While social media can help you connect with your peers, meet new people and keep you updated with the latest news, it’s a double-edged sword as the outcome really depends on how you use it.
In just a couple of months, there has been plenty of drama happening with companies firing their employees over their comments on social media.
Late last year, Honda sacked an employee for breaching company policy following public outcry calling for her resignation over her insensitive Facebook remark on the death of Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, the firefighter caught in a riot over a Hindu temple in Selangor last month.
More recently another case happened where not one, but three people were fired thanks to their comments on the resignation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V.
Firstly, was Eric (last named removed) who posted an insensitive comment in a Facebook group which was making fun of the monarchy. It might have been a joke to him but netizens didn’t take it lightly and went on a witch hunt to find out his personal details.
In less than a few hours, his LinkedIn profile and Facebook pictures were uploaded all over the internet, netizens even began to flood his workplace’s regional FB page Cisco ASEAN, demanding for his termination.
Even after the company announced that Eric was not with them anymore, a group of UMNO Youth made their way to the Cisco Malaysian office to demand whether he had resigned or was terminated, as Cisco did not explain it in detail.
Next up, consultancy firm Pemandu Associates also suspended an employee who posted a tweet laced with profanity against the monarchy. Once again, netizens flooded the Pemandu Facebook page and demanded the firm to take action against the employee. Last but not least, an employee from Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) was suspended too thanks to their comments on the same topic.
It looks like getting suspended or fired from their job wasn’t the end for them as some of them were arrested by the authorities under the Sedition Act.
What The Law Says
Some people are probably wondering if it’s lawful to terminate an employee just because of their personal opinions voiced on social media. Well, the law says that your employer can indeed fire you if your post affected them.
According to an article on AskLegal, employers are only allowed to fire you over what happens in the workplace, not over things done during your personal time out of work. But, if you did something wrong in your personal time that affects your employer’s reputation, then they have reason to fire you.
So although you might be posting silly stuff during your free time at home out of office hours, you still have to remember that you’re representing your company, especially in this day and age as the internet has become intertwined with our lives. Just a quick search of your name and people can find where you work and live, so you have to tread carefully.
But Should Employers Then Control Their Employees?
Social media has become a valuable tool for businesses over the last several years as it allows a company to better brand itself and reach a greater audience.
However, with social media being so prevalent in today’s society, many organisations around the world have already begun to implement social media policies in employment contracts to prevent such cases as stated above from happening again.
While employers can’t infringe on employee rights or individual rights to freedom of speech, they can help educate employees about how to properly conduct themselves and portray a company’s brand on social media.
If such cases still continue to happen, then don’t be surprised when one of the terms on your contract is to give your employers access to your social media account.
Employers might even bring in a team to “spy” on employees’ social media, and once they think you have crossed the line, say bye bye to your job.
Think you can hide what you post on social media with the privacy controls? Think again as your employers might make it mandatory for you to add them on Facebook or Twitter to monitor your account.
Worse still, employers might put controls in place such as forcing you to close down all your social media accounts, or moderating any comments or posts you make.
As Malaysians, we should be respectful of the laws and cultures no matter whether you’re offline or online. Freedom of speech is all well and good, but if the freedom is abused, don’t be surprised if such freedoms are then removed from us, all in the name of “greater good”. And that would be a great detriment upon our society.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own, and may not necessarily reflect the views of the publication.
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