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10 Aug, 2018 19:43

Social media posts could ruin your college dreams, lawyer warns

Merely following Alex Jones on Twitter almost cost one teen a college admission. Another lost his scholarship over a Facebook message about the 2016 election. Anything you post can and will be used against you, a lawyer tells RT.

“It’s absolutely troubling what some of the colleges are doing,” attorney Bradley Shear, who specializes in social media cases, told RT. Many universities are hiring monitoring companies that comb the social media lives of applicants, even going so far as to spy on their search histories and internet activity.

“This is a very problematic situation,” Shear said. “It’s a very big problem and it’s only getting worse.”

Shear shared a story about one client of his, a 17-year-old who was asked in his college admission interview why he followed Alex Jones on Twitter. Last week, half a dozen platforms banded together to ban, block and delete the accounts of Jones and his InfoWars show.

The teen had never liked or retweeted any of Jones’s content – his “transgression” was merely following the conspiracy theorist on Twitter, Shear explained. The way he tackled the case was by going to the college and arguing the admissions interviewer displayed improper political bias.

“I made sure the situation was resolved to the student’s satisfaction,” Shear told RT.

Another client wasn’t so lucky, losing a $250,000 scholarship and admission to “one of the most prestigious universities in the world” over an emoji and like on a Facebook post related to the 2016 presidential election.

“Even though this teen’s social media accounts had the highest privacy settings, a ‘Facebook friend’ took a screenshot of the alleged inappropriate like and emoji, saved it for months, and anonymously sent it to the admissions office of the teen’s top college choice,” Shear said in a November 2017 Baltimore Sun article.

Though tech platforms have a legal cover for banning someone by invoking their terms of service, “I’m of the belief that, in general, people should be heard,” Shear told RT on Thursday. “And whether or not you like, or agree with, someone’s statements, that’s an individual determination of everyone using their platform.”

“I’m a big fan of not only personal privacy, but freedom of speech,” he added.

The major problem with social media companies is that they are “invasive” in their demands for personal data, the attorney said. Using technology, private institutions gather information about your race, religion, political viewpoints, and so on. Facebook has even reached out to banks about getting the private information of their customers, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

“They are taking this information and using it against you,” Shear said. “I don’t want Facebook to know my bank account information. It’s none of their damn business!”

Even as political campaigns seek information on potential voters to better target their online advertising, having little or no social media presence might be an asset for aspiring candidates for public office in the future, as there won’t be any “digital dirt” to dig up on them, the attorney told RT.

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