How Not to do Social Media Case Study – Southern Illinois University Carbondale Facebook Page

"The Net Interprets Censorship as Damage and Routes Around it" - John Gilmore

Right now, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale is in the middle of a contract negotiation dispute which has resulted in a strike by the tenured faculty.  As one would expect in a situation such as this, the faculty has urged its supporters to be vocal on the union’s behalf and some students took to the SIU Carbondale Facebook Fan Page to urge a resolution to the contract dispute.

Unfortunately, the SIU Carbondale administrators of the page began deleting those messages.  One report noted that they began by deleting only the messages of support for the faculty, but later began deleting all messages related to the dispute – and even went so far as to ban some users.


This is a great example of what *not* to do in social media.

As the Nestle Case Study in “How Not to Do Social Media” demonstrated, trying to censor social media is an exercise in futility.  Students have already begun to do what users did during that dispute, and changing their profile images to pro-union messages while posting innocuous content on the page.

Here’s why censorship should almost never be an option for social media presences:

  • Had the comments stayed up, they would get only marginal attention (because most students and local communities are very disconnected from the news and higher education politics); instead this has now turned into a sensational civil rights issue that is getting national attention.
  • Not only that, but instead of being able to more easily monitor and contribute to the discussion by hosting it on the SIU Facebook Page – it may now migrate to other forums not controlled by the university, now given legs by the sensational censorship aspect.  This has already taken place as faculty have set up social media presences to document the censorship through a blog and Twitter account.
  • To add insult to injury, SIU may now have turned off the audience they’ve earned on their Facebook page through this breach of trust (something that is very difficult to win back).  It should be noted, though, that since the last time I checked, the SIU Carbondale page now has more followers than before.

Fortunately it appears that SIU Carbondale has backed off the censorship strategy; messages of support for both the faculty and the administration are being posted.

However, the damage has already been done and this blew up into a national story (carried quickly on the wings of social media).  Every move being made by the administration is now being covered by national media – like this one to lock striking faculty out of their online accounts:

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