Last week I spoke about social media and online branding at a Walkley Student Media Day (misleading our nation's youth, one lecture at a time) where I employed the use of PowerPoint slides featuring The Simpsons to lend an air of credibility to my apparent expertise in this area.
For those interested, some of my key (albeit obvious) points included:
- there are no absolutes (we are all rats in the social media experiment – as with mobile phones, we don't yet know if Twitter causes cancer);
- it poses questions about the division of public/private spheres both online and elsewhere (see David Campbell);
- social media is incestuous (media players following other media players);
- news stories are starting on social media sites;
- sources are being mined on social media sites;
- you're only as good as your last tweet, so make it count;
- a disclaimer will not necessarily distance you from your employer; and
- media people are getting into all sorts of pickles on Twitter (see Catherine Deveny).
Today's Australian features at least two stories generated on the social media front: 'Don't believe all you're fed' by Dennis Shanahan and 'Tweets flood back to Aunty' by Sally Jackson. Shanahan explores the implications of reporting on tweets constructed by anonymous agitators under the names of people with public profiles (you might remember Vogue Australia – aka vogueoz – encountered this issue last year).
The object of the misnomer this time round is government minister Bronwyn Bishop, who replied: "Mis speak, mis promise, mis represent, plain old mis report -- all are falsities and in this contemporary world of cyberspace there is plenty of room for mistakes... Every now and again there is a flurry of interest in what a fake Bronwyn Bishop Twitterer tweets. Such was the case last week when a particular journo did a mis report and used a fake tweet which he attributed to me. In this day and age of cyber fraud it just goes to show you can't believe all you see or read. One telephone call would have saved said journo a heap of embarrassment."
Jackson, meanwhile, has covered the viral conga-line that started when ABC News Online's Twitter presence, abc_investigate, posed the open-ended question, "Got something you want investigated?" (one-liners included "Why won't MC Hammer let me touch anything?" – everyone is a stand-up comedian on Twitter).
I recently asked solicitor Jamie White of Edge Legal (@ edgelegal) to put a legal spin on the "art" of Tweeting. White cites the case of an Adelaide man who was convicted of criminal defamation after posting false and misleading information about a police officer on Facebook.
"The defendant pleaded guilty to criminal defamation and was placed on a two-year, $500 good behaviour bond," says White. "He claimed that he did not realise that a person could get in to trouble for things done on the Internet. This case serves as a strong warning that legal rules are not waived simply because conduct has taken place online."
While White says "politicians, journalists and prison guards have all faced disciplinary action for their use of social media in the workplace," including Catherine Deveny's termination from The Age for posting offensive ‘tweets’ via Twitter during the Logies (her defense: it was “just like passing notes in class”), most employees cannot be dismissed for failing to meet corporate standards online unless it's in the paper work (i.e. employment contracts and social media policies).
"This allows an employer to subject an employee who breaches those ‘corporate standards’ to disciplinary action, including compelling them to remove or edit offending postings, formal warnings or dismissal," says White. "Employers and employees must both treat the use of social media in the workplace with caution. Employees must familiarise themselves with their employer’s position and be sure not to overstep the mark. The consequences of doing so are real."
The message for the medium? Obviously, think twice before you tweet. Or, ask yourself, What would Lisa Simpson do?
“You can't create a monster, then whine when it stomps on a few buildings.” - Lisa Simpson
Girl With a Satchel