Sunday, May 6, 2012

NCAA Schools That Require Their Students To Facebook Friend Them May Be Violating the Stored Communications Act

Any school or university that requires its students to Facebook Friend a coach, a school administrator, or a third party in order for their students to keep their scholarships, participate in intercollegiate athletics, etc... may be violating the Stored Communications Act (SCA).

Under the Stored Communications Act, forced Facebook Friending may be against the law. Since the SCA was enacted in 1986, before the existence of modern social media, the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) is needed to catch up with modern technology. Any school or university employee who believes that it is legally prudent to require their students to provide them access to their personal password protected digital content without a court order may want to learn more about the lawsuit against the University of Virginia (UVA) by the family of Yardley Love.

Yardley Love was a student-athlete at UVA who was murdered by fellow UVA student-athlete George Huguely. According to ABC News, Yardley Love's family is suing the coaches of the men's lacrosse team along with the athletic director because they allegedly knew or should have known that George Huguely was a danger to others. If UVA was social media monitoring George Huguely and missed or misinterpreted a Tweet, or a Facebook post, or other online content that may have indicated he may be a danger to others this $30 million dollar lawsuit against UVA may have been a $100 million dollar plus lawsuit.

With access comes responsibility. Schools and/or universities that require their students to Facebook Friend coaches, school employees, third parties, etc... and/or require students to install social media monitoring software onto their personal electronic devices may become liable for their students' online content and conduct along with offline conduct that was referred to and/or inferred by a Tweet, Facebook post, blog comment, etc.... Does a school or university want to be sued for negligent social media monitoring or failure to social media monitor?

If a school or university legal department wants to protect itself against these types of social media lawsuits they will enthusiastically support the Social Networking Online Protection Act (HR 5050) because it may provide them a legal liability shield against these claims. If a school or university wants to become the social media police and become liable for their students' online behavior and offline behavior that may have been referred to and/or inferred online that is their prerogative. If so, they may want to obtain cyber liability insurance that contains at least $100 million dollars in per incident coverage to protect against social media lawsuits.

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at

Copyright 2012 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.