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Bill Targets Colleges Watching Players Online

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AUSTIN (AP) - For $3,500 a year, Texas Tech has hired a company that can automatically run every athlete’s Facebook posts and tweets through a filter that searches for profanity or words related to drugs, sex or anything inappropriate or controversial.

A Texas state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would curtail colleges’ power to do that, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, says employees and students of a university should be able to keep their accounts private.

“Employees and students should not feel compelled to divulge their social media login information,” Dukes said through a spokeswoman.

Her bill would ban school from getting access to the accounts of current or future student-athletes. The bill would also ban officials from asking for login information or requiring students to add them on Facebook.

Texas Tech and the University of Texas both have contracts with online monitoring companies, the newspaper reported. Texas Tech employs a company called YouDiligence, which also had a contract with Texas A&M until last year. Texas uses a similar firm, Varsity Monitor.

Both schools require athletes to download online monitoring for their social networking accounts.

Kevin Long, founder of YouDiligence, defended his service as a way to “take care of these guys,” in an environment where one errant post on social media can end up making headlines and creating headaches for teams.

“We aren’t Big Brother; we are big mother,” Long said.

YouDiligence uses a 650-word list to find posts that could be inappropriate and sends flagged posts to school officials. It lets coaches and administrators look at athletes’ profiles and view photos in which students are tagged.

At Texas Tech, athletes who post flagged material typically delete it, but coaches will sometimes call meetings to talk about content, said Justin Paysinger, director of student athlete affairs.

“We do it to protect our athletes,” as well as the team and the school’s reputation, he said.

Texas Tech safety Cody Davis said he felt online monitoring should be aimed at protecting students, not the school. Davis said he had not gotten into trouble for anything on social media, but he knew other players who had.

“They restrict our voice, which can be good and bad,” Davis said. “I don’t think any of my teammates really like it, you know. No one wants to be monitored all the time.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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