Social Media Cautionary Tales for Researchers

Live tweeting conferences #twittergate

In 2012 Inside Higher Ed reported on a live tweeting controversy raised by Roopika Risam on her blog.

“The debate over live tweeting at conferences is, in many ways, about control and access: who controls conference space, presentation content, or access to knowledge?” wrote Roopika Risam, a doctoral student at Emory University, on her blog.Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, October 2, 2012

This controversy centred on the ethics of live tweeting a conference. Is it OK to essentially broadcast the work of others without having their express permission?

Read more here.

Journalism lecturer suspended

In 2014 Martin Hirst a journalism lecturer at Deakin University was suspended for a series of derogatory tweets that he made. He was eventually reinstated after 15o academics protested and he apologised for using “inappropriate and offensive language“.

In a similar case, Steven Sailata an American academic whose appointment was blocked following a series of tweets he made about Israel.

Both cases caused considerable controversies.

Both Hirst and Salaita were known to hold controversial views and were under scrutiny from those who opposed them. Punishing them for committing an indiscretion is a way of discouraging expression of unpopular views. A university can stand up for civility without suspending or rejecting those who overstep the mark.Janna Thompson, The Conversation, October 14, 2014

You can read more on the Conversation web site.

In September, the University of Kansas suspended David W. Guth, a tenured journalism professor, after he responded to the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard with this comment on Twitter: “#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.”Scott Jaschik, Inside HigherEd, December 19, 2013

Guth was eventually reinstated but the case a lot of controversy.

Philip Nel, a professor of English at Kansas State University, blogged Wednesday night that “as faculty grade their last student papers and exams before leaving town for the Christmas holidays, the Kansas Board of Regents quietly — and unanimously — voted to revoke their academic freedom and basic right to freedom of speech.”

Read the full story here.