Topic 4: Tweeting your Business

Sometimes, not minding your own business online can affect your business in real life.

There are a number of cases where an individual’s social media has gotten them into trouble at work, and in some instances, even fired, which raises the debate on freedom of speech online and self-censorship.

Where do we draw the line between expressing what we want to say and holding ourselves back because our opinions, jokes or thoughts might cause offence to an unknown reader out in cyberspace and risk our livelihood? And is it fair to be fired for something that was done outside of the workplace?

Some would argue, that yes, in fact it is.

It has been drilled into me since my school days that when I would leave the school premises, I was still a representative of my school; not just because I was still in my uniform and in town after the school day had ended, but because I was a member of that organisation. To me, the same applies to where I have worked because I do take care with how I conduct myself because I myself, and consequently my behaviour, are attributed to my employer, regardless of where I am physically or digitally.

For example, Erica Escalante was fired from her internship for a racist tweet that was brought to the attention of her employer by other Twitter users. I support her dismissal in this case because it was an inexcusable, unprovoked and derogatory tweet, despite her intention to be that of a joke.

There also are examples of complete idiocy – tweeting about hating your job/boss and being let go because of it to me is simple logic: “You don’t want to work here, we’ll make that happen.”

However, there are some occasions where people read into tweets almost seeking something to cause them offence, when that was not intended or implied at all, causing the accused to lose their job.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 17.15.42

Source: https://twitter.com/tbhjuststop/status/715972285522395136

Take for instance Damian Goddard, a sports broadcaster who was fired for sharing his political and religious opinion (that had nothing to do with sports) on Twitter. In my opinion, Goddard’s tweet was by no means offensive because it incurred no hateful vocabulary and was not targeted at anyone or any group: He was exercising his right to speak his mind in a polite manner. Regardless, he was fired. But is it really okay to fire people over a differing opinion?

It can be hard to decipher tone online which is why there are many interpretations of one message, but at the same time people tend to be over-sensitive, to the point where people don’t want to discuss anything out of fear of being hated and slated online and therefore succumb to self-censorship, which is an issue in itself because it alludes to the notion of freedom of speech diminishing, as people who hold a minority opinion feel as if they are not allowed to say it.

I think it comes down to being conscious and aware of the decisions we make online and being accountable for our actions just as we would be offline: If you don’t think it would go down too well if you said what you wanted to tweet in the office because it doesn’t align with your company’s morals, or you wouldn’t want your mother or children to read what you wrote because it’s too explicit, don’t tweet it. And if you did, delete it.

There are consequences for every action and in the age of the ever permanent and unforgiving digital footprint, you are responsible for how you represent yourself and your employer.

Have a look at this video to see what members of the public think about freedom of speech online and censorship:

 

 

References:

Alexander, R. (2015) ‘You just published an offensive tweet to your company’s timeline, no what?’, http://deveney.com/you-just-published-an-offensive-tweet-to-your-companys-timeline-now-what/  [Accessed 24.04.2016].

Mejia, L. (2015) ‘A girl got fired from her new pizza place job before she even started – because of a tweet’, http://www.businessinsider.com/this-girl-got-fired-before-she-even-started–because-of-a-tweet-2015-2?IR=T  [Accessed 24.04.2016].

Revis, L. (2015) ‘Social Media & Censorship: Freedom of Expression and Risk’, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/layla-revis/social-media-censorship-f_b_7837398.html  [Accessed 24.04.2016].

Sebastian, M. (2015) ‘College Student Loses Internship Over Incredibly Racist Tweet’, http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a48480/intern-fired-for-racist-tweet/  [Accessed 24.04.2016].

Weei (2011) ‘Mashup: Sportscaster fired over tweet’, http://www.weei.com/sports/boston/this-just-in/21101512/mashup-sportscaster-fired-over-tweet  [Accessed 24.04.2016].

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6 thoughts on “Topic 4: Tweeting your Business”

  1. Hello Anna!

    I throughly enjoyed reading this interesting piece as you raised issues that I had included in my own blog post regarding this topic. Meanwhile you integrated new ideas and related them to your own experiences!

    Many of your arguments regarding people loosing their jobs because of social media were clearly back up by cases such as Erica Escalante and Damian Goddard. I particularly agree with your comment about being accountable for our actions just as we would be offline. I had not thought about social media in this way before, and it’s completely true as too many people loose their inhibitions when sat behind a screen!

    However I have to raise the issue of freedom of speech. To what extent do you believe it is acceptable to voice your opinion online without legal prosecution? As after all, it can be argued that social media is an expression of us, our lifestyle and our opinions.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    1. Hey Ellie, thanks for commenting. I personally don’t think anyone should be prosecuted for expressing their thoughts or opinions, virtually or in reality, because I wholly believe in the ideals of freedom of speech, despite them slowly disintegrating as a result of our secular society.

      However, let’s say someone was engaging in a form of hate speech or appeared to be harassing someone or perhaps even appeared to be a terrorist-sympathizer, I think under these types of circumstances those involved should be investigated, which could of course lead to a prosecution among other consequences, but to be prosecuted from the outset for a tweet seems a little ridiculous to me. Especially given that someone’s intended tone may not be coming across in the way they had hoped, so someone could be arrested or penalized for a simple misunderstanding. Such as the Justine Sacco case – who lost her job and had her reputation tarnished by tweeting what she intended to be an ironic joke.

      I’m not saying that people shouldn’t expect repercussions for their behaviour, but that prosecution seems a little too strong. For example, if a school kid is blatantly bullying another student online, they should expect to be punished by their school with that evidence. But if someone is voicing a ‘controversial’ opinion on a sensitive topic, like Katie Hopkins for instance, then no I do not think that requires prosecution, because that is an opinion expressed generally and not targeted to any specific individual. Besides, why is everyone so concerned about what everyone else thinks?

      Actions have consequences and people need to assume their responsibility as an individual and also their responsibility to represent their employer, family, institution etc. and think before they tweet; but if they believe they can handle the repercussions and they feel they are justified to express themselves, then so be it.

      I think my opinion on this issue links neatly to the quote by Voltaire, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”

  2. Hi Anna, I thought this was such an insightful post! Social media and the freedom of speech is always an issue that comes up in conversation & your blog highlighted a few points. Although I believe people have a right to a freedom of speech this is true to a certain extent. As adults and users of social media we will be aware if a personal view is deemed appropriate or not and we should be responsible for anything we put up. In the same way we know we shouldn’t kill, we know there are certain things that should and shouldn’t be posted. I happened to see that tweet on my own TL during the time, and it isn’t uncommon for “twitter detectives” to find your place of employment and inform them. At the end of the day we do represent a board and if you wish to tweet this reckless at least have no real name attached or photo’s of yourself. If someone takes down a tweet due to bad reviews I think that although it may seem unfair, a screen grab comes at the consequence of your content. Unfortunately these days it is hard to judge what will be taken of context so the best advice is to refrain from saying certain things.

    I hope to hear more from you soon x
    Miss CEO.

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