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The Digital Divide – Are You Entitled to Freedom of Speech on Social Media Channels?

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Last week, a case involving a Singaporean citizen posted racist remarks to the Malay community caught my attention. Let me just give you a quick introduction to the topic. Amy Cheong, the former Assistant Director of NTUC posted her rant on Facebook on Sunday evening (7 October 2012). By Monday morning (8 October 2012), the post went viral on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. NTUC’s Facebook page was bombarded with furious demands for Amy’s dismissal. NTUC reacted quickly and fired her by Monday afternoon. Within 24 hours, she has lost her job, her reputation and friends.

This case serves as an important social media lesson for us. Users need to be more careful when they post their rants or complaints on social media channels. In the social media world, everyone is becoming their own brand now. Your friends and public judge your personality based on your status updates, pictures and videos you posted on your Facebook account. It could either uplift your credibility or damage your reputation.

Some industry experts have commented that companies need to train their teams on ways to communicate through social media channels and to put in a social media policy for their employees. I find this point is interesting as it shows that a blurred line is created between personal Facebook account and the official company Facebook pages.

Although opinions posted on individual Facebook accounts usually reflect personal views, our conversations on these channels also indirectly represent the companies we work with. This also raises a red flag on how much personal information we could hide on the Internet. The lesser personal information you include in your “About” section on Facebook, the better you are in safeguarding your privacy level.

Some might argue that if all of your posts are set to private, you could reduce the risk of your actions being discussed by millions of netizens and ultimately read by a news presenter. It still does not entirely protect your privacy as you may not know if someone among your friends could potentially capture and post a screenshot of your post.

Think before act is probably something you have heard over times, the saying is so much true nowadays especially when we spend most of our time interacting online. Respect your audience and refrain from touching on sensitive issues.

The precursor to social networks was the ability to engage with others around the globe, where people interacted through avatars they’d created that often bore no resemblance to the real person they represented. However, what you do in social networks doesn’t involve playing a role. And the implications are much greater than winning and losing your poker chips. Privacy is likely to be a high valued commodity in the future.

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