I just read a very interesting article on CNN.com entitled: “Twitter: Often first, not always right.” It asks the great question that seems to be ripe for discussion these days when it comes to social media information: What is the goal of posting – speed or accuracy?
Those who post on social media sites, either as a profession or professed hobby, have recognized both the competitive nature of 24/7 news “reporting” and the undeniable thrill of having one’s post be the first to go viral. The information contained in the posts, thus, falls somewhere between the game of telephone (unintended story embellishment as it is circulated) and an outright mischievous hoax. How many times have we heard that Jon Bon Jovi or some other celebrity/athlete has died? It must be true because all 5,137 of your Facebook friends saw a post and re-posted it, right?
The CNN article places the issue in the context of news reporting, noting how “[o]n January 21, Penn State student website Onward State ran a story claiming that Paterno had passed away. The article was picked up by a blog on CBS Sports and spread rapidly on Twitter. Except that the article was incorrect – Paterno was in a serious condition but did not in fact pass away until the day after the report ran.”
The article further notes the current tension between first and fact:
“There’s reason to believe that Twitter and Facebook users – in their new roles as the distributors of news on the web – are becoming cautious about sharing news with their friends without personally verifying it. As Facebook user Nuno Valente said of the news: “Twitter was faster than ‘traditional’ press in regard to the Whitney Houston death but usually cries wolf just for fun.”
Have we sacrificed accuracy and verification for the sake of speed and 15 minutes of fame? Do we even expect accuracy in social media posts anymore? Should we?
Employer Take Away: What should you as an employer take away from this development?
As employers, yes, you should. Employers need to be right, if not act in good faith. Social media provides quick and easy access to a plethora of information – information on which employers want to (and often feel they need to) act. To avoid liability, think about this when you read something supposedly about one of your employees, or something that was supposedly said by one of your employees:
1. Make sure the source of the information is reliable. Better yet, make sure you know the source.
2. One of the timeless messages of this blog: Don’t be trigger happy when it comes to making decisions based on social media activity. And reason # 146: because you want to first do some due diligence as to the veracity of what you have seen or read before taking some adverse action against the employee.