The University of Missouri School of Law has released a new social media policy. It appears to be written by the Student Bar Association itself, which might explain why it is so bad. It is easily the worst social media policy I have ever seen. It is probably the worst social media policy you have seen. It is so bad that a University of Missouri student could get in trouble for going on Facebook and talking about how bad the policy is.
I’m afraid to actually quote directly from the policy, lest somebody send it to Kim Jong-un to give him new ideas on how to crush the freedom of his people. But the policy is so disgustingly anti-intellectual and anti-expression that it’s worth the risk.
After a corny tagline (“Carefully. Thoughtfully. Professionally. With Tiger spirit.”), Missouri Law — through its elected student officials — starts out with an over-broad statement about its own authority to control student online behavior.
Before you post content to any social-media outlet affiliated, or reasonably possible to be associated with; yourself, the School of Law, the student organizations here at the school, the Missouri Bar Association, the American Bar Association, or any other legal association, and the University of Missouri, please take a moment to review our official guidelines.
If you are a member of the University of Missouri School of Law - Student Bar Association (i.e. a person enrolled in classes at the University of Missouri School of Law), then these rules apply to you.
No, Mizzou student overlords, your power does not extend over a student’s entire relationship with the American Bar Association. Or “any other legal association.” Enrolling at the University of Missouri does not mean that students cede their Constitutional rights. Who do you think you are, Jar-Jar Binks? Waiving your hand in the air and saying something doesn’t make it so.
What this policy wants is to prevent Mizzou students from saying anything that is not “nice.” Everybody hates trolls, but Mizzou wants to literally exist in the “Safe Space” episode from South Park where reality gets lynched. Here are rules for online interaction:
Interacting with others
* Provide positive and insightful commentary to help create a bond and build a rapport with users.
* If leaving a comment, post something meaningful, encouraging, informative or respectful.Comments should always follow the established posting policy.
* Before posting, re-read your comment to make sure it can’t be misconstrued as negative or inappropriate. If you have any doubt, ask someone else to read it before you post it.
* Respond to questions or inquiries in a timely fashion. Since timestamps often are published with posts, other users will know just how quickly you respond to them with accurate and relevant information.
* Disagreement should not be squelched. If you respond to a disagreement, do so in a professional and respectful manner. Respect proprietary information, content and confidentiality.
The problem with trying to force people to provide “positive” commentary every time they open their mouths is that NOT EVERYTHING IS POSITIVE. For instance this policy is not positive, you belching donkey of a law school (see how I exercised my speech rights there?).
I mean, we’re talking about Missouri, a place where:
* A black guy was shot dead in the street and his body was left to rot in the sun.
* The cop who murdered the black guy never faced trial.
* The prosecutor who failed to charge the cop admitted he put witnesses before the grand jury he believed were lying.
* That prosecutor was invited to proselytize AT MISSOURI LAW SCHOOL, and later won an award.
* A different prosecutor got busted for covering up police brutality.
Maybe the future lawyers of Missouri should be allowed to NOT BE POSITIVE about such events? Maybe they shouldn’t be so obviously carrying the water for #copslivesmatter and let students react, in whatever way seems best to them, about the times they live in? Maybe it’s okay if the Bob McCullochs of the world do not get the respect Missouri thinks he deserves on Twitter, not that ANYBODY needs student government approval to post a goddamn Tweet.
Oh, but Missouri’s not done. Not only do they think they should control what you say online, they also think they have a right to tell you who you are online:
* Be transparent. If you’re discussing an MU-related topic, use your real name and title. Keep in mind that what you say represents your university, your school, your classmates, and should be absolutely accurate.
* Respect peoples privacy. Avoid speaking about, or mentioning, others in your posts whenever you can. Seek that person’s informed consent when needed.
* In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional, are blurred. Be sure that content is consistent with your professional role and with the standards of our profession.
* Make sure your efforts to be transparent don’t violate the university’s privacy, confidentiality or legal guidelines for external communications. All statements must be true, accurate and not misleading. Never comment on any legal matters, litigation or parties with whom the university is in litigation without appropriate approval.
* Do not comment despairingly on others.
Here’s a question: is it a vioaltion of Missouri’s social media policy if I point out that they can’t f**king spell DISPARAGINGLY... or do they really have a problem with people typing “smh” in a show of despair?
Not only do these guys want to be the thought police, they also want to out people. “Be transparent” is not a benign best practice, it’s a direct threat to those who wish to keep their identities hidden.
What if I want to talk about how Missouri Law treats gays and lesbians, but I don’t want to be out to all of my classmates? What if I want to talk about mental health at the school, but don’t want to leave a Google footprint for an employer to find and call me crazy? What if I think professor X is bad at his job and is sexually inappropriate during office hours, but I’m still waiting for him to grade my paper? There are a bunch of reasons a person might want to be less than transparent, but anonymity is there for the ones we haven’t even thought of yet.
A student at Missouri Law has already taken to (wait for it) Facebook to lodge entirely reasonable complaints:
Yeah, I forgot to mention that the Missouri policy encourages snitching, but probably discourages calling out the goddamn rat on Facebook.
Missouri’s entire social media plan can be boiled down to one key misconception about the school’s authority in all of this: Missouri Law’s SBA thinks it’s Bill Belichick.
Be responsible. Participation in social media is an opportunity, not a right.
I can’t believe this was written at a law school. Do they really want to go to the Constitutional mattresses on this? Do they really want to go 10 rounds to kick somebody out because, in their private capacity, they uploaded a YouTube of them pissing on Missouri’s social media policy and lighting it on fire? (Ed. note: somebody please do that.) Or are they just hoping that their own students are too scared and ignorant to fight this? I should add that I don’t know if the SBA has any power to do anything to any Missouri Law student whatsoever. It could be that this entire “policy” is some kind of bizzare form of wishmaking.
In any event, SPEECH is a freaking right. And if you go to Missouri Law and can’t spot the over-broad, non-carefully tailored restriction on speech in the furtherance of a wholly non-compelling state interest, then Missouri Law should be REQUIRED to refund your money.