Monday, March 12, 2012

NCAA: Schools Have No Blanket Duty To Monitor Social Networking Sites Of Student-Athletes

The NCAA has stated in the University of North Carolina Public Infractions Report dated March 12, 2012 (page 11), that it "declines to impose a blanket duty on institutions to monitor social networking sites.Consistent with the duty to monitor other information outside the campus setting (beyond on-campus activities such as countable athletically related activities, financial aid, satisfactory progress, etc.), such sites should be part of the monitoring effort if the institution becomes aware of an issue that might be resolved in some part by reviewing information on a site."

In other words, an NCAA member institution's duty to monitor is the same whether its a student's online or offline activities. Nothing more. I praise the NCAA for its decision in this case. The NCAA's decision mirrors the opinion that I stated on September 2, 2011 when I said, "it may be advisable to check up on a student-athlete's public online posts in the same manner as his/her real world activity."

The NCAA's decision today has clearly stated that schools do not need to engage costly social media monitoring services that require students to provide access to their password protected electronic content. The companies that push these services are selling snake oil that is essentially a legal liability time bomb and they are preying off a school's fear. This has lead to some schools violating the constitutional rights of its students.

There is a lack of knowledge regarding social media, compliance, and the law. Unfortunately, several self-serving companies have tried to fill the void in college athletics and these companies have not only provided bad advice that may create tremendous legal liability for their clients but they also incorrectly interpreted NCAA compliance rules. These social media consultants have advised their NCAA member clients to waste tens of thousands of dollars on services they do not need. Every school that has engaged these social media monitoring services may want to demand a full refund from these consultants who do not understand social media, NCAA compliance rules, public policy, or the law.

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