Recent Video Raises the Questions of Privacy and Defamation on Ole Miss Campus

On April 20, The Black Sheep, a college media and marketing company, posted a controversial video on its Facebook page depicting Ole Miss students unknowingly being filmed around campus. The video titled “High Times at Ole Miss” comes with different captions giving fictitious names and ages of the individuals along with a description of how they are celebrating 4/20, also known as “weed day.”

With over 5,000 views currently, this video brings to question the legal implications of recording people without their knowledge, publishing false content about a person, and following the university creed “I believe in respect for the dignity of each person.”

With articles titled “United Airlines Lucky Rabbit Foot Sacrifice Backfires in Spectacular Fashion” and “The 3 Best and Worst Places To Chain Smoke at Ole Miss”, The Black Sheep boasts a less traditional form of journalism.

Made up of “strong, shrewd, and drunk hard-hitting editorial teams that produce daily comedic content people love,” according to its website, The Black Sheep has acquired a strong following of college-aged students.

In order to understand the situation more in depth, representatives from The Black Sheep, attorneys, students who were featured in the video, and media law professors were questioned about the video.

Mackenzie Harding, the national campus editor for The Black Sheep has not seen any negative comments or backlash about the recent video.

“The feedback I’ve seen has been great, our goal is never to deliberately offend people, so we try to keep it lighthearted and fun,” Harding said.

Although the website never intended to offend the people involved, some students feel that it is disrespectful and an invasion of privacy.

Daniel Dubuisson, a junior journalism major from Pass Christian, Mississippi was featured in the video and was not made aware of his involvement until a friend sent him a link to the Facebook page.

“I had never heard of The Black Sheep before, I didn’t know what they were all about and so I clicked on it and I was immediately thrown off by the headline,” Dubuisson said.

“I kept watching and I just got very upset that someone would do this to people that they didn’t even know on Snapchat and that social media would give them the ability to do this with absolutely no repercussions.”

“I was very offended and I did not appreciate that someone would do this and not even have the courtesy to let me know or ask for permission.” Dubuisson said.

While Dubuisson found the video offensive, and it was taken without his knowledge, does he have enough evidence to take legal action on the grounds of slander or libel?

To answer this question, one must first understand what libel and slander are.

According to laws.com, the elements of a cause of action for either libel or slander include four things.

The action being addressed must be a “1. defamatory statement; 2. published to a third party; 3. which the speaker knew or should have known was false; 4. that causes injury to the subject of the communication.”

 

When asked about the video, Charles D. Mitchell, assistant dean at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media and Communications Law professor said that there are two legal contexts that are raised: privacy and libel.

“Recording or photography of any person and activity in a public place is not considered private,” Mitchell said. “People and events that can be seen by any passer-by, even if embarrassing, can be recorded and placed on any media platform.”

“On the other hand, there are plenty of places were people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as within their homes. So as far as privacy is concerned, the issue is where the people were.”

With that being said, because the students were in a public place and not in the privacy of their homes, then the person who recorded the video is not at fault when legally talking about the topic of privacy.

But what about publishing false information?

“Libel,… is the use of a person’s name or identifiable image along with a statement of fact that is both false and defamatory that injures reputation,” Mitchell said.

“Sometimes ‘statement of fact’ can be an implication. For instance, video of an unidentified student sitting on a park bench with a six-pack of beer beside him, would not be a violation of the student’s privacy,” Mitchell said. “If published near the headline, ‘University seeks to aid student alcoholics,’ would imply strongly the student is an alcoholic, which might make people think less of this student.”

“The far more relevant point is whether the video, recorded in a public place or not, falsely indicated strongly enough that depicted students were using illegal drugs or illegally using legal drugs,” Mitchell said.

While the video may be considered a defamatory statement, and it was published to a third party, there is a question of whether the creator of the video knew or should have known that the statement was false. In addition, there has currently been no recorded injury from the subject.

In other words, you can’t just say that the video hurt your feelings and that it might look bad if someone recognizes you in it. One must show that actual damage was done. For example, if Dubuisson had been fired from his job after his boss saw the video because he thought that Daniel was doing drugs, then there would be proof of injury to the subject.

David Greene, Civil Liberties Director, Senior Staff Attorney, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation also weighed in on the video.

