One of the problems with most social media services is that anyone can set up a profile without proving that they represent the entity. Schools are no exception and it is becoming common that parents, former pupils and even staff members are taking it upon themselves to create Facebook Pages, Instagram Profiles and Snapchat accounts in the name of their school, without asking permission of the school. Ultimately, doing this does not break any laws, so what can a school do to remove an unwanted social media profile?
If you’re reading this, it’s probably too late but the first thing one should probably do is get ahead of the pack and create social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and so on and make them official accounts of the school. While you don’t have to use these accounts, you have left your mark. As crude analogy is that, like the dog, you have cocked your leg and marked your territory.
The trouble is that if you are reading this article, it is likely that someone has beaten you to it. Once this happens, you generally are at the mercy of the people who have set up the account.
For me, step one is to approach the people who set it up and thank them for setting up a page and that you really appreciate them managing it. However, just for their own protection, in case anyone posts something inappropriate, it would be a good idea to share the administration of the social media profile with you or a member of staff. The person should really have no problem with this and it gives you both the power to work together to ensure no undesired content goes online.
If this doesn’t work, it is probably time for a heavier hand. On headed paper, write to the administrator and give them a certain amount of time to hand over administrative rights to the profile. Depending on the person, it is absolutely valid to use the term “seeking legal advice” to maybe put a bit of extra pressure.
After this, a letter from the chairperson with a second deadline would up the level a bit and gives a second chance for the offender to either take the profile down or to give the school administrative access.
Next, although potentially useless, you can report a profile using the site’s mechanism and let them know that the profile is impersonating the school and is not, in fact the school at all. In some cases, the website will come back to you to get proof of this but 99% of the time they don’t bother.
The final move is to seek legal advice and have a solicitor draft up a letter. This generally will put the willies up the most stubborn of perpetrators. Knowing that they are responsible for every word that is on this profile and that any defamation of the school’s character could be legitimately attributed to them might be enough.
Sometimes, someone will create a group on social media using the school logo, even if the profile isn’t meant to be an official school profile. For example, a group of ex-students might create a profile using the logo of the school. While this might be fine to some, the potential is that this group could be used in such a way that the logo tarnishes the image of the school. As with the above example, I would start informally before going through the stages of formality.
Another possibility is that current students might set up profiles using the school logo or images in school. The process for removing the logo etc. is the same except it might be better to do this through their parents rather than through the children. Most children see this world as harmless fun. The problem is that unless they are educated, it has the potential to become a hotbed of cyberbullying, which the school has to deal with anyway.
One would hope that step one is generally enough for anyone. I would be surprised that anyone would dig their heels in that much.