WARNING: Colleges May Reject You Based On Whom You Follow On Social Media

Twitter.
Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Prospective college students beware, university administrators are not only going through your educational history and social media feeds to see what you’ve said in the past, they’re now looking to discriminate against you based on whom you follow.

In a post on his website Shear Social Media, attorney Bradley Shear told the story of a client who was asked by a “prestigious college” why he followed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Twitter.

“We are not talking about applicants who are retweeting alleged hate speech, alleged ‘Fake News,’ or alleged hoaxes,” Shear wrote. “We are talking about just following a Twitter feed of someone whose views are frowned upon by members of an admissions committee.”

Shear’s 17-year-old client had never “liked” or retweeted any content from Jones or his website InfoWars, but just following Jones was enough for him to be questioned. When Shear looked into the digital history of the college admissions interviewer who asked the teenager about Jones, he discovered she was fan of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Socialst-VT).

Shear contacted the interviewer and stressed that such discrimination was unacceptable. “The college didn’t want any negative publicity about this matter so it quickly resolved the situation to my client’s satisfaction,” Shear wrote.

But this particular client was lucky, according to Shear. Many other students are rejected based on their social media history, including whom they follow (even if they follow that person because they don’t like them, as I do with many people I disagree with).

“Many college admissions offices such as Harvard are encouraging anyone who has ‘digital dirt’ on an applicant or accepted student to send it to the admissions department so they can reject an applicant or revoke an offer,” Shear wrote. “This happens regularly and finally made international headlines last year when Harvard revoked offers to at least 10 applicants based up their digital footprint. What is more troubling is that Harvard has lobbied for years against a social media privacy law for applicants that would ban colleges in Massachusetts from being able to request applicants verify their digital accounts and activities which may indicate their political or personal opinions.”

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