Twitter sets rules against abuse (Associated Press, TBN, 8/14/13, A-3)

From London, England, new rules were announced by Twitter to help control abusive language in a move that followed a barrage of nasty, harassing and threatening messages directed at high-profile female users of the microblogging service.

Twitter introduced a one-click button to report abuse and updated its rules to clarify that it will not tolerate abusive behavior.

The one-click button means that users will not have to navigate to Twitter’s help center to fill out an abuse form-a process some said was too cumbersome to deal with a mass of angry messages-while the new rules include a stricture against “targeted abuse,” something that could include slamming a single user with messages from multiple accounts, creating an account purely to harass someone or making threats.

Additionally, the company vowed to devote more staff to weeding out offending messages while apologizing “to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through.”

In effect, it has been acknowledged that the relative anonymity of the Internet means it has long been difficult to police abusive or threatening speech, but the issue recently received attention in Britain after several women went public about the sexually explicit and often luridly violent  abuse they had received from online bullies, often called trolls.

Meanwhile, Twitter General Manager, Tony Wang offered explicit assurance in a tweet that the new anti-abuse policy will apply worldwide.

Rules to Stop Pupil and Teacher From Getting Too Social Online (Jennifer Preston, NYT, 12-18-11, A1&4)

“Faced with scandals and complaints involving teachers who misuse social media, school districts across the country are imposing strict new guidelines that ban private conversations between teachers and their students on cellphones and online platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Given a wide range of problems, including posting lurid comments or photographs involving sex or alcohol on social media sites, policies have begun to evolve. In response to inappropriate contact with students that blur the teacher-student boundary, extreme cases such as sexual abuse, and assault charges after having relationships that began with electronic communication with students have resulted in the incarceration of teachers and coaches.

On the other hand, stricter guidelines have met resistance from some teachers because of the increasing importance of technology as a teaching tool and social media to engage with students. In Missouri, the state teachers’ union, citing free speech, persuaded a judge that a new law imposing a statewide ban on electronic communication between teachers and students was unconstitutional. Lawmakers dropped the ban, but directed the school boards to develop their own policies.

School administrators acknowledge that the vast majority of teachers use social media appropriately. But they also say they are increasingly finding compelling reasons to limit teacher-student contact. School boards in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia have updated or are revising their social media policies.

“My concern is that it makes it very easy for teachers to form intimate and boundary-crossing relationships with students,” said Charol Shakeshaft, chairwoman of the Department of Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has studied sexual misconduct by teachers for 15 years. “I am all for using this technology. Some school districts have tried to ban it entirely. I’m against that. But I think there’s a middle ground that would allow teachers to take advantage of the electronic technology and keep kids safe.”

Lewis Holloway, the superintendent of schools in Statesboro, Ga. imposed a new policy prohibiting private electronic communications after learning that Facebook and text messages had helped fuel a relationship between an eighth grade English teacher and her 14-yr-old male pupil. The teacher was arrested on charges of aggravated child molestation and statutory rape and was awaiting trial.

“It can state out innocent and get more and more in depth quickly,” said Mr. Holloway.” Our students are vulnerable through new means, and we’ve got to find new ways to protect them.

What worries some educators is that overly restrictive policies will remove an effective way of engaging students who regularly use social media platforms to communicate. “I think the reason why I use social media is the same reason everyone else uses it: it works,” said Jennifer Pust, head of the English department at Santa Monica High School, where a non- fraternization policy governs both online and offline relationships with students. “I am glad that it is not more restrictive. I understand we need to keep kids safe. I think that we would do more good keeping kids safe by teaching them how to use these tools and navigate this online world rather than locking it down and pretending that it is not in our realm.
(for a complete reading)…….link

Students’ social media monitored by district (A.P., TBN, 9/16/13, A7)

A Southern California school district is trying to stop cyberbullying and a host of other teenage problems by monitoring the public posts that stdents make on social media outlets in a program that has stirred debate about what privacy rights teens have when they use their smart-phones.

Glendale Unified School District hired Geo Listening last year to track posts by its approximately 14,000 middle and high school students. The district approached the Hermosa Beach-based company in hopes of curtailing online bullying, drug use and other problems after two area teenagers committed suicide last year, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In Southern California the district is paying $40,500 to Geo Listening and in exchange, the company’s computers scour public posts by students on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs and other sites. Analysts are alerted to terms that suggest suicidal thoughts, bullying, vandalism and even the use of obscenities, among other things. When they find posts they think should spur an intervention, the company alerts the campus.

The Glendale district began a pilot program to monitor students online last year at its three high schools. “We think it’s working very well,” said the district’s superintendent, Dick Sheehan “It’s designed around student safety.”

Some students say they are bothered by the monitoring even if it’s intended to help them.

“We all know social media is not a private place ,not really a safe place,” said Young Cho, 16, a junior at Hoover High. “But it’s not the same as being in school. It’s students’ expression of their own thoughts and feelings to their friends. For the school to intrude in that area- I understand they can do it, but I don’t think it’s right.”

The company does ot have a list of students’ names and instead uses “deductive reasoning” to link public accounts to students, Frydrych said. It also only looks at public postings.

Brendan Hamme, an attorney with the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said the district is walking a fine line The program is “sweeping and far afield of what is necessary to ensure student safety,” he said.

Daily reports to school administrators include a screen capture of the flagged posts along with details of whether they were made on or off campus, the time and date, and the user’s name, if available.

It’s up to administrators to decide whether to act; so far, no students have been disciplined.