Clemson U. police to monitor students' social media during Ga. Tech. game

The Clemson University Tigers will take on Georgia Tech Thursday night, and while the players have their eyes on the ball, a group of students and police will have their eyes on social media activity.

According to the Greenville News, Greg Mullen, police chief for Clemson and Andrew Pyle, a faculty fellow of Clemson’s division of public safety, developed the idea to monitor social media platforms for words such as “kill” throughout the game. The article states that in addition to the word “kill,” the team will also be on the lookout for references to weapons to identify and prevent any threats that may happen on campus. 

Mullen cited recent mass shootings as one reason for the decision to monitor social media posts. 

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"There’s a lot of evidence that demonstrates that people engage in mass casualty attacks, or other types of targeted violence, have either communicated or had activity over social media," Mullen said, according to the Greenville News.

Nicole Nelly of Speech First told Campus Reform this isn’t a new idea. However, she said, there is the possibility of students’ words being taken out of context. For instance, if a student uses the word “kill” in reference to hoping one team defeats the other, the meaning could be misconstrued.

“Social media monitoring on campuses isn't a new trend - indeed, many school's bias response teams assert jurisdiction over posts made online - and there's always the possibility that humor, satire, and parody can be taken out of context and used against a student,” Neily said.

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According to Pyle, the university has a program that can search for keywords and highlight them for the team. However, since it is a program, Pyle says, it cannot recognize sarcasm or “colloquial phrases,” and jokes. 

“I'm hesitant to criticize the program outright without seeing how it's applied in practice - but it's definitely something that will be worth keeping an eye on this coming year,” Neily told Campus Reform

The university declined to comment at the time of publication. 

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