Social media provides an excellent public forum for individuals and organisations to connect and share information. However, make sure you take care with what you share…
It is important to remember that whatever you post on social media may be subject to public scrutiny regardless of your security settings. Posts, tweets, images or blogs can easily be shared or reposted by others. Comments you leave on others’ pages can’t be taken back.
With the spread of social media, the distinction between personal and professional life has diminished. While you might be making a personal observation, you need to consider whether your professional life may be affected – or the reputation of your employer damaged by association.
So, if you’d think twice about announcing it to a lecture theatre packed with strangers, maybe you shouldn’t post it online either.
Case study #1 – Having a rant after a bad day
Mr K posted offensive comments on his Facebook page venting his frustration at his employer and making threats towards a co-worker he didn’t get on with. Mr K was certain that his settings protected him and would only be read by his work friends. The co-worker heard about the threats and complained. The employer’s decision to dismiss Mr K for serious misconduct was upheld in court.
Case study #2 – Trending 1 on Twitter
Ms S’s off-hand tweet as she boarded a plane to South Africa was read by thousands as a racist insult and retweeted in outrage at its author. Her employment with an international PR firm was terminated before she landed. Her name was so tarnished that she could not continue in her PR work and the association with her employer become untenable.
Case study #3 – Misapprehension about the medium
Mr M found out that posting online is a form of publication. His opinion about 3 well-known business figures, posted to “inform” others, cost him $700k plus following a WA defamation case. The judge emphasised that reposting or commenting on such material could be considered publication too, potentially exposing any others who contribute to such an online posts to defamation action as well.
Take home points:
- Be choosy about where you leave your social media footprint.
- Avoid being caught up in someone else’s campaign if the purpose of the online post isn’t clear and you don’t know the facts.
- Remember that not everyone will share your sense of humour or frustration.
- Poorly considered social media use may have legal, financial and professional consequences.