Delete your Tweet!

Emanuel Joute

In this social media age, most users feel it’s their birthright to post/tweet anything or everything that they find deem fit. Most of us do not think twice about what we are going to type. But what will be the consequences if you happened to post/tweet information that could affect your organization?

Last week, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) called off a raid after one of its soldiers updated his status on Facebook, giving information about the operation, including the time and place. The post was removed after other soldiers in his battalion saw it and reported it to their commanders. The soldier was sentenced to 10 days imprisonment and was removed from his battalion. 

Back home, junior external minister Shashi Tharoor has been frequently tweeting his way to controversies after another. The Opposition has been picking up the loopholes in his tweets, while the media dissects them, forcing his party leadership to defend him or even at times reprimand him. 

Even a “harmless” post could sometimes result in dangerous consequences. This is true for companies, too.  A single unwarranted post by an employee could turn out to be quite lethal. A recent article on WSJ says that “Facebook (and) Twitter updates spell trouble in small workplace”. Read this

With the social media space being a private affair and no one having control on what one posts, how much information would be too much information? Who will tell a user where to draw the line? 

An outsider’s posts/tweets are beyond a company’s control. But taking into account the growing popularity of Twitter, Facebook and their ilk, the chances of leakages and defamatory information coming out from employees are quite high. Posts/ comments could even disrupt the working harmony of an office. Taking these “risks” into consideration, should companies play big brother? Should they monitor employees, issue guidelines or have a strict code of conduct that says “no office-related status”? Or should it be left to the discretion of the individual? Currently, corporate India has not faced such a situation. But that day could come sooner than one could imagine. It’s time they formulated a plan of action on social media-related issues.

In the US, there have been a number of cases where an employee’s misuse of social media has led to their dismissal. According to a study in 2009 by Proofpoint that covered companies with 1,000 or more employees, 17 per cent reported having issues with employee’s use of sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Among these, 8 per cent reported having actually dismissed someone for their behaviour on social media sites. These results reflect that corporate America has been closely monitoring their employee’s online activities.

Surely, tweets or status updates have their pros and cons, or can be simply ignored. But once a fire is ignited, it will be a challenge to douse it. As individuals, we do not want our employers to snoop into out private lives. It’s best to use common sense in our postings and think twice before hitting the “share/post” button. As for companies, it seems that the need of the hour is to draw up online policies that do not infringe on the private lives of employees but clear-cut on the business interests. For example, HT Media’s Mint has a code of conduct that requires employees to seek permission before starting their personal blogs. And that one “must also ensure that the personal blog — whatever the topic — doesn’t mention you affiliation with Mint or HT Media”. More than a bad press, a negative comment on a blog/post can cause far-reaching damages to companies (think viral?). This also throws up a big challenge for PR professionals. Today, very few realize that one can’t be really “anonymous” on the Net anymore. It’s time we all welcomed social media, but with a heavy dose of caution.

  1. Abhilash Pushpan
    March 12, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Very well put… The social media has indeed expanded the personal space of an individual and extended it to Worldwide Web. The only negative to it is that this new found extension of one’s personal space gives access to virtually everybody. It is a source of entertainment and a medium for interactions, but it also can be a path for confidential info going out of the closed group like in the case of the IDF.

    It is indeed not justified to have a big brother watching over people’s posts/tweets. But at the same time, there is definitely going to be a time when some kind of filtering would be required for such social networking spaces.

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