‘Think before you Tweet’
The growth of Twitter since its establishment in March 2006 has been phenomenal: in 2007, 400,000 tweets were posted by quarter; by 2012, there were over 100 million users posting some 340 million tweets per day. It is perhaps surprising that it has taken this long for a case about Twitter to get to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. A January 2015 ruling finds that a dismissal for offensive, non-work related comments on a personal Twitter account may be found to be a fair dismissal. It will all depend on the particular facts and whether an employer is reasonable to decide to dismiss in the circumstances. A lesson for employees to be careful in respect of how they use Twitter.
In this case the employee’s Twitter account did not specifically state that he was connected to his employer, but due to his own actions his account was followed by 65 of his employer’s stores. He allowed his private Twitter account to be followed by the stores and should have known that they could see what he Tweeted and so could the public who followed the stores. He posted lots of deeply offensive Tweets, though not about work. He clearly thought what he was doing was private. It came to the employer’s attention when one of the store managers complained – unsurprisingly due to the very nasty stuff posted.
The main lesson to be learnt by employees is that they should be careful about saying anything on their Twitter account which they would not wish to be public and specifically that they would not wish their employer to know about. Privacy settings should be used. If Twitter has to be used for work, it may be best to have two accounts, one for solely private use. Particular care should be taken if the information or comments in a Tweet may cause damage to relationships with customers or other contacts of the employer, including any impact on relations with other staff.
This is part of the continuing development of IT use. I have long advised that anything that is put in writing on the internet, whether email, Twitter, Facebook or whatever should be posted with caution and on the assumption that anyone and everyone may see it. Act as if anything and everything you post can be saved by others, forwarded, or published, and that you will not able to get it back. As if there is no delete button and nothing is actually private. Remember what happened when the US diplomats had their most private comments hacked and then made available to be read by everyone.
Perhaps it’s better to resort back to the corner of the Pub bar when making complaints or adverse remarks about anyone, especially anything connected with work? (Even then beware of the ease now of secretly recording conversations. Paranoia perhaps, but maybe it is best to be afraid, very afraid….) Anyway, make sure you think before you tweet.