Guidance Note: Anonymous social media accounts
Anonymous social media groups allow users to share and engage with content that is posted anonymously on behalf of other users. They can appear as ‘confessions’ style pages, or post anonymous questions that users would then respond to, and will have differing degrees of anonymity depending on the platform they are published on.
Anonymous pages have several benefits – they are often fun, and contain 'in jokes' like memes that students and staff enjoy. They are useful for peer advice, support and signposting, and often serve as useful outlets to ‘vent’, proving beneficial to the posters and a useful ‘temperature check’ for any University staff that monitor them from time to time.
However, the benefits must be balanced with the risks posed by the anonymous nature of the groups. Content that poses serious concerns with regard to wellbeing and safety can be posted, with potentially no helpful advice or support given to the anonymous poster. Content that is prejudiced, goes against Dignity at Warwick or the Online and Social Media Communications Policy, or even hate speech can be shared as posts or within comments responding to a post.
There are also data security concerns – just because an anonymous site is marketed to Warwick students doesn’t necessarily mean that it is run by students, or by anyone even affiliated with the university. The data that students provide anonymously can be saved indefinitely, sold, lost, stolen, or used to exploit the poster.
We believe that the benefits of anonymous social media sites are as important as the risks they pose to users, and therefore we have developed the following approach to make sure we treat anonymous social groups fairly.
Working with anonymous social media groups
When we are made aware of an anonymous social media group:
- The social media team will attempt to make contact with the administrators to introduce themselves and to ascertain in what capacity they are affiliated with the University.
- We will explain our position on their page, emphasising their responsibilities to their audience – our staff and students – particularly if they market themselves specifically to the Warwick community
- We will ask for wording that signposts to support and reporting facilities at the university and other reputable bodies, that makes it clear they do not present the University, and outlines how they work with user data, to be agreed with the university and published in the following ways:
- a pinned message, or other permanent content, to be kept in a prominent position on their page
- an ‘auto response’ which is sent as a reply to each and every submission to their site
- We will ask that they stop using any University of Warwick logo if they are already doing so
If the administrators refuse to engage, or refuse to take accountability for the content on their pages, then the social media team would pass on any information we have about the administrators to the student disciplinary team, Human Resources or the legal team. In extreme circumstances, we may be required to report the page to the social media platform for recommended removal or to the Police regardless of whether we know the identity of the administrators or posters.
Links to further advice, policy and support
- Dignity at Warwick
- Warwick Principles
- Guidance on use of brand and logo
- Online and Social Media Communications Policy