Mizzou Law Briefly Adopts the World's Worst Social Media Policy

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 08, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What's the worst form of government? Student government. And nowhere can this be seen more clearly than the University of Missouri School of Law short-lived new social media policy dreamt up by the (apparently Stalinist) students of the Student Bar Association.

Did we say social media policy? Orwellian thought control program might be a better description. Say that on Facebook, though, and you could face the wrath of the Mizzou SBA.

On Establishing Juche in Social Media Work

Mizzou Law's new social media policy was posted to Above the Law on Wednesday and wisely retracted soon after. According to the SBA:

Due to an extensive amount of Feedback [sic] from SBA members we have decided to remove the current policy pending revisions. Public comment will be forthcoming for SBA members to engage in discourse of the revised policy and guidelines.

If any of that public capital-F Feedback came via social media, it would have violated the school's short-lived policy. That policy:

  • Banned content that could be "misconstrued as negative or inappropriate."
  • Required that students post "positive and insightful commentary to help create bond and build rapport."
  • Demanded timely responses to "questions or inquiries."
  • Required use of "your real name and title" when discussing "an MU-related topic."
  • Told students to seek others' "informed consent" before "speaking about, or mentioning," them on social media.
  • Instructed students to "not comment despairingly [sic] on others."

We're all for "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all," but that should be a voluntary mantra, not the law imposed by your school. Plus, anonymity, negativity, and inappropriateness are half of what social media exists for.

As Above the Law points out, requiring students to reveal their identities when discussing the school is particularly Kim Jong-un -like. "What if I think professor X is bad at his job and is sexually inappropriate during office hours, but I'm still waiting for him to grade my paper?" they wonder. Expressing those concerns anonymously would be verboten under the SBA's policy.

They Teach Con Law at Mizzou, Right?

We get the gist of the SBA's social media policy: they don't want kids to embarrass themselves or the school online. That can be accomplished with a training, though, not massive restrictions on student speech. And the restrictions were massive. According to the SBA, the guidelines applied whenever:

you post content to any social-media outlet affiliated, or reasonably possible to be associated with; yourself, the School of Law, the student organizations here at the school, the Missouri Bar Association, the American Bar Association, or any other legal association, and the University of Missouri.

The SBA is made up of actual law students, correct? Wouldn't someone have noticed that attempting to squash so much student speech might have been a very bad, very unconstitutional idea?

Thankfully, the group has pulled the policy. Here's hoping their revisions don't make an awful idea even worse.

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