Academic journal article Southern Law Journal

Creating Social Media Law Projects to Sensitize Business Students to Appropriate Digital Conduct

Academic journal article Southern Law Journal

Creating Social Media Law Projects to Sensitize Business Students to Appropriate Digital Conduct

Article excerpt


It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.

- Warren Buffett

Each day, the world experiences the beauty and the bluster of social media. For example, when we learned about the death of music legend David Bowie,1 a warm outpouring of emotion was instantly expressed globally through various outlets. The prior day, Ashley Olsen, an American artist living in Florence, Italy was found dead in her apartment.2 Immediately, preinvestigation theories were posted on social media about whether the perpetrator was her boyfriend or a mysterious stalker/photographer referenced on the deceased's Instagram account weeks prior.3 In a rush to report the news, many people on Twitter initially thought that one of the famous Olsen twins4 had died:

That Good You Talking About David Bowie But Nobody Talking About Actress #AshleyOlsen From Full House She Been Strangle To Dead

NOOOOOOOOOO #AshleyOlsen is dead..... #TakeMeGodInstead5

As the Twitter community posted necessary corrections (It's not #FullHouse #AshleyOlsen. Get a hold of yourself @twitter), it became clear that Ms. Olsen's death was drawing inevitable parallels to the social media coverage of Meredith Kercher's homicide.6

In that case, Amanda Knox was one of the people accused of killing Ms. Kercher, her British study abroad roommate in Perugia, Italy. In 2015, the homicide portion of the charges was resolved by Italy's highest court.7 From Ms. Knox's arrest in 2007-the infancy of social media8-to the case conclusion,9 social networks ignited a worldwide war of words. For example, in 2013, a journalist following the vitriolic tone of devoted Knox case bloggers offered: "I Googled 'Amanda Knox' and got 7.1 million hits. I then tried 'Amanda Knox' and 'bitch,' which returned 1.7 million hits. 'Amanda Knox' and 'pervert' came back at 880,000 hits, and her name coupled with 'slut' yielded 380,000."10

In response to ever increasing incendiary language that could promote violent behavior on its social medium, Twitter revised its user policy by banning threats and abuse on its platform, mostly aimed at "hateful conduct," or those whose "primary purpose is inciting harm to others."11 The company stated: The updated language emphasizes that "Twitter will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user's voice. As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs- but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse."12

In 2016, Twitter added user options to curb abuse and harassment,13 while Facebook and Google changed "their advertising policies to explicitly prohibit sites that traffic in fake news from making money off lies."14 In a climate where MTV warns teens and young adults about trusting profiles on social media platforms and dating sites, over 400 women were conned by one person, finally confronted on Catfish: The TV Show}5

Universities in the United States have taken notice and action when it comes to online speech, especially when anonymously posted. For example, an administrator at Dartmouth College admitted that she monitored such postings on YikYak,16 while Emory University formed a task force to look into student complaints about abusive speech on YikYak, and the possibility of effectuating a geofence11 around the zip codes, which contain its campus.18

Today, traditional business students have grown up with the internet during their entire lives, having used social media for the majority of that time. These platforms promote instantaneous dissemination of thought, oftentimes without filter or reflection, and with potential tragic consequences.19 The communications world has thus transformed from a pre-Internet era of passive consumer consumption to a participatory forum of real time information clutter, where Millennials fail to distinguish actual news from fake news.20

Social media has further complicated personal and professional lives. …

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