Can you get fired for something you put on Facebook or Twitter?
Yes you can.
Now there is a grey area that depends on what you say, whether or not you have a union, and what your relationship with the boss is like, but the short answer is: yes, you can get fired for what you put on social media – even if you have a twitter disclaimer.
The question is being raised a lot this week after two very high profile cases where comments online have cost people their jobs.
Amanda Todd committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied by people online and off. Her case has been well documented. Even after her death, the bullying continued as people jumped on her memorial pages to continue the abuse.
One such scene was witnessed by an Airdrie mom, Christine Claveau, who took a screenshot of the Facebook comments and notified the person’s employer. The man was then fired from his job the next day.
The case of Violentacrez is perhaps even more disturbing because it really sheds a shocking light on the lives of internet trolls. Violentacrez has, for years, been one of the most controversial characters on Reddit, a vast discussion board. He created and moderated many of the most successful boards on the site, many of them associated with racism, and pornography.
Last week his identity was revealed by Gawker and days later Michael Brutsch was fired.
“My wife is disabled. I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment,” he told Gawker. “I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time.”
In a phone conversation, Brutsch admitted to being the Reddit user named Violentacrez, who created or moderated sections dedicated to pornographic and violent images, including subreddits called r/rapebait, r/incest, r/picsofdeadkids, r/jailbait, and r/chokeabitch.
These stories aren’t new. As soon as Facebook became mainstream, people started losing their jobs over postings online. Just ask Charlie Barrow, Devon Bourgeois, James Wood and Zach Good. They were all fired for comments they posted on Facebook, groups they joined or just for spending too much time on the site.
THE VIEWS ARE MINE AND NOT MY EMPLOYER
Don’t think you can put a quick disclaimer on your Twitter bio and think it absolves you of repercussions from everything you write or say online.
Sure, it can put a legal line between you and your company if you go and say something radical, but anything you say online can and will be used against you.
“The vast majority of people believe that what they say outside of the workplace is none of the employer’s business. But that’s not true. The employer can always fire you for whatever you say. The only issue again is whether you’re entitled to some sort of notice before you’re fired.”
[How an online posting can cost you your job – CBC]
Take Damien Goddard, for example. The former Sportsnet anchor tweeted support for an agent who had spoken out against gay marriage. Hours later he received a call from his bosses, he was fired the next day.
There are strong laws internationally about what can happen to you when posting things online. The UK has famously jailed people over racist tweets and threatening Facebook posts.
Liam Stacey served 56 days in jail after tweeting racist comments when footballer Fabrice Muamba collapsed during a match.
Lisa Jones, prosecuting, told Swansea magistrates at an earlier hearing: “Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch and was believed to have died. Shortly after, Stacey posted on Twitter: ‘LOL, F*** Muamba. He’s dead.'”
After other Twitter users criticised Stacey, prompting him to post further offensive and racist comments, users reported him to police forces around Britain.
Stacey branded people who criticised him on Twitter as “wogs” and told one to “go pick some cotton”.
Keeley Houghton pleaded guilty to harassment and was sentenced to 3 months in a young offenders’ institution. She had been accused of bullying a classmate for four years and, ultimately, threatening to kill her.
On her personal page, Houghton wrote of her victim: ‘Keeley is going to murder the bitch. She is an actress. What a ******* liberty. Emily ****head Moore.’
[The Daily Mail]
THE GOLDEN RULES OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Avoiding the drama should be easy, it’s common sense even, but worthy of reminders.
1. Do A Self-Evaluation
Mitch Joel has a great article that encourages people to go back and look over their history of tweets and evaluate them from the point of view of an employer, or prospective employer. Joel calls it “The Twitter Test“:
The Economist magazine used to run a print ad with the copy: “would you want to sit next to you at dinner?” It’s a clever line of copy and an even cleverer thought. You have to smart, interesting, pithy and curious, don’t you? How do your tweets stack up? You see, beyond the basics of a good Twitter profile (a simple username, photo, legible biography, a link to something more relevant about you, etc…), it’s really what you’re tweeting (and how you’re doing it) that’s going to keep someone who is finding you for the first time interested in hitting that “follow” button.
Joel encourages people to take the test monthly. I do it often, it’s a great way to step out of the emotion of the moment where tweets are often crafted and look at your brand from a distance.
2. If You Don’t Want It On The Front Page Of The Paper, Don’t Say It
When journalists really started to mine Twitter for information a few years ago, I posited that lifting quotes directly from twitter was “lazy journalism“. That notion has disappeared, it’s conventional wisdom that what is said on Twitter is public and eminently quotable without approval. Still, Shaw’s response to my question is still one of the most quoted lines I mention in relations to social media.
My advice is never tweet anything you wouldn’t mind reading on the front page.
— Gillian Shaw (@gillianshaw) April 9, 2009
APP OF THE WEEK: Tweetbot [$2.99]
The absolute best Twitter client is Tweetbot. If you’re a power user that curates content via lists, and have multiple accounts, this is the app for you. This week Tweetbot made a move to the desktop with the release of a Mac app. It’s not a cheap app, it’s $2.99 for iOS and $19.99 for the desktop. They say the high rate for the desktop app is because of restrictions Twitter is putting on third party clients. Fans are already saying it’s worth the money. While I love the iOS version, I still prefer TweetDeck on my desktop.