Leafing through the paper version of yesterday’s BT I was horrified to read the newspaper arguing (not online) that:

  • It’s perfectly OK for a newspaper to print a private status update from an individual’s Facebook account.
  • A university lecturer who posts a private Facebook status about being sick of grading exams by students who didn’t appear to have read a single book on the syllabus should probably be fired.

WHAT? The debate piece I sent BT yesterday argues against just this kind of thing, but won’t be printed by BT until Wednesday. I will definitely write more about this, but let me just say how horrified I am that the press is trying to define private communication online as public. More on this later.

Let me leave you with a quote from Cardinal Richelieu: “Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him.” (1641).

3 thoughts on “Is anything you write on Facebook reason for firing you?

  1. Mark Bernstein

    a) I’m not sure there’s a problem with publishing a private Facebook update, provided that your reporter received it (a) because they are the subjects’ Facebook friend, or (b) it was shown them by someone who received it legitimately. Obviously, there’s a problem with publishing a private Facebook update you obtained by stealing the subject’s computer, or something like that.

    By analogy, if I tell you something in confidence and then you tell a reporter what I said and the reporter prints it, I don’t believe that the *reporter* has done anything wrong.

    b) Offhand, I see nothing objectionable about what the university lecturer said, provided it was said in good faith. If the statement is literally true, how could anyone object? If it is hyperbole, then it might be tactless, but it might also be considered motivational.

  2. Matt Whyndham

    I would see it (the quoted status update) as potential evidence for promotion, or at the very least the recruitment of a teaching assistant. On the other hand, it could be claimed that the responsibility of encouraging the students to read some books is the lecturer’s.

  3. David Brake

    I love the Richelieu quote – do you have the full reference so I can use it too?

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