CBP’s PR Nightmare: What We Can Learn from That Secret Facebook Group

Earlier this week ProPublica dropped a shocking exposé about a secret Facebook group operated by current and former Border Patrol agents. The group boasts nearly 10,000 members and is rife with racist and misogynist memes, captions, and discussions. While the group is secret and therefore inaccessible to journalists (and, in our case, screening services), ProPublica received a slew of screenshots of recent discussions and was able to verify the legitimacy of some of those individual’s Facebook accounts. These images included photos of immigrant bodies washed up on the banks of the Rio Grande, photoshopped photos of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being forced to perform a sex act on the President, as well as crass comments about launching burritos at visiting members of Congress.

So what?

This story only goes to show that even private information is not as secure as employees would like it to be. Reputation management, especially for high-risk, high-profile agencies such as Customs and Border Protection, is absolutely essential to the continued health and maintenance of an agency’s workforce. Screening services (like us) exist to not only prevent public relations nightmares like this, but to proactively weed out the bad hires that will contribute to a toxic workforce in the first place.  While CBP does have a Code of Conduct and promises to investigate those who have been accused of violating it, sometimes no matter how well-written company policy (including social media policy), social media will inevitably play the role of virtual water cooler.

What can we learn?

The ProPublica story is an excellent example of how companies often have a reactive approach to solving unwieldy, deeply-rooted problems, i.e. waiting for a controversy that catches the ire of an entire country to fix internal problems. It’s a sign of internal deterioration and extreme employee dysfunction. Even if we cast aside political bias, posting vile, dehumanizing content is unacceptable on a professional and personal level no matter what industry you work in. Luckily, screening services are able to improve workplaces by catching public content similar to this for employers that prioritize workplace health and safety. As our ways of communication (and, for better or for worse our public and private spheres) grow more and more intertwined, vetting processes are changing too, not only to prevent PR disasters, but to stimulate the health and functionality of a workplace as well.

In any case, incidents like this are a perfect demonstration of the fact that even though we have the right to freedom of speech, no one is exempt from the consequences, be that public outrage or internal discipline.


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