So your company hasn’t had an OMG moment over Facebook ethics?
As they say, Good Luck With That.
It has been almost a decade since Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the wake of the Enron, Tyco and WorldCom scandals, seeking to put in place a variety of measures to protect investors and address standards of behavior. Over the years, oncecontroversial practices about disclosure and ethics have become generally accepted standards.
But the social media explosion – from email and Facebook to blogs and Twitter – is making a hash of once-resolved issues and creating all kinds of new dilemmas.
- Businesses have less and less control over how they communicate with the public, while 24-7 bloggers feel free to snipe away.
- Job seekers find their private lives may no longer be private and employees worry that the boss is electronically looking over their shoulders.
- Consumers can’t be sure their account information remains safe and have no way to tell whether favorable online comments about products and businesses are legitimate.
- Professionals of all sorts — psychiatrists, attorneys, school teachers, reporters, and even NFL players – are learning to live with new, often controversial, social media rules. A customer’s irate blog can undo months and years of corporate image work. A careless email can sabotage delicate contract talks or M&A negotiations. Failure to protect customer information can result in years of costly litigation. An old party-hearty photo may block a chance at a new job. Hitting “send” without thinking can torpedo an executive’s career.
In just one recent week:
- An email circulating among male employees at the PricewaterhouseCoopers Dublin offices – rating the ‘top 10’ new female recruits, with headshots – quickly went “viral” and drew widespread criticism. (Some tut-tutting newspapers, however, also saw fit to run the headshots as news.)
- An executive at Pacific Gas & Electric in California was put on paid leave after seeking to join, under an assumed name, an online discussion group critical of the utility’s plans to install “smart meters.”
- Labor lawyers across the country warned clients that a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office planned an unfair labor practice complaint against an ambulance company for firing an employee who posted negative Facebook comments about her supervisor.
- Britain’s financial regulator, seeking to address insider trading, ordered a financial services firm to keep records of employee cell phone calls. No wonder companies are rushing to build new defenses and adopt new policies to reinforce ethical behaviors and learning how to use social media to react to real-time problems. At the same time, individuals are re-thinking their casual attitude about exposing personal information on the Web. And in Washington, government agencies are adopting new guidelines defining acceptable social media behavior.
> Learn more about the NASBA Center for the Public Trust