“In Mississippi, only one party a communication needs to consent to a recording. Therefore, the recording is not illegal if any one of those students that was part of a group communication consented,” Greene said.

“The law only applies to recording audio. If the video is just images, the law does not seem to apply. Also, in some states, recording is restricted only if the activity recorded takes place in a private place, rather than, say, in a place open to the public,” Greene said.

“I am not sure if written captions in a video that imply a false statement would be treated as slander of libel,” Greene said. “It appears that Mississippi treats oral statements broadcast via recorded video to be slander. But it treats all written statements as libel.”

“If the video does in fact imply that the students were using drugs and they were in fact not doing so (that is, the implication was false), then the students about whom the assertion was implied, may have a claim for defamation (be it libel or slander),” Greene said.

“But this is a completely separate issue from the recording-without-consent issue. It won’t matter for the purposes of a defamation claim whether the video was illegally made or not.  But the assertion will have to be false,” Greene said. “That is, the students will not have a viable claim if they were in fact under the influence.”

The Division of Student Affairs at the university was asked about their reaction to this video and did not comment.

Harding said that due to the video’s success and those like it, similar video are likely to follow. The original idea for a similar video came from a Black Sheep student at another campus earlier in the semester.

She admits that like many other media companies, social media plays a vital role in getting their name and content out there.

“We maintain local Twitter and Snapchat accounts on each campus to keep a consistent presence,” Harding said.

With the importance of social media constantly increasing, student’s privacy can be expected to dimension, at least to some extent.

What Works

German crowd hisses, boos at Ivanka when she defends her dad

I chose to do my What Works on this CNN article because the Trump name in general is controversial, and anything about Ivanka Trump lately is sure to spark conversation. I had seen mentions of this interaction earlier today, so I clicked on the article to learn more about what happened.

  • The article is SEO friendly; mentions Ivanka Trump (big name) and sums up the article nicely
  • The lead also did a great job of giving the most important details in the story first
  • Came with a video think added more information and details to the story
  • As for nearly all CNN article, there is a ‘story highlights’ section in the top left corner that includes the most important information out of the whole story
  • Follows inverted pyramid

Barnard Observatory will be lights out but lit up

By: Rachel A. Ishee & Daniel Dubuisson 

Barnard Observatory has housed Confederate soldiers, sorority sisters, and even a chancellor. This Friday night, it will host a much different crowd.  

The UM Pride Network will be hosting its third annual formal from 9 p.m. to midnight in the Tupelo Room.

The theme for the free event is “Out of The Closet, Out of This World” and attendees are encouraged to show up in their best intergalactic inspired outfits.

“It’s going to be your favorite astronauts, your favorite aliens, milky-ways, whatever you want to be,” Spencer Pleasants, current president of the UM Pride Network, said. “The sparklier the better. The more silver or metallics the better. Whatever fantasy suits you, do it and come on and party.”

A playlist has been created by the planning committee featuring a sound they describe as “David Bowie meets Lady Gaga meets Star Wars.”

“We’ve been working on a collaborative playlist of out of this world tunes,” Pleasants said. “There’s going to be a brigade of fabulous dancefloor tunes that you can get your space booty down too.”

But dancing is not all that is drawing some people to this formal. Others are simply excited to have a safe space to meet new people. In the past, the formal was targeted towards members of the undergraduate LGBTQ+ organization, but this year organizers are actively promoting the event to a much broader audience.

“I’m just looking forward to going there and relaxing for a night,” sophomore accounting major and ally Skyler Knapp said. “Hopefully some new faces will be there, and… be more active in the community.”

“We need something like this because with the LGBTQ+ community and the environment we live in at Ole Miss… the Greek community is so prevalent,” junior biology major Sam Palmer said.

“It is not known for being particularly accepting of queer people, so i think that having a formal that kind of mirrors the fun things greek people do gives the queer students a chance to kick back and enjoy that experience they wouldn’t be able to have.”

And though similar already exist such as Everybody’s Formal hosted by ASB, Palmer thinks that the Ole Miss community will benefit from something that embraces that embraces this group of people who are normally polarized.

“It is different when you cater something to a specific community,” Palmer said. “People think that ‘this is an event for me’…so maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be queer.”

The formal is not only giving people a place to cut loose in a safe space, but it is also getting them excited up for the upcoming pride weekend.

