February 4, 2022 | LIFE | By Emily McKinley, Matt Silverman, and Leigh Walden |
For missed connections profiles on other campuses, some creators make guidelines and regulations for pages abundantly clear. At the University of Connecticut, a missed connections page includes rules posted on its page’s highlights which are also re-shared every week on its story. The rules allow for anyone to message the creator and have a post taken down, no questions asked. The guidelines ask that posts be respectful and appropriate. They also encourage students to be as detailed as they want without being creepy.
For the owner of the University of Connecticut page, who also wished to remain anonymous, these rules are fundamental.
“I made the rules before anyone had even submitted anything,” she said in an interview. They’re important to her because she knows “how anonymous pages can get out of hand.”.
The self-identified creator of University of Connecticut Missed Connections also uses her page as a space for positive mental health affirmations.
“I personally am passionate about mental health,” she said. “Bringing positivity into people’s lives through the stories (I share) is something that I really enjoy doing.”
CC has dealt with a problematic intersection of anonymous social media and wellbeing on campus before.
In 2015, two CC students were suspended and expelled, respectively, over racist comments made on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app.
The app, which was inactive for over four years, recently made a comeback on campus, adding to the myriad of ways CC students can express their thoughts anonymously.
From a legal standpoint, however, both the CC Missed Connections creator and those who submit connections to the account have some legal protection from potential exposure, but only to an extent.
Dawn Reveley, an attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law who taught two blocks at CC this year, said the owner of the page likely has minimal liability for what appears on the site. In the case of a free-for-all Instagram account, “that cloak of anonymity is the thing that is the greatest protection,” Reveley said. “It’s kind of difficult to pursue those individuals who have done something to harm somebody else on the internet.”
To sue against an anonymous account, an individual must identify the person behind the account on their own, says Reveley. To do so would require them to subpoena Instagram for this information.
In this case, per Instagram’s policy posted on its website, the company might provide “reasonable available basic subscriber information (not content), if any, only where the requested information is indispensable to a case and not within a party’s possession upon personal service of a valid subpoena or court order and after notice to affected account holders.”
They will not turn this information over easily and they require legal documents compelling them to do so.