In March, ‘Social Media meets the law‘ provided a high level overview on the interaction between the law and social media.
Social media continued its rocky ride over the last couple of months, and we have witnessed some further spectacular faux pas courtesy of the medium, both at home and abroad. There has been also increased media commentary on the subject, some expressing wishful thinking, while others offering useful advice:
- Don’t let social media kill your career: 4 things to do (Women’s Agenda, 5 May 2015)
- Be authentic on social media, but just don’t offend anyone (The Age, 28 April 2015)
- What can HR do to avoid a social media disaster? (HC Online, 27 April 2015)
- Eleven of the worst social media blunders ever (Business Insider Australia, 22 April 2015)
- Clear app by Ethan Czahor lets you delete offensive tweets, Facebook posts (news.com.au, 22 April 2015)
- Five ways to stop your staff whining about you on social media (The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April 2015)
- Should the CEO be social? (Smart Company, 14 April 2015)
- One tweet away from being fired: This Chrome extension attempts to stop idiot tweets (Techly, 14 April 2015)
- Social media poses risk for employers and employees (The Australian, 13 April 2015)
- Harms of social media can last forever (The Australian, 11 April 2015)
- Can you fire staff for what they post on Facebook? (Start Up Smart, 9 April 2015)
- Social media changes the rules of engagement (The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 April 2015)
- Tony Abbott dismisses social media as ‘electronic graffiti’, again (The Age, 26 January 2015)
Scott McIntyre felled by Twitter
The highest profile recent Australian social media incident involved the undoing of SBS sports reporter Scott McIntyre by tweets he posted on ANZAC Day. Whether you are in the outraged camp or in the camp that supported his ‘right’ to express his views, the fact of the matter is that SBS had fired him as a result.
To his credit, Scott clearly feels strongly about his views because, as of early May, he did not delete the controversial tweets despite the incredible fallout, even though it was reported that SBS had offered him clemency before his sacking if he deleted the tweets in question:
Admittedly, the timing of his tweets was extremely naïve, to say the least. To question the orthodoxy of the ANZACs on the 100th anniversary of ANZAC day was a bold and highly provocative move, even if some questions have been raised by the ANZACs themselves, and others, in the past.
A bad run at SBS …
It seems social media and the SBS have been an uneasy mix lately and the troubles didn’t end with Scott. Another young journalist, Marion Ives, was fired by the broadcaster recently after she shared an article on Facebook that was critical of SBS.
Nauru, asylum seekers and social media prove an uneasy mix
April also saw the suspension of eight security guards, sadly seven of whom are former Australian Defence personnel, from the Nauru detention centre who attended a recent, highly controversial Reclaim Australia rally and posted a series of anti-Islamic rants on Facebook.
A spokesperson for Transfield Services, which engages Wilson Security employees as subcontractors, reportedly said the Facebook posts by the men involved, including a group picture with Pauline Hanson at the 4 April Brisbane Reclaim rally, were ‘totally unacceptable’ and would be thoroughly investigated.
These events occurred in the face of an existing and incredibly strict social media policy applying to people working with asylum seekers, although the policy appears to be aimed more at protecting the reputation of Transfield Services and the Department of Immigration, from information leaking out about the treatment of refugees.
In early May, the Nauru Government announced a ban on Facebook. The move was strongly criticised by the Nauru opposition and refugee advocates. It was later alleged the ban was implemented at the request of the Australian Government.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, spoke to Radio New Zealand about the ban:
Well I think it’s the latest regressive step in a very regressive trend towards reducing transparency and stifling dissent in Nauru. In recent times Nauru has restricted access to the country for the United Nations and NGOs, it’s increased the visa fee for foreign journalists by about 4000% which has effectively excluded international media from ever visiting the country, and worst of all the space of a few days last year it effectively ousted its entire judiciary. So all of these steps, what they have in common, is that they undermine what are important checks and balances on government power in any democracy. And so I think understood in that context, this social media blackout can be properly seen for what it is. And that is a further step towards suppressing scrutiny and dissent.
Well I think asylum seekers who are sent to Nauru by Australia, they’re incredibly isolated and that’s by design from the Australian government. There’s a lot of places in the world Australia could send asylum seekers to. It’s sending them to the world’s smallest Republic, a very remote, isolated island in the middle of the Pacific. So I think these people are very isolated. Social media and Facebook in particular is their lifeline. To family back home, to friends, and support networks elsewhere in the world. And it’s very harmful for them and further isolating for them, to have those networks severed. Now I don’t know who masterminded this plan to sort of blackout social media, I don’t know whether it was the Nauruan government or the Australian government, but what I do know is that its the latest step in a regressive trend and that it will significantly, adversely affect both Nauruan people and asylum seekers that Australia is sending there.
The NRL, social media and homophobia … another explosive combination
South Sydney Rabbitohs and New Zealand hooker Isaac Luke chose to use a homophobic slur on Instagram in response to the taunting of rival fans after the Rabbitohs’ controversial 18-17 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs on Good Friday, telling them to ‘get off my page you lil poofters’.
The NRL was not amused, especially in light of their formal commitment to stamp out homophobia in the code, and fined Luke for $10,000. Luke will also be required to undergo an education and tolerance program.
Criminal charges over social media threats in South Australia
The South Australia Police reported on 16 April that a man had been charged with ‘making unlawful threats to cause harm’. According to the media release, the threats were made by the man against a person with whom he had ‘a previous working relationship, via social media between January and April after a disagreement’.
The accused has been bailed, and will appear in court on 2 June.
Meantime in the US …
Twitter even fell victim to … itself in April.
One of the nightmare social media scenarios for big business is confidential and sensitive business information slipping out via social media. Twitter had its own experience with this when, in late April, market sensitive profit results were accidentally posted prematurely to its Investor Relations website which was then promptly tweeted out by data mining company Selerity, resulting in a 6% drop in Twitter shares before trading was suspended in light of the breach, and another 18% when trading resumed.
In international ‘social media getting people fired’ news, two stories stand out, presuming that no one got fired over the Twitter fiasco.
First, spare a thought for Chad Shanks, the man hired to grow the Houston Rockets’ social media presence. It appears he was doing a great job, growing their Twitter account to well over 600,000 followers, posting edgy content and popular pregame and post-game interviews with players and coaches across a range of social media channels.
Until he got too edgy … and sent out a tweet during a basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks. The tweet was poorly received and he was promptly fired. Proving that even social media pros can get it fatally wrong.
And last, but not least, let’s talk about the childcare worker who thought it was wise to post on social media that she hates to be around a lot of kids?! Texas single mum, Kaitlyn Walls, who has been job-hunting for months, was pleased to catch a break when she was offered a position at a childcare centre.
Before starting her first day on the new job, she reportedly posted the following on Facebook, sparking an immediate storm of criticism:
I start my new job today, but I absolutely hate working at day care. I just really hate being around a lot of kids.
Somewhat predictably, her new employer consequently asked her not to come to work.
All in all, it has been another interesting couple of months in social media.