What is Considered “Sexually Explicit” in a Social Media Hiring Report?

If you’re reading this, then you probably know that Social Intelligence specializes in social media background checks used for employment purposes. During the search process, we encounter some...interesting public profiles that serve as great examples for exactly what you shouldn’t be posting online if you’re looking for a job.

Today we’re going to tackle what we consider to be “sexually explicit,” because we’ve received a lot of questions about where exactly the line is drawn. While identifying sexually explicit posts is something of a moving target, we’ll explore some of our social media analysts’ best practices and show you a few concrete examples.

Don’t worry, we won’t post any NSFW photos, but fair warning; these examples are sexual in nature and not suitable for certain audiences.

Context, Context, Context

The most important part of any social media screening report—whether there is something to report or not—is the surrounding context that supports whether or not a person may be suitable for employment in certain positions. Context is part of why we use human analysts in what seems like an increasingly algorithmic space; as technology stands, only humans have the ability to decipher wholly human patterns like sarcasm or parody. Sure, algorithms are exceptionally capable at quickly identifying key patterns that make someone more or less likely to be a good fit for employment, but they cannot report with absolute certainty that the content they’ve uncovered is true to the intent.

Consider this example:

A piece of software that combs through social media accounts would have no way of indicating that this photo is inappropriate, demeaning to hard-working women in the workplace, or sexually explicit. A level of human curation is necessary to decipher that the intent of this photo and it’s accompanying comments are not innocent.

Of course there are also more obvious examples:

This tweet describes a sexual act in the first person, asserting a public opinion about an assumed private encounter. Whether fictional or not, this is not something you would want your kids to see, and it certainly wouldn’t be deemed as appropriate if it came up in a workplace conversation. For that reason, our analysts would flag this content as sexually explicit.

Here’s something you’d never want to see on a coworker’s screen:

This account hardly warrants justification for being flagged as sexually explicit, but you’d be surprised how many job candidates publicly post to or from accounts like this one.

Where do we draw the line?

After all, sexuality is natural and human, it’s bound to come up even in an innocent manner. Again, when our analysts are looking for sexually explicit material for a social media hiring report, their focus is on the intent to sexualize something in an inappropriate way.

This tweet is a great example of human sexuality that would not be considered sexually explicit: 

Even though this sculpture features two nude subjects, the intent of the tweet and the account “Art Photos” is not meant to evoke sexual pleasure, but an objective appreciation of the human form immortalized in art. Of course you would want to think twice before having this photo framed for your office, but for our purposes we would not flag this as sexually explicit.


Keep in mind that these examples are far from comprehensive-- there are thousands of nuances in language and culture that can blur the lines between what is and isn’t considered explicit. But that’s also why an objective analysis of your candidate’s social media screening is becoming a standard business practice.

If you have any questions about what is considered sexually explicit in social media screenings, or if you want more information about our other primary search fields, feel free to contact us or request one of our sample reports to see for yourself.