In the last two weeks several stories appeared in the news media in South Africa about Facebook confession pages from big universities. There’s numerous references to matters that is and should remain private, there are rumors and gossip, and there are mundane confessions like the sort in a private diary.
The process is making people anonymous is interesting:
- People submit their confessions via a Google Form
- The moderators of the Facebook pages select the gossip to post
- People LIKE the pages, comment like crazy and probably laugh a lot
The office environment may have more controls, but the university seems an even more complex beast to enforce a social media policy. Students are known to download movies or music using the campus computer networks. There are certainly a group who are drinking alcohol or smoking pot, even though it’s banned.
Since the advent of the Internet in corporate networks, Internet usage policies have been a consistent part of the HR policy new staff members have to sign. Universities have similar policies, and students are aware of them. However, just because someone is aware of a policy, does not mean they can be forced or compelled to abide by them.
Since most people access social media from their own devices, whether smartphones or tablets, there are not software tools a university network administrator can utilize to compel them to comply. It is not practical to control people’s private use of the Internet, yet their actions can cause irreparable damage to the institution and people vilified.
In the past I’ve suggested the following options for organisations to moderator abuse of the Internet:
- Block all access to social media sites
- Open complete access to social media sites
- Give social media sites before 8am and after 4pm.
As you can see this does not apply because student’s will not stop using the smartphones during lectures, let alone during the bathroom. So what can be done?
Maybe the best method yet is the embarrassment. In the early days of the Internet usage, some companies published top 10 list of “downloaders”. This was done in a way to ensure that people know who was abusing the company network, and this form of naming and shaming was effective in the short term and especially the long term. Your social media policy may include a clause on naming people who abuse their access to social media.