
It seems likely that the social media themselves will be far from enthused by the school\’s policies. Faced with the possibility of extremely negative consequences if they use social media, many students will feel they\’ve little choice but to abandon it entirely.