Police investigating controversial Twitter account
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
The UNH Police Department is currently investigating a controversial Twitter handle entitled @unh_D. Several students who felt that the handle’s content was offensive and harmful brought the account to the attention of the police.
The account, which had been deactivated since Thursday, Sept. 6 appears to have been reactivated on Monday, with eight tweets and over 800 followers.
“We were alerted a little over a week ago,” Executive Director of Public Safety Paul Dean said. “It’s rather complex because of social media and some of the first amendment issues that are associated with that.
“There’s not a lot of regulation out there [for social media]. It’s regulated by first amendment issues. We’re working to see what we can do from a criminal justice standpoint … and looking at some new possible leads.”
This is the UNH Police’s first case with social media of this nature, and they have not yet identified the students behind the account, nor were they responsible for the deactivation of the account.
Dean of Students Anne Lawing said that administration also did not have anything to do with the account being removed. She commented that Twitter is a private commercial field, and one that UNH would not try to shut down. When administration received information from upset students, it collaborated with UNH Police to look into trademark violations with the UNH logo.
“The account had no permission to use the logo, and it gave the impression that the university was condoning the content of the account,” Lawing said.
Twitter was notified of this trademark use, and the logo for the handle was changed.
As far as the content of the account, Lawing said, “While the university did take the upset students’ concerns to heart, there was nothing on the page that violated the boundary of protected speech.”
Several UNH departments and organizations are looking into the matter, including UNH IT and the Bias Response Team. SHARPP was also alerted, and responded on its Facebook page.
“UNH_D, perpetuates the myth that women exist for the sexual gratification of men and that women are ready and available at all times. The majority of women would take exception to that. They are here to study and grow and be taken seriously as scholars. For female sexual assault survivors and others seeking to feel safe in their communities, the idea that men view them this way can be unnerving or even terrifying,” SHARPP wrote.
Senior political science major Alex Freid initiated the investigation into the account.
The account, whose first tweet was posted on Aug. 31, and which Freid and several other students found offensive, was shut down on the night of Sept. 6.
On Sept. 3, Freid posted a call to action on his Facebook page regarding the anonymous account. This served as the catalyst for the heated debate that followed and prompted the police and administration to become involved.
Part of the call to action read: “The account essentially puts forward the idea that every girl on campus is desperate to have sex, all the time. ‘If she’s wearing leopard,’ or ‘If she has a belly button ring,’ or ‘If she likes your photo on Facebook,’ then ‘she wants the d.’ (D being a reference to ‘dick’). I am concerned that this account is essentially advocating rape, and if that line can’t be directly drawn, it is at the very least advocating for males to be extremely aggressive and overbearing in their pursuit of sexual relationships.”
Student Erica Vazza commented on the Facebook page, “The fact that people are so immature and ignorant and they think that it’s okay to post stuff like that is so messed up.”
Freid commented on his page that, while he understands that most people find the account to be innocent humor, “Jokes can still be offensive and perpetuate racist, homophobic, sexist (etc.) beliefs. They are still wrong and should not be tolerated on a college campus. Rape isn’t funny. I understand why people put forward free speech arguments for things like this, and I consider myself a free speech advocate, but I think this boils down to what’s allowed and what’s not allowed on a college campus and how victims feel in these situations. Schools are specifically places of learning where everyone should feel safe and welcome,” Freid said.
Freid maintains that his aim was never to shut down the account but, rather, to invite students who felt uncomfortable with the handle to share their feelings. His original call to action, he said, never mentioned the deactivation of the account; it was meant simply to provoke discussion and to invite administration to address the issue.