When a tweet can get you fired
Everything you do online is there forever. Please say it louder from the back!
In the past couple of weeks there have been cases both abroad and at home of employees getting fired for tweets made from their personal social media accounts.
In US director James Gunn’s case, it was highly inappropriate tweets from nine years ago about paedophilia. They were uncovered and promoted by Mike Cernovich, an alt-right personality who encouraged his followers to contact Disney and shortly there was calls for Gunn to be sacked. Disney listened. James Gunn was immediately fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.
Gunn promptly apologised for the alarming “jokes” he had made in the past. Guardians actor Chris Pratt initially responded to the news by tweeting Bible verses. Now the whole Guardians cast has come out in support of the director, stating that they believed his apology and the man he is today is vastly different from portrayed in those infamous tweets.
Just over the pond in Tasmania, Angela Williamson, 39, was sacked from Cricket Australia for voicing a political opinion on her private twitter about abortion rights. Get this— abortion is legal in Tasmania, yet with the last private provider of the procedure closed down, Williamson had to fly to Melbourne to have an abortion. She waived her right to anonymity and decided to use her voice to campaign for reform and through tweets also criticised the government’s policies.
What she didn’t know is that a government staffer used a fake social media account to troll her private Twitter, screenshot her tweets and sent it to Cricket Australia with the subject title “fyi”. A week later that same staffer resigned after it was revealed that the fake account was used to target government critics. But Williamson was still in the firing line and was let go by Cricket Australia. She also alleges that a state government member also disclosed to her employer that she had an abortion. Williamson is now taking Cricket Australia to the Fair Work Commission.
These are two vastly different cases yet they all end with a tweet and a job termination. Are employers stepping over the line? With this digital landscape the lines are blurred, especially when it is common place for prospective employers checking job applicants’ Facebook pages.
Navigating social media is a complex space—the consequences can affect almost every aspect of your life. When it comes to voicing personal and political opinions, it’s important you’re representing yourself and not your workplace. Which is what makes Williamson and Cricket Australia case so tricky that she made the comments on a personal account.
It highlights that if it’s on the internet someone will find it. We’ve all become social media FBI experts and that digital footprint is not difficult to follow. Keyboard warriors are everywhere and waiting. It becomes difficult, particularly if you feel strongly about a social issue. Whatever you have to say, imagine you’re standing on a podium loudspeaker in hand in front of millions of people and be prepared to stand for what you said. That’s the internet.
Oh and make sure read your workplace’s Social Media Policy.