Associated Press's Continued Delusion: Social Networking Guidelines Require Employees To Delete Other People's Content

from the hello,-let-me-explain-to-you-the-web dept

It's no secret that the Associated Press has had a rather difficult time figuring out its place in the online world, often resorting back to weak attempts to re-enact the old walls and scarcities that simply don't exist in the internet world. Lately, it's been having a lot of trouble figuring out how to have its own employees interact on social networks -- first reprimanding an employee for stating his personal opinion about an AP-member newspaper in his Facebook account. Now, however, the AP has released "staff guidelines" for how to use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and there are some highly questionable rules there. The one getting the most attention -- for good reason -- is the bizarre and troubling demand that those who use Facebook not only have to watch their own language, but the language of any friend that posts a comment on their Facebook "wall." Seriously. They want AP employees to comb through any comments that friends/family/etc. post on their wall -- and if they "violate AP standards: any such material should be deleted." It's difficult to fathom how this could possibly make sense and isn't a huge burden for AP employees as well as obnoxious to their friends and family. Does the AP also tell its employees that when out to dinner with friends, they must "shush" them if their friends say anything not up to "AP standards"?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 2:43am

    It's gonna be funny when the AP is truly irrelevant, because then crap like this will only be funny, and not utterly sad.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 3:23am

    Maybe people in general should catch a clue and realize that it's easy and useful to just TURN OFF THE WALL on facebook. Or do people really need to posture with pointless tidbits intended for everyone else to see that much?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 3:25am

    "re-enact old walls?"

    Do they need special outfits for this?

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 3:28am

    Re:

    Don't their action show that they have already become truly irrelevant.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 5:30am

    Perhaps this is an indication that reporters should have a "public reporter" profile that they use related to their work, and then a "personal" profile that is unrelated?

    It is easy enough to delete items that aren't acceptable, it isn't rocket science.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Michial Thompson, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 5:39am

    An Employer has every right to protect their image

    An employer has every right to protect the image of their company in any way they feel appropriate.

    If the employee does not like the terms of their AT-WILL contract for employment there is always the local soup kitchen where I am sure they will be free to post anything they want on their blogs, face books and twitter pages...

    As an employer my employee's have one right when it comes to the terms of their employment contract, and that is the right to terminate their employment with me at any time. As long as I do not violate any state or federal laws with that employment contract I have every right to put what I want in it and hold my employees to any level of standards I want.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    CleverName, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 5:47am

    Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    "in any way they feel appropriate"

    Wait a minute ... you are talkng about what the employee does on their own time, does not violate any laws and has nothing to do with the employer ?

    Wow, you must have a high turn over rate

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    That Guy, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 5:48am

    Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    Good on you.

     

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  9.  
    icon
    R. Miles (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 5:49am

    Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    An employer has every right to protect the image of their company in any way they feel appropriate.
    Not when this action extends outside the scope of the company, which is clearly evident here.

    Michial, we have this thing called the First Amendment. No where does it state a company has the right to tell an employee to shut the hell up and censor comments.

    The AP is more than capable of firing said employees, but this doesn't really change the fact the employees can still say what they want, now does it?

    If you think you can hold your employees to these "level standards", don't be surprised when you see them complain about how ignorant and draconian you are as a boss.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    CleverName, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    "ignorant and draconian you are as a boss"

    and that would the ones showing restraint

     

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  11.  
    icon
    JustMe (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:03am

    Hard to see how

    the random comments of someone on the wall of an employee reflect *in any way* on AP.

    Well, other than this farce of course, which reflects horrifically badly on AP itself.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    CleverName, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:07am

    Re: "re-enact old walls?"

    AP probably would like to make all employees wear uniforms

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    robin, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:20am

    Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    "As an employer my employee's have one right when it comes to the terms of their employment contract, and that is the right to terminate their employment with me at any time."

    nice guy. are you hiring? i've been wanting to work for someone who treats me like dirt for a long long time.

    i think you'll find my skill sets and personality will make me a perfectly happy lapdog and contributor to your enjoyment and success.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Who Dat, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:24am

    Re: Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    Yeah and part of that is allowing people the freedom to run their business as they see fit, if the prospective employees do not like the way the company does business, they do not have to take to job or they can leave the company. As long as they are not accepting any government help.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:30am

    Funny thing is a company can not control you - Period.

    A case in point. In a group of co-workers where enjoying them out-side or work hours (myself included). The Boss showed up and started to criticize an employee and attempted to tell him what do to. The employee gave him clear instructions on what the boss should do with himself. I felt the employee was being nice as if any strange made those comments a fight would have easily broken out. The next day the boss fired the employee. I think day at work all the employees told the boss what he could do with himself to his face (myself included). No back lash to us and one lawyer and massive law suit later our co-worker was back at work and a few year closer retirement.

    The whole case taught us that what you do on your time is your business not the company you work for. Assuming your are not trying to represent the company at the time. (IE if the above happened at a company picnic or event then things would have been different).

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    CleverName, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    ... and the employer can have a high turn over rate, not retain experienced workers and generally fail in a competitive market - Brilliant !

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Texaboose, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Employees have rights too...

    ...since the industrial revolution. If it's personal and legal, an employer has no right dictating what an employee can and cannot do outside of the business. If said employee is fired over the matter, they can justly file for unlawful/unethical dismissal and receive compensation and continual employment under law. I hope your employees wake up Mr. Thompson.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: "re-enact old walls?"

    Whooosh!

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    That Guy, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    Exactly, it does not mean they should not be allowed to so. That is not a right we have, we do have the right to not take the job.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:06am

    This is not for personal pages

    Just about every company is sending social networking policy guidelines around right now. I received one from both my jobs in the last month. These kinds of provisions are not rare, nor are they really that unreasonable because the do NOT apply to personal pages unless you are talking about your employer there. Basically, they say that, as an employee, you are a representative for the company. Anything you post on a social networking site concerning the company could reflect back on them. My company makes it easier. They have just stated that you may not post anything "on behalf of the company" without prior approval.

