When Paul Chambers lost his appeal this week against his conviction for ‘menace’ for his ‘jokey’ tweet about blowing up Robin Hood airport it led to a virtual revolution on Twitter. With thousands of twitter users retweeting the original tweet along with the #IAmSpartacus hashtag in a demonstration of solidarity for Chambers, should the question be whether the justice system and principally Judge Jacqueline Davis had lost sight of common sense, or whether Paul Chambers was incredibly naive in making the comment in the first place.
The majority of the population understand that in the post-9/11 world comments made in jest about terrorism are not taken lightly by airport security, although there are always exceptions to the rule, like Zeniada Sangalang just this week or Draco Slaughter earlier in the year.
With the Big Brother-like monitoring of our interactions in the social netoworking space, it was perhaps only a matter of time before one of these ‘jokes’ metephorically exploded in someone’s face and Chambers is paying the price of his inability to self-censor. He lost his job and now has a criminal conviction as a result of failing to have in place the one thing everyone needs when entering into the world of Twitter, Facebook et al, a social media policy. Legal departments in companies all over the world are realising the importance of protecting themselves and their employees from the potential pitfalls of social media, and as individuals we need to do the same.
My top three guidelines for a personal social media policy:
Take responsibility for your actions – Don’t expect an exclaimation mark at the end of a post or a tweet to indicate to others that you are joking. Tone of voice and sarcasm don’t translate well to the written word, especially if it’s limited to 140 characters
Don’t be offensive – If you wouldn’t say it someone stood directly infront of you in real life, don’t say to everyone in the virtual world. The rule about engaging your brain before speaking also applies to the written word, especially when the person reading your tweets could be a member of the security services or the police!
Think ‘What would my company do?’ – The lines between the personal and the professional are blurred and it’s worth asking whether your line manager would find what you are saying acceptable. It no longer holds true that because you aren’t in work that you’re not subject to work policy guidelines. You really don’t want to say something on Facebook on Saturday night only to find yourself hauled over the coals on Monday morning.
If Paul Chambers had followed these guidelines, perhaps there would have been no need for the #IAmSpartacus hashtag in the first place. Let me know what you think!