Saturday, August 04, 2018

When should old tweets cost someone his (her, "their") job?



Consider the New York Times’s sacking of Quinn Norton last February for his past misdeeds on social media and apparent connections, as outlined here in Wired. 

So then the New York Times stands by the hire of Sarah Jeong  after some of her old tweets surfaced, although she could quickly retort that she was hitting back by simply throwing back offensive tweets into the original offenders’ faces.
  
  
Vox explains the comparison today in a piece by Aja Romano. It also covers firings of other high profile people, like director James Gunn.

Jeong’s tweets were much more context dependent. Vox characterizes unearthing of bad tweets as a tactic of the alt-right.  It’s well to note that Norton had worked for The Verge, which belongs to Vox. 
  
Mike Smercomish compared the two cases on CNN Saturday morning, and didn’t pick up the distinction.  A speaker from National Review said that her behavior was questionable but that she shouldn't be denied a job now for tweets that happened long ago before she was hired, and that are deliberately taken out of context. We are talking about "should".  As a private employer, the a newspapers isn't bound by the First Amendment legally. 

In the past, before modern social media, I paid a lot of heed to “conflict of interest” over self-published and searchable web content. My concern was with positions that impute authority over subordinates or underwriting of customers.



Update: Monday, Aug. 6

Rachel Feintzeig and Vanessa Fuhrmanns write in the Wall Street Journal, "Past social media posts upend hiring: Employers grapple with screening job applicants' online personas, including years' old tweets".  I can say, "I told you so" on this one.  The article talks about the cases above, as well as widespread problems.

Update: Wednesday, Aug. 8

Read Ezra Klein's, "The Problem with Twitter Wars, Explained: Behind our Twitter wars lies Twitter's problems." It's possible to set up your account to delete old tweets.  I doubt many employers actually mine old tweets to look for problems, but it's possible to imagine setting up an HR contracting company to do just that!!   You can also have old Facebook posts deleted automatically.  Not sure about Instagram. This is one reason why some people prefer Snapchat.  I don't feel that way for myself, but I see how many people do.

James Gunn now seems to be in demand again (MSN).

Update: Friday, Aug. 17

Victor David Hanson has a detailed op-ed in the Washington Times Aug. 16 that covers the problem pretty well, here

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