Thursday, October 22, 2015

Well Intentioned, but Dangerous

The Chronicle notes today the petition of over 70 groups to require colleges and universities to address the anonymous harassment from sites such as YikYak.

The key in the story:  failure to monitor anonymous social media and to pursue online harassers as a violation of federal civil-rights laws guaranteeing equal educational access.

YikYak in particular, and most social websites in general, do not provide the level of anonymity promised, particularly when the free speech crosses the line into terroristic threatening or other legal areas (fake bomb/violence threats).  Neighboring student at UCA becoming the latest to learn that lesson the handcuffs way.

However, to require universities -- or public agencies in general -- to be the police of the internet is at best futile and at worst draconian.

By no measure do I condone or lessen the real issue here -- I've seen it up close.  Does this extend to RateMyProfessor reviews?  Does it include message boards like Topix -- the ancestral cesspool of these mobile-enabled platforms like 4chan and YikYak?

We are asking our universities to become larger and larger police agencies.  I might add, an unfunded mandate of the first degree.

This is a "Dear Colleague" with the best of intentions, but it will be little more than the Internet Monitoring Full Employment Act if pushed to its conclusion.

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