Recently, area schools have seen the development of various Twitter pages that engage in a form of cyber bullying. These pages can often have very suggestive or insulting statements that may lead to people getting hurt feelings or rumors spread about them. In the ever-changing world we live in, it is getting easier and easier to put things on the internet that can disrupt a school or business.
The Twitter pages that caused the Davies school staff and I to receive complaints were called FDaviesConfess. Soon, other Twitter accounts like DirtyDeacons, FNFacts, and BruinConfessions started popping up. It appears that these types of pages started at local universities and eventually spread to local high schools.
Staff of the involved schools received many complaints from students and parents. In dealing with these types of issues as agents of the law, we must balance free speech with any criminal activity. In this case, these types of activities do meet the definition of bullying, but do not reach the level of a crime. And if an incident does not rise to the level of a serious crime, it would be impossible to get a search warrant for social media outlets to determine the identity of the person posting the offensive material. In this case, the posts in question are offensive but not against the law.
Based on what we have learned from these accounts, it takes a complaint from a person who is being tweeted about to stand up and complain, and then only will Twitter consider shutting down the account, which is what I believe happened in this case. Currently, it appears that these aforementioned accounts have been shut down. Additionally, a letter to Twitter from U.S. Licensing Company, the local company that handles trademark issues for the Fargo Public School District, requested that the logos being used by these Twitter accounts were in violation of trademark laws. The letter also stated that these sites are being used for bullying tactics and serve no other purpose.
In a nice change of pace, an unknown student from Davies has started a Davies Compliment page where users periodically post compliments to random students. I guess this person got tired of all the negative comments from their peers.
(Mike Austin is the School Resource Officer at Davies High School. He can be reached at Michael.Austin@fargo.k12.nd.us.)