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Monitoring Social Media?

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 17:09

twitter bird

Modified by Staci Vandagriff

Travel back to Harvard College on Feb. 4, 2004. There you will find Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.com’s first day on the web. Move forward to July 15, 2006 with Jack Dorsey watching his blue bird leave the nest as Twitter.com is launched.

One more time, travel to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during May of 2010. You won’t find a website being launched, Instead you’ll find former football star Marvin Austin tweeting rap lyrics about partying. Seems innocent except for the NCAA was investigating suspicions of grade changing and perks to make sure the athletic department was keeping their players happy and smart.

What does this have to do with Arkansas State University? Three words: Social Network Monitoring.  Arkansas State asks their athletes to “friend” and “follow” certain accounts in order to keep tabs on what everyone is saying and doing. The key word here is asks, unlike the University of Kentucky and Louisville, where athletes are required to give account information out for monitoring.

Like the saying goes, Facebook was cool until  parents got on it. And with that, teachers, employers and even Greek organizations were “friending” and “following” everyone they could. This wasn’t because employers wanted to be “friends” this was because what I now put online can and will be used against anyone in a court of law.

And just like the passing of the Patriot Act in 2001, which allows the government to tap into whatever they choose if they feel a threat, there is uproar over the practice of monitoring social networks. The state of Maryland has recently passed a law saying it is illegal to require people to give out account information for monitoring purposes, and California is talking about it as well. Kentucky is in trouble for certain words they have flagged, such as Muslim and Arab. But once again, unlike those two schools, ASU doesn’t use a specific technology to monitor its athletes. As assistance athletic director for compliance Jeremy Joffray at ASU said, if a student chooses not to “friend” or “follow” the specific accounts, then that is all. There isn’t a requirement to do so.

“From an NCAA and compliance standpoint, it is potentially and permanently beneficial to the athletes,” Joffray said. “We started monitoring accounts last year after the incident at UNC. There have been several violations at different schools, so we have put certain policies into place. At the beginning of each year, we meet with each team and tell the athletes anything they put online has the potential to be bad to the public, so they need to be careful and cautious.    
So why the concern of legality? Three more words: invasion of privacy.

Ironic, especially since people Facebook and Tweet in order to share whatever they can fit into the text box with whoever chooses to pay their site a visit.

As far as ASU and Joffray are concerned, this isn’t an issue of being invasive or not trusting the athletes, it’s about making sure the students don’t post things that can ruin their reputation as a person, as well as someone who represents ASU. Remember Marvin Austin? Well, he and six other players were released from UNC’s football team. Not only that, but UNC was placed on a one-year ban from bowl games and lost scholarships.

“We will continue to monitor sites and if Arkansas passes a law saying athletes can’t be required to submit their account information, we would look at our procedures,” Joffray said.   

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