UNC tweaks Twitter, Facebook policies

From staff reportsAugust 30, 2010 

Friends and fans are not the only ones this season following what North Carolina athletes post on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Now, their coaches are required to, as well.

UNC has updated its 2010-11 Student Athlete Handbook to stipulate that “each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitor the content of team members’ social networking sites and postings.” The athletics department also reserves the right to have other staff members monitor athletes’ posts; and if any of an athlete’s online content violates the law or NCAA, University or athletic department policies, sanctions could range from removal of the posting to dismissal from the team.

Associate athletic director Steve Kirschner said the updated social networking policy has been in the works since last spring, “and it is not in response to any one thing.”

But there have been a couple of incidents that likely played into it.

UNC defensive lineman Marvin Austin, who has been questioned as part of the NCAA’s investigation into whether football players had inproper contact with agents, posted more than 2,400 updates – including pictures of a watch for his younger sister, a bag from an upscale sunglass store in Miami and a $143 bill from The Cheesecake Factory in Washington, D.C. – before his Twitter account went dark.

Earlier this summer, basketball sophomores Dexter Strickland and John Henson, plus junior Larry Drew II, posted variations of the same message on their individual Twitter accounts: "well coach just talked to us about twitter and told us we offend some people n what not so this is a farewell to bein' myself..lata tweeps."

(They continue to tweet, but their posts have been toned down a tad.)

Last year’s Student Athlete Handbook reminded players that what they post on social networks is public information; that they are a representative of the University and always in the public eye; that information is accessible after they remove it; that they should exercise caution about posting their whereabouts or plans; and that future employers might use their sites as a background check.

The updated handbook expands on those, stating that the athletic department “will not tolerate disrespectful comments and behavior online.” That includes derogatory language; comments that constitute a credible emotional or physical threat; and photos that depict unlawful abuse, hazing, harassment, discrimination, drug possession or use, and any other illegal conduct.

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