    So, this article really makes a bigger stink out of this than it is. The AP can't discipline Joe Schmoe for swearing on his own personal page. They can discipline him for not strictly maintaining/filtering a page he runs on behalf of the company, and they could probably discipline him for publicly bashing the company on his personal page. And before people start screaming about free speech, don't. We are only protected from the government, not private corporations. If you wrote an extremely derogatory article about your own company in the Letters to the Editor of your newspaper, you would be likewise disciplined.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    CleverName, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:06am

    Re: Re: Re: "re-enact old walls?"

    Yes, it was funny - and the joke was not wasted on me.
    Thought I'd add to it, if that's ok with you.

     

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  22.  
    icon
    James (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:13am

    Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    that is correct, as long as they are willing to pay unemployement benfits. In Texas, yiou can be terminated for any violation of the emplyee handbook. The only protection against "unreasonable" policies would be the company having to pay the unemployement benfits after the termination. You would howver, still be out of a job.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    kilroy, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    Is there not some old obscure Federal law relating to Freedom of Speech? And if I am not mistaken, there may even be one about freedom to associate with other people ... I think they worded it something to the effect of "... life liberty & the pursuit of happiness". However, being a Canadian, I may be wrong on that one ...

    hmmmm Now I could be way out in left field on this but censoring what your employees do & say on their time in their personal space ... may just be a violation of a federal law. Unless you live in Iran, North Korea, China ... I'm sure you get the picture.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    kilroy, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:50am

    Re: This is not for personal pages

    Yes, but do you truly believe that you should be held accountable for the comments of OTHER PEOPLE in a public forum? If so, how do you determine who can say what?

    The company may have leverage over the "Employee", but to hold that employee accountable for the actions of others brings us to a funny grey-area. Where does the circle of influence end? By that logic would America not be indirectly accountable for war-crimes committed by Saddam Husein, because they did not prevent them from happening?

    Your logic has to make sense. The employer has influence on the employee (to a lesser extent) but you have to know that those employees have little to no control over the actions & words of others.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Whisk33, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:59am

    Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    Most of the protection you speak of in this post is protection from the government. Protection from the government enforcing these things. The bill of rights is an agreement between the Gov and the people. The issue that is being discussed is between people and people(/business).

    It has been my experience that most professional employers (Engineering, Law firms etc.) do require(listed in the employee handbook) a certain amount of public service/involvement(level of enforcement can vary significantly between employers). Professional society involvement or lack there of can then be used as reasons for plaudits or demerits. This isn't something that is unique in my experience, and while the op of this post ladder may come off like a jerk, I don't think he is wrong in anything.
    You still have the "right" to say what you want, but you don't have the "right" to be dropping F bombs as a 1st grade teacher... they'd can you. It looks like the AP is less concerned about F bombs and fallacies and more concerned with who you super poke.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Michial Thompson, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    Re:

    My guess is that this has more to do with WHAT actions the "Boss" was trying to control, or a lack of company policies that stated that the actions were against policy.

    A company has EVERY right to establish policies that reflect on them. If it is written, published or part of the employment contract then the employee has every obligation to uphold that agreement.

    The First Amendment does not apply, yes the employee has every right to say/write what they want. The employer also has every right to terminate the employment due to those actions. It's called "At Will Employment."

    You may not agree that it is right, and in some cases it is not right, but if I had an employee that bashed or allowed negative stuff about my company to reside on his personal website, he would not be an employee for long.

    Simply put it refelcts poorly on my company period. I have every right to protect my image. I would not publish on my companies website anything about my employees that was negative, nor would I tolerate someone else publishing negative stuff on my website about my employees. I expect the same in return.

    If the employee does not like the policy, they are free to move on to the next employer.

     

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  27.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    > Michial, we have this thing called the First
    > Amendment.

    Yes, we do. However, the 1st Amendment only prohibits government censorship of speech. It doesn't apply to private corporations. Your boss can censor your speech all he/she wants. The Constitution has nothing to do with it.

     

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  28.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Re: An Employer has every right to protect their image

    > Is there not some old obscure Federal law
    > relating to Freedom of Speech? And if I am not
    > mistaken, there may even be one about freedom to
    > associate with other people. However, being a
    > Canadian, I may be wrong on that one ...

    You are. Wrong, that is.

    Yes, that "old federal law" exists. No, it has no bearing in this case. The 1st Amendment only restricts the government, not private companies. (It starts out, "Congress shall make no law...", not "IBM shall make no rule...")

     

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  29.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Firing

    > In a group of co-workers where enjoying them
    > out-side or work hours

    Your boss should fire you for not having the ability to put together a coherent sentence or use grammar above a third-grade level.

    I mean, really. Read that sentence I quoted above (or just about any other sentence in your post). You should go by the screen name "Word Salad" instead of letting the computer assign you the banal default "Anonymous Coward".

     

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  30.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Firing

    > In a group of co-workers where enjoying them
    > out-side or work hours

    Your boss should fire you for not having the ability to put together a coherent sentence or use grammar above a third-grade level.

    I mean, really. Read that sentence I quoted above (or just about any other sentence in your post). You should go by the screen name "Word Salad" instead of letting the computer assign you the banal default "Anonymous Coward".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    I have no AP contract!

    Therefore I will opine however I choose and no friend or relative will influence whatever kind of shit I choose to throw at my piece of the wall. Now if the AP wants to discipline that employee, for my actions, they can also defend the resultant lawsuit. As for myself I shall continue to exercise my right to free speech, in spite of the AP's edict.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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