A New York City Emergency Services worker was exposed as the author of racist posts on Twitter under the name of "Bad Lieutenant." This embarrassment to the city’s Fire Department came just a few days after the son of a top ranking commissioner, Joseph Casino, was also fired for vile speech online.
While the FDNY is still drafting obviously much needed social media rules, the New York City Police Department just came out with guidelines and restrictions for employees when using social media sites.
It bars workers from identifying themselves by job title and posting photos in official uniform, except those taken at official ceremonies. And it restricts disseminating information obtained on the job. “Do not post images of crime scenes, witness statements or other nonpublic information gained through work as a police officer; do not engage with witnesses, victims or defense lawyers; do not ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ minors encountered on the job.
Better late than never. All employers should have specific policies noting what is and is not appropriate to post online. After the West Indian Day Parade in 2011 when multiple officers posted racist comments on a Facebook group called “No More West Indian Day Parade Detail.” Facebook group. According to The New York Times, 60 percent of the group was NYPD officers.
The popularity of these sites and the consequences of employee use and abuse of them are not new.
And when your salary comes from taxpayer’s pockets and your job is one respected and highly valued by society, you should be held to a higher standard.
Another reason to keep from posting is when your comments would reflect poorly on your employer or co-workers. "Bad Lieutenant" made racist and sexist comments against Jews, women and African-Americans. The NYPD officers found responsible for posts after the West Indian Day Parade wrote things like “Welcome to the Liberal NYC Gale, where if the cops sneeze too loud they get investigated for excessive force but the ‘civilians’ can run around like savages and there are no repercussions."
The self-dubbed “Bad Lieutenant” broke down into tears when confronted by the New York Post and he realized his mask was being ripped off. Posting online is the same as saying it out loud. And lesson learned, you will be found out.
At this point, some are shouting “First Amendment! Free speech!”
And there's always a problem in determining where that line is drawn. But if you are identified with an organization, your boss is allowed to put restrictions on what behavior it will tolerate. For those jobs require public confidence and respect, a higher standard should be expected.
But these high profile incidents should be a reminder to everyone about what they say and do online. As a member of a sorority on my college’s campus, I see my posts as a reflection of myself and that group.
For many, an online persona is the only persona some people will even know. Your profile is your mirror.
Are you proud of what’s staring back at you?