Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Baltimore Sun editorial about Morgan State student's alleged cannabalism demonstrates it does not understand social media public policy

The Baltimore Sun was the paper I grew up reading and it is the source I utilize to see what is going on in my hometown. The recent allegations that Morgan State student Alexander Kinyua killed and ate pieces of his roommate in his off-campus apartment has made headlines all over the world.

This incident is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to Mr. Kinyua's victims and their families. Unfortunately, the Baltimore Sun editorial page has demonstrated that it does not understand social media public policy when it wrote about this incident on June 5, 2012. It asked the question, "Was anyone at the university looking at Mr. Kinyua's Facebook page" and appeared to infer that the university may have a duty to review their students' social media accounts.

As long as a school does not require its students to Facebook Friend teachers and/or university officials and/or agents of the school, and/or require students to download social media monitoring software onto their personal accounts/electronic devices, schools do not have a duty to monitor their students' social media accounts. In general, schools do not have a duty to monitor their students off campus in the real world so schools should not create a duty to monitor their students off campus in the digital world.

Does the Baltimore Sun advocate our schools requiring students to register their usernames with their academic institutions? China requires their social media users to register their usernames through their microblog identification program so the government can track what everyone is saying and doing online. While that policy may work in China, we have a Constitution and a long history of protecting anonymous free speech.

With access comes responsibility. If our public schools become the social media police, plaintiffs may be able to successfully argue that schools have a duty to social media monitor their students' personal digital content. Therefore, before the Baltimore Sun makes any future comments relating to social media public policy it should be well versed in the ramifications of what it may be advocating.

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