Sunday, December 30, 2012

Michigan Bans NCAA Schools From Cyberstalking Student-Athletes

Michigan has joined the growing list of states that have banned schools from requiring their student-athletes to register and/or provide access to their personal email/social media credentials and content.  Michigan joins Delaware, California, and New Jersey in banning NCAA schools from requiring their students to verify their personal digital accounts in order to apply or attend school, keep their scholarships, or participate in intercollegiate athletics.

Michigan's legislation is the most comprehensive in the country because it also bans elementary, middle, and high schools from also requiring their students to turn over their personal digital account information.  In a nutshell, the new law generally bans all schools from requesting their students provide them access to their personal social media/digital media usernames, passwords and/or content.  This policy affirms that the state of Michigan will not allow its schools to act like China who is requiring its citizens to register their personal digital accounts so the government may "monitor" everything their citizens do online.

Michigan's legislation may save Michigan schools tens of millions of dollars per year that may have been utilized to contract with companies that offer cyberstalking services to track the digital activities of students, their families, and friends.  The companies that sell cyberstalking software to schools use terms like, "monitoring", "educating", and "leading" when describing their services, and/or companies.  In addition, if you perform due diligence on the founders of the companies that offer these so called "monitoring" or "educating" services you may notice they have no verifiable professional credentials that demonstrate that any sports (college, amateur, or professional) organization should engage them for social media or education related services.

Some of these companies are also stating that they support social media privacy legislation which if true means they support a ban on their cyberstalking services.  In order for any social media "monitoring" (cyberstalking) software to properly work it needs a student to verify his personal digital credentials.  Absent student verification these services will not work.
   
Any public school that engages a firm to "monitor" (cyberstalk) their students online may in the near future receive a letter from their state's attorney general, the U.S. Department Education, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, or a law firm regarding their practices.  Schools that  "monitor" (cyberstalk) their students online may soon encounter steep fines, lawsuits, or a loss of education funding that may amount to tens of millions of dollars.  

The bottom line is that public schools that engage self-described "social media experts"/"social media education & monitoring services"/"social media protectors of reputation" may create tremendous personal safety and privacy problems for their student-athletes, and massive legal liability issues for their institutions and taxpayers. 

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

(Full Disclosure:  I advised Michigan Rep. Arc Nesbitt's office on HB 5523)

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

UK To Revise Social Media Speech Prosecution Guidelines

The UK recently announced that it would revise its  prosecution guidelines to make it more difficult to bring legal action against those who create offensive posts online. This announcement is welcome news for the freedom of speech.

During the past couple of years, there has been several high profile prosecutions of people making racist or insensitive comments to others online.  While these comments may be offensive, racist, or distasteful, in general they would not have been prosecuted if they occurred in the United States and were directed towards U.S. citizens living in the U.S. at the time the comments were created. 

The United States is the greatest protector of free speech. In the United States, the general test for whether free speech crosses the line for criminal prosecution is whether the content is directed at inciting, and is likely to incite, imminent lawless action.  

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service has released its interim social media prosecution guidelines and they can be found here.  Those who are interested in making public comments about the interim guidelines may do so until March 13, 2013.  

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

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