The Effort To Kill Social Media On Campus

Word is that Feminist Majority Foundation, high on its win in the Fourth Circuit, is notifying colleges within the circuit that their failure to end “sexual harassment” on social media will make them liable. GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.

In the first federal decision of its kind, the court ruled that universities have obligations under Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution to investigate and take action to end sex-based harassment and threats targeting students on campus through social media. The court also ruled that universities cannot hide behind the First Amendment’s free speech protections as an excuse for not taking action.

Rare is the argument that an attenuated interpretation of a statute by second-tier bureaucrat at an executive branch agency trumps the Constitution.  Of course, enjoying rhetoric about how the unwoke can’t “hide” behind  the First Amendment’s free speech protections has become quite normal. Who cares about constitutional rights when there are feelings at stake, amirite?

“The Fourth Circuit has emphatically stated that it is the legal duty of universities to take action against sexual harassment and threats on social media, and that failure to act amounts to deliberate indifference to gender-based discrimination in violation of Title IX,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Unlike the current Department of Education under Secretary DeVos, the Fourth Circuit is committed to enforcing Title IX and protecting students from sex-based discrimination. The court understands that whether harassment is online or in person, the impact is the same: students are cheated out of a safe learning environment.”

Granted, it’s one appellate court, the Fourth Circuit, and no other court in the nation has come anywhere near a peculiar holding, but it is, for now, the law within that circuit. And to be fair, Feminist Majority’s win was a huge one, and one they will seek to bootstrap into wins in other circuits as well.

More to the point, before another Fourth Circuit panel rules to the contrary, or the decision is reversed either en banc or by the Supreme Court, they will push colleges and universities to comply with this ruling and create a “new normal” of social media where never is any word spoken that doesn’t praise their favored demographic. Once done, it becomes hard to undo, even if colleges might be otherwise inclined (which may not be particularly likely).

What does this threat mean? You know that Facebook, that Twitter, that Instagram where you squander your time and attention? If there’s “sexual harassment and threats on social media,” colleges need to make it disappear or suffer the consequences. What does that mean, exactly? Whatever they want it to mean, really. What’s sexual harassment? What’s threatening? Whatever they decide it is, and then it’s left to colleges to show their fortitude to refusing to accept the Feminist Majority’s characterization and duke it out in court.

But really, what’s in it for colleges to pick the hill of social media to die on? You might like it, but does UVA? What if UVA jammed its campus WiFi so you couldn’t access social media, thus preventing you from uttering any words that might be taken as sexual harassment by some random individual on campus?

Heck, even if your local Feminist United demands that the college eliminate fraternities and require all male students to wear pink ribbons in their hair, your taking to Twitter to express your lack of support might cheat some young lady out of a safe learning environment. You can’t do that, no matter what that nasty First Amendment says.

No matter how silly it all sounds at the moment, and more to the point, how untenable it seems to live in a world where school marms are overseeing your social media use, what’s in it for colleges to defend your right to free speech, to challenge cries of sexual harassment, all so you can instagram a pic of your lunch? It may be that you can circumvent their execution of social media on campus with 4G, until the demand is that they block that too.

While it may well be argued that there’s no opposing contention as to the right or value of misogynistic social media use, why would colleges want to take the risk of liability that some student will utter something that some other student will find offensive? Or maybe there will be a new social media, where the scolds have delete buttons to make sure that nothing is said that will ever hurt the feeling of a co-ed again.

18 thoughts on “The Effort To Kill Social Media On Campus

  1. Turk

    OK, so shut down all social media. Might as well take down texts and emails too, since they can be used the same way.

    Make people use old copper line phones. And talk to each other.

    You know, I might want to send my kids to such a school.

    1. LocoYokel

      “Make people use old copper line phones. And talk to each other.”

      Can’t have those either, someone might leave a hurtful message on the answering machine or even say scary words when you answer. The only solution is to ban all speech and interpersonal interaction.

  2. Ross

    It must really suck to be so sensitive to the words of others that you have to take to the courts to get your way. Have they never heard “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me”?

