Social Media Firing Horror Stories: A Halloween Roundup

Social media firings are an all-year-round phenomenon, but this fall, we’ve seen quite the slew of high-profile incidents that had everything to do with unchecked problematic online behavior. With Halloween just around the corner, we’ve decided to round up the latest social media firings and the horrifying PR nightmares that ensued (gasp!)

Here’s your fall recap of a few folks who got the axe and how we think companies can better leverage social media screening to avoid PR disaster.

An SNL comedian was fired for racist Asian jokes (amongst other things):

Earlier in September, white comedian Shane Gillis made headlines after he was fired from SNL after videos of him making racist and misogynist jokes about East Asians surfaced on Twitter and YouTube. According to the Daily Beast, Gillis insulted Asian American culture by making fun of Chinatown restaurants, East Asian accents, and South East Asian ladyboys. On top of that, it turns out Gillis has a podcast in which he can be heard making homophobic comments about Judd Apatow as well as misogynist and racist jokes about white and Asian female comics.

NBC issued a statement saying, “We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days . . . We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”

This goes to show that social media screening is fast becoming a necessary requirement for employment, especially for high-profile platforms such as mainstream entertainment. If a small flurry of journalists were able to “uncover” such a huge cache of racist jokes out of publicly available information, it should have been a breeze for an HR generalist to scan for intolerant behavior legally. By having a screening procedure that is quick, thorough, and efficient, companies can proactively protect their reputation by having the relevant information at their fingertips to foresee which candidates are or are not at risk of creating a PR nightmare.

A NY Times editor was demoted for racist tweets:

Deputy Washington editor for the New York Times Jonathan Weisman was demoted for a strange string of tweets that critics deemed to be racist. According to the New York Post, Weisman implied that he didn’t believe Democratic Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilan Omar actually hailed from the Midwest, amongst a few other confusing comments. While Weisman wasn’t fired, he was disciplined and removed from social media as well as the team that reports on Congress.

This is an excellent example of how a company might leverage their social media policy to encourage good behavior and discipline unwanted behavior. Having a great social media policy might mean the difference between firing and employee and simply demoting them. If there is a policy in place that clearly delineates degrees of behavior and/or progressive disciplinary action for repeated offenses, companies are doing themselves a service by not having to expend resources to rehire as well as giving the employee in question a chance to improve their behavior.

A US Labor Aide was fired for seemingly racist tweets...and then rehired…

Online news outlet Bloomberg Law ousted a Trump Labor aide for seemingly anti-Semitic tweets. Subsequently, the Labor aide was fired, presumably due to the defamatory nature of the Bloomberg Law story. However, the story doesn’t end there. Upon further examination, The Washington Post published an op-ed stating that the comments in question, when examined in context, were clearly understood to be sarcastic and are therefore not anti-Semitic. Despite further reporting corroborating the use of sarcasm, Bloomberg Law refused to issue a retraction until well after the aide was given his job back.

This kind of sloppy journalism proves our point: having social media screening done in a way that can contextualize sarcasm can save both a company’s and individual’s reputation. Hiring a third party screening firm that uses both artificial intelligence as well as human quality control can help ensure that 1) seemingly intolerant or illicit behavior is addressed before hiring and 2) the behavior in question is delivered and interpreted within context. If problematic online behavior is brought up internally beforehand, companies have the opportunity to 1) adjudicate according to company values and procedure and 2) give the prospective hire a chance to explain themselves should adverse action be taken.

Over 70% of employers already understand the importance of screening online behavior. Reputation management is just one of three top reasons companies seek out social media screening. Social Intel provides a brief, informative whitepaper and sample Hiring Report to help businesses understand how they can mitigate brand risk by taking proactive steps to screen their employees’ and prospective employees’ publicly available online information.