Students accessing “social networking services” such as Facebook, MySpace and Xanga must be careful to read the terms and conditions set forth by these services. Students must be aware that they are solely responsible for the content of their sites and that neither the networking services nor Rider University assumes any responsibility for what students place there.
Inappropriate material placed on these sites may be subject to Rider University’s Code of Social Conduct. Students should pay specific attention to section 1.1 Personal Misrepresentation, section 2.2 Reckless Endangerment, section 2.7 Verbal/Non-Verbal Harassment, Humiliation, Intimidation or Discrimination, section 2.8 Disorderly Conduct, section 2.9 Indecent Conduct and section 3.1 Attempted or Actual Abuse, or Unauthorized use of the Computer.
In addition to violations of University policy, the posting of inappropriate material may subject students to criminal and civil penalties. As referenced in the terms and conditions of these networking services, students should refrain from posting material that is deemed to be criminal; harassing; racially, sexually, ethnically or religiously objectionable; defamatory; obscene; invasive of another’s privacy; or infringing of copyright.
In particular, students using these services should become familiar with the concepts of defamation and invasion of privacy.
Elements of a defamation claim include:
- conveying any message about a person(s) through words, images, etc. that could be reasonably understood as being factual (a statement of opinion like “I think Paul cheats on tests” could be considered factual depending upon the context);
- the message is conveyed intentionally or inadvertently to someone other than the person(s) who is the subject of the message;
- the message conveyed is understood by others to be about the person(s) who is the subject of the message;
- the message conveyed would reasonably be understood as being harmful to the reputation of the person(s) who is the subject of the message
- and the message conveyed ultimately harms the subject’s reputation.
Claims for invasion of privacy arise under different circumstances. For example, a claim for invasion of privacy may occur if one impermissibly uses the name or likeness of another person for one’s own benefit. Invasion of privacy may also occur if one makes public a matter concerning the private life of another and if the matter made public would be considered highly offensive to a reasonable person and is not of legitimate public concern. Additionally, invasion of privacy occurs when one is placed by another in a public false light. Here a violation might arise if the false light into which the person is placed would be considered highly offensive to a reasonable person and the violator had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard as to its falsity.