“Our hope is that this formal gets people in gear as a precursor to L.O.U. Pride coming up the first week on May,” Pleasants said.    

“I’m looking forward to just dancing the night away and hopefully dancing the night into the stars.”

Standout shortstop is a boost for the Biloxi Shuckers, announcer says

This week I decided to do my What Works on Daniel Dubuisson’s article for the Sun Herald.

I thought that the article did a great job of incorporating baseball lingo and quotes throughout the story.  It helped to give the article more character.  The article also did a great job of incorporating facts into the story, while also keeping the reader entertained.

Although the article was a little on the short side, I think that it did a great job of summing everything up. I also think that interviewing the announcer gives a new, interesting take on the season ahead.

I can see it working well on social media, so that people who are scrolling through Facebook or on their phones can read it and get a quick summary of what is in store for next season.

Final Project

For my final project, I plan to cover an upcoming event by Kelley Hansborough, a special education major at Ole Miss.  While the event is still in the planning process, it is set to occur at the end of April.  Currently, a “fun walk” will occur on campus to benefit Joni and Friends, an organization that helps those with disabilities.  This is the first event of it’s kind being help in Oxford, so it has not been covered before.  I plan on talking with the organizer, Hansborough, as well as those who plan on attending the event.  I’m having a difficult time figuring out how to make sure the article is not too much like a press release.

Downtown Parking Advisory Commission Meeting

On April 7th, the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission met at City Hall to discuss plans for the addition of new metered parking, upcoming parking garage construction, the Double Decker Arts Festival, and updated parking revenue and expenses for the months of March and April.

The parking commission acknowledged the lack of metered and free parking spots during the day, especially during busy hours such as Thursday to Saturday evenings. The metered spots stay at about a 60 percent capacity while the free parking spots are almost always full.

To combat the lack of available parking spaces on and off of the Square, the commission is planning on starting construction on a parking garage within the next year. Construction is predicted to begin in January 2018, and the project should take about a year to complete.

The new parking garage will be located between the Oxford Square North building and La Rousse Salon and Spa on North Lamar Blvd. During construction, the more than 100 free parking spots located on the site would not be available for use.

Although the garage construction will take away valuable parking spots, the commission is looking into several other sites located near the Square to possibly rent during construction to help with the loss of the spots.

There are currently four qualified firms that’s are being considered for the parking garage construction. The firms will be meeting with the commission on April 18, starting at 9 a.m. and continuing throughout the day.

In addition to the construction of a parking garage, six new metered spots can be expected just off of the Square on Tyler Ave. in the coming months. This is expected to help increase revenue.

Since January 5, 2017, parking meter hours on the Square have been prolonged from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. two extra hours, from 10 a.m. to midnight.

The addition of the hours has caused an increasing in meter revenue, with total revenue in December at $49,734.92 and the revenue in January increasing to $56,288.07. The total meter revenue for March was recorded at $72,667.55.

The month of March produced a total of 700 tickets. The average monthly ticket rate is 484. Tickets include overtime tickets, improper tickets (parking in front of a yellow curb, or anything that is not considered a legal parking spot), and handicap tickets.

As of March 1, there are a total of $87,003.00 in unpaid tickets and $205,271.89 in paid tickets.

With the Double Decker Arts Festival coming up at the end of the month, April 28-29, the parking commission has several plans for the weekend.

Meters will operate under regular hours and pricing on Friday, with the exception of North Lamar being closed for the stage and other booths. Metered parking will be free on Saturday, and on Sunday as usual.

Due to the lack of attendance, the meeting Friday morning was not considered an official meeting. Several commissioners were not in attendance, including Jeff Johnson, David Sparks, and Mike Mitchell.

Ole Miss Parking 2017: Are You Ready?

By Daniel Dubuisson & Rachel A. Ishee

Everyone loves to hate parking on the Ole Miss campus. With roughly 14,000 spots but more than 21,000 students and faculty, that leaves 7,000 people who might potentially call the parking department any given day to complain.

In response, Director of Parking and Transportation Mike Harris says the matter can be summed up into three words.

“Enough, cheap, and convenient,” Harris said. “You can pick two but you’ll never get all three…and we have every combination on this campus.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve. In fact, the department has several projects in the works for the 2017-2018 school year starting with the change in cost of each type of permit.

