Rights in the News: A FIRE-Fight Over Facebook

By on May 15, 2009

Before heading home for a weekend of sitting out in the sun, standing in line for Star Trek or, in my case, seeing how much Lost it is possible to cram into a single weekend of house-sitting, here are a couple of worthy articles to chew on. Both, incidentally, involve the social networking site Facebookand by association practically every college student in the fifty states.  

Robert’s article at Pajamas Media takes a hard look at the NCAA’s questionable practice of sending cease-and-desist letters to students unconnected with athletic departments who wish to "recruit" (in the NCAA’s eyes) sought-after college basketball prospects via Facebook groupseven when they’re trying to woo them to a school they don’t attend. This free speech issue garnered national media attention after the Associated Press highlighted the issue, citing FIRE’s expertise on the matter. On the slippery slope the NCAA could soon be sliding down, Robert opines:

If the NCAA and its member institutions are comfortable with placing more importance on recruiting rules than on free speech principles, it is worth wondering what else the NCAA might deem more important than free speech. For instance, the NCAA’s insistence on forbidding universities from using Native American mascots or team names in many circumstances has been extremely controversial. Why, then, does the NCAA not send cease-and-desist letters to those who speak out against that policy on Facebook or the Internet as well? Does its failure to do so mean that the NCAA thinks that fighting racism is less important than preventing intrusion on the lives of recruits?

Do read the full article.

Also this week, The Chicago Maroon covered perhaps an even more disturbing incident of Facebook policing, in which the University of Chicago has waded not just into matters of private speech, but also its students’ private lives. Adam wrote on this case last week, and Robert followed up with his coverage of the Maroon article yesterday.

And as Luke noted previously, former Cal Poly professor Roger Freberg (husband of current Cal Poly Professor Laura Freberg) has kept up the din raised by FIRE’s criticism of Cal Poly’s budding CARE-Net programwhich may already be having an effect. Rest assured that Cal Poly has much further to go, and plenty more from FIRE is to come.

Schools: University of Chicago California Polytechnic State University