    I want to see the reaction when schools eliminate all social media over wifi, including the social media the so called feminists use to communicate their views.

    Perhaps it’s time for some of the male students to file complaints about harassment by the feminists, and see if Title IX is really enforced evenly – I get the impression that the girls feel like it only applies to males harassing them.

  3. Christopher Dove

    Isn’t this a bit like trying to track down the semi-anonymous scribe who wrote on the bathroom stall, “For a good time, call Betsy DeVos at 212-555-1212!” or “Be here at 1:00 pm on Wednesday’s. Stephen Miller gives good head!”

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s kind of the problem. Since they can’t identify an individual bad dude, the only alternative is to ruin it for everyone, since the 4th Cir. says they must do something.

  4. REKnight

    Even if the plaintiff could prove that the offending YikYak posts(?) were both authored by students and using University WiFi, wouldn’t Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provide the University immunity since they are providing internet services (aka an ISP)?

  5. B. McLeod

    I think the immediate urge to abuse every new gain will eventually help to contain these Yahoos. In the meantime, universities in the 4th Circuit are going to have a problem.

    1. SHG Post author

      I think you’re right. The first college to “go silent” will be a shock to students, parents, everyone. Perhaps students will have an epiphany when the school internet doesn’t allow access to social media, though the irony will be that they will still have access to it, just on their own dime.

      1. KP

        “though the irony will be that they will still have access to it, just on their own dime.”

        Yes, the colleges will have as much success as the Indian Govt banning porn sites, the Australian Govt banning all sites it doesn’t like, and the Chinese Govt banning everything… no success at all!

        I expect people walking around the ruling will enhance calls for an internet ID, linked to a real person for every post or search you make. THEN Govts wil really throw their weight behind solving the “problem”

    2. MonitorsMost

      If it makes you feel better, Erwin Chemerinsky was the one who argued for FMF in front of the 4th Circuit. He posts nonsense opinion articles on the ABA’s website. Perhaps you can target a subversive campaign toward him and UC Berkeley to get ABA journal banned from the campus. Of course, you can probably just let time kill the ABA.

  6. Casual Lurker

    “What if UVA jammed its campus WiFi…”

    They’d find themselves on the wrong side of the FCC, facing huge fines:

    Marriott = $600K

    M.C. Dean Electrical Contracting = $718K

    Hilton = a mere $25K, just for “apparent obstruction of an investigation” (into WiFi blocking).

    Any attempt to block “unlicensed spectrum” (of which the various WiFi bands are part of) is a violation of FCC Rules and Regs. See:

    WARNING: Wi-Fi Blocking is Prohibited
    DA/FCC #: DA-15-113
    FCC Record Citation: 30 FCC Rcd 387 (1)
    Issued On: Jan 27, 2015

    Also see “Jammer Enforcement” (if I may be allowed a link):

    Which lists the applicable Law, commission rules, etc.

    Further, Inside Higher Ed had an article dated Feb. 6, 2015, by Carl Straumsheim, called “Waiting for the FCC”:

    “After the FCC cracks down on blocking mobile hot spots at a hotel, IT officers are waiting to hear if the order applies to colleges and universities.”

    Unfortunately, most don’t know how to determine actual blocking — as opposed to other types of connection impediments — and therefore never file a complaint. But once you piss-off the STEM-literate grad students, the complaints will be filed in droves. And Trump’s puppet, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, just loves handing out stiff fines to any entity that is not a Telco, CaCo, ISP, or media conglomerate (e.g., Comcast/NBC Universal).

    So Screw-U will then have to try and determine who the offenders are, and whether they’re on or off campus. Again, the STEM types will just start using one or more VPNs over WiFi from on-campus, in effect relocating the point of origin to off-campus. No doubt, they’ll create an app to make it easy for the non-STEM types.

    Maybe they’ll try to prohibit possession of any smart-phones on campus? Lets see how that works out.

    Headline: Screw-U Screwed!

Comments are closed.