While major Internet platforms are busy silencing Alex Jones of Infowars.com, prestigious colleges are rejecting applicants who connect on social media with him and others with opinions not considered mainstream. We are not talking about applicants who are retweeting alleged hate speech, alleged “Fake News”, or alleged hoaxes. We are talking about just following a Twitter feed of someone whose views are frowned upon by members of an admissions committee.
While one of my legal clients (a 17 year old teen) was being interviewed by one of the most competitive colleges in the country he was asked why he was following Alex Jones on Twitter. My client, a teenager expected to talk about his stellar grades, top test scores, amazing extracurricular activities and volunteer work, but the interviewer focused on who he was connecting with online. My client had never “liked” or re-tweeted any of Mr. Jones’ content. His alleged “transgression” was that he followed Mr. Jones on Twitter. That was it.
Subsequently, the student’s parents engaged me about this troubling situation. Immediately, I performed a digital background check on the admissions interviewer and found her to be a Bernie Sanders follower. Interestingly, Mr. Jones’ is not a big fan of Mr. Sanders. To each his own; however, political discrimination has no place during the college admissions process and I told the college’s admissions director that the situation must be properly resolved immediately. The college didn’t want any negative publicity about this matter so it quickly resolved the situation to my client’s satisfaction.
This example demonstrates why teens need to not just audit their digital profiles and lock down their social media accounts during the college application process, they must also ensure that their web surfing history is not collected by an admissions committee because innocent digital activity is being used to reject students from their dream colleges. A teen’s web search history may include topics such as politics, religion, health status, creed, etc. According to The New York Times, some colleges are trying to buy these data points from the organizations that provide the SAT or ACT who obtain this data directly from student test takers.