Social media screening has been up for debate in terms of ethics for quite some time. While many individuals argue for the case of privacy and online confidentiality, many others argue that what employees say and do online can be potentially hurtful to the organization they work for. This can be true in both areas, and leaning too far on one end can lead to legally dubious results. We at Employers Choice Screening do not partake in conducting social media screenings partially because of this reason.
In a social media screening, the social media accounts of a prospective employee are screened and flagged negatively if posts meet the following criteria: hate speech, bullying, toxic/obscene language, threats of violence or violent images, self-harm, and drug-related images.
If an employer wishes to conduct any form of social media search, it is highly, highly recommended that they consult a professional third party to undergo the search. Social media often includes information that discloses protected class information, and employers seeing this information might raise concern for the risk of a discrimination lawsuit. To sift through the countless posts on social media, many social media screening services use automated programs to finish the process more quickly. However, many automated programs don’t necessarily get through this information efficiently. Many automated programs do not understand context, sarcasm, or tone, and might flag posts that include colorful language as ‘obscene’ when the post might have simply used colorful language as an intensifier. In one extreme case, an individual’s report amounted to over 300 pages because the automated system flagged “liked” posts that included colorful language (swear words are not censored in this article). This particular automated check is notorious for the invasive level of searching and also how ineffective the results are at actually indicating whether employees might engage in risky online or offline behavior.
A quick google search online and being “logged in”/aware of social media in 2020, could tell you that social media is being used to expose the wrongdoings of employees, whether it be discovered online or recorded in real-time and made viral online. The real question is, do you wish to potentially risk the moral, ethical, even legal grounds in finding potential “red flags” early on? Here are some relevant questions to ask when considering to run a social media check.