Residential permits will rise to $250, commuter to $200,  and Park-n-Ride to $100. But perhaps the biggest difference is the price of permits for the parking garage attached to the Pavillon.

“We’re going to lower the price of the garage from $550 to $400,” Harris said. “It’s going to be all reserved spaces and the gates are going away.”

That’s a change that students who currently hold permits for the parking garage are thrilled for.

Junior Alexandra Morris says she cannot wait for the transition after experiencing numerous flaws in the garage’s system but admits that she still has her reservations.

“I don’t know how they’re going to enforce that,” Morris said. “The gates are brutal but all they’ll be able to do is give a ticket if someone is in there without a permit and that’s a spot I still can’t park in.”

One thing that isn’t going away is the $5 fee for contesting a ticket.

If you protest any ticket and the citation is waived you have nothing to worry about, but if you appeal a ticket and your request is denied, the $5 fee will still be assessed to your preexisting citation…something that many permit holders find to be unfair.

“I think it is unreasonable for students to pay that fee,” junior Maddy Young said. “One of the main reasons they’re fighting it is because they can’t afford to pay the actual ticket in the first place.”

Regardless of students’ opinions of the fee, Mike Harris says that it is here to stay.

Students and faculty can still look forward to other changes, however, like the development of a carpool system. It will encourage students to share a ride to campus in order to leave additional spaces open for other students.  

“We’re going to have a carpool parking area on campus,” Harris said. “You can come in with two or more people and park in this carpool area.”

This zone will be located just west of the Pavilion in the lower half of the lot currently zoned for faculty and staff only. It will soon be opened to carpoolers with commuter passes and monitored by officers using a camera pointed at the designated lot.

“If our officers see two people get out of the car, then they’re good…if they see one person get out of that car, it’s not good,” Harris said. “If you have two or more people in that one car, that’s two more spaces open.”

Harris also says the department is eliminating select parallel parking zones on campus by August. The entirety of Rebel Drive entering campus and the east side of Sorority Row are on the chopping block.

“We’ve got to get people off of these streets and get them into lots,” Harris said. “Open these streets up for bike lanes…and for shuttle stops because it’s becoming a more pedestrian campus.”

As for the bus system, several modifications will be completed by the fall semester.

Current university buses will be getting an updated blue exterior alongside several new buses being added to the fleet. Buses are also being equipped with wifi and charging stations.

“We’re trying to get things uniformed…to trademark all of our buses so that they all look the same,” Harris said. “Regardless of the size of the buses, they are all one system.

Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations such as LED signs and automated announcements to alert people of the next stop are being added along with eight new bus stops to make getting from class to class more convenient.

“We’ll have two buses running counterclockwise and two buses running clockwise,” Harris said.  “We have no stop on campus that is more than a four minute walk from a stop.”

The new buses will seat anywhere between 38- 45 passengers and will run everyday solely on campus.

These changes will certainly garner some initial negative critiques from people on campus but Harris feels it is all for the greater good. His goal is to use what is left of the campus’ 640 acres to improve the parking situation.

“All of these things that we’re doing, they all work together for the same reason and that reason is to get the most out of the parking that we have and to try to do it as economically and efficiently as possible.”

 

What Works

Oxford to add more meters on and around The Square

I was immediately drawn to this story because it was discussing the topic of parking. Everyone in the Ole Miss and Oxford community knows that parking is a hot topic. People hate paying for parking and the fact that Oxford is adding more meters around the Square is sure to upset numerous people.

As I began reading the article, I was immediately distracted by the survey that was blocking the rest of the article. I understand that advertisements help to pay for and fund the newspaper but the fact that it blocked everything really took away from the article. Most people who click to read the story will probably exit out of it right when they see that they have to answer a questionnaire before they can continue reading.

What Works

A 15-Year-Old Was Allegedly Kidnapped By Her Teacher 2 Weeks Ago, & Still Hasn’t Been Found

This article, written by Halie LeSavage, caught my attention because we just talked about this story in last weeks class. It gained a lot of buzz because the drama that comes along with the relationship between the girl and the teacher.

The story provides several links throughout the article to add to its credibility. I would have liked to have seen more images throughout the article, because only one blurry picture was provided.

The article was a shorter story, but had links to other articles which added more detail. For a blog geared towards college-aged women, I think that the article did a great job of presenting the information to the reader.