February 28, 2014

Twitter account creates controversy

A Twitter account has raised eyebrows among University administrators and Student Government (SG).

University administrators feel that the “UChicago Hook Ups” Twitter account (@UChiHookUps) may have violated Twitter’s policy regarding the use of trademarks, and SG Class of 2017 Representative Saachi Gupta received a student complaint about the account potentially violating the privacy of students.

“UChicago Hook Ups” posts photos of students engaged in public displays of affection. Established in April 2013, the account has 31 tweets and 171 followers, as of Thursday night.

According to University spokesperson Jeremy Manier, a University official contacted Twitter to request the removal of the University’s name and logo from the account.

Twitter’s trademarks policy states that “using a company or business name, logo, or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation may be considered a trademark policy violation.” In response, Twitter may remove an account if it deems that the account is clearly misleading. If not, the account holder has “an opportunity to clear up any potential confusion,” according to Twitter’s official policy.

Gupta raised the issue of the account at SG’s Assembly meeting on February 13 after a first-year female student contacted her. The student recognized fellow students in the photos and was concerned about the account violating their privacy.

“It was something I had first seen when I was Googling UChicago when I first got into the school,” Gupta said. “At that point, I thought it was kind of weird, but I didn’t think much about it. It did not cross my mind until this friend brought it up to my attention again.”

According to Manier, it is not uncommon for the University to contact social media sites about the University’s right to its name, logos, and trademarks.

“The University has contacted Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social media networks about instances of unauthorized use of the University’s marks, with success in some cases,” he said in an e-mail.

According to second-year College Council Chair Mike Viola, SG has previously dealt with concerns about social media accounts. Last year, a student expressed reservations about “Politically Incorrect UChicago Confessions,” a Facebook account that posts anonymous statements that offended many members of the University community. The page now exists as “Politically Incorrect Maroon Confessions.”

“The ultimate result was the removal of ‘UChicago’ from the name of the page and the removal of the phoenix seal, though I do not know how aggressively the University had to pursue this result,” Viola said in an e-mail.

As of Thursday night, the University name and seal remain on the Twitter account. The owner of “UChicago Hook Ups” did not respond to requests for an interview.

—Additional reporting by Alice Xiao