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Online Posting, Public Shaming, & Unintended Consequences. 

September 22, 2022

Digital Literacy – Is Not Just For Youth

CAVEAT- we have permission from our client to share this article with the understanding that we would not identify their name or location. Our client felt that this information needed to be shared to help other adults from falling victim to a similar incident

As many who follow us know, one of our mantras is that once you hit the send button what you have posted, no matter what the site or its promise of privacy, can become public permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, searchable, and therefore weaponized! This week we were contacted by a client who became the target of a public shaming campaign that “may” cost them their job.

Turns out our client, who is over the age of 20, had started an “OnlyFans” site where they were legally selling nudes of themselves in what they thought was a private and secure environment.  For those readers who are unaware of what an OnlyFans site is, we wrote a more in-depth article that you can find on our blog (1)

Recently, our client received a message on both their Facebook and Instagram feeds that an unknown person had created fake profile pages on both of these sites. These profile pages were posted publicly, shared that our client was engaged in monetizing nudes on OnlyFans, posted a link to our client’s OnlyFans page, and posted some of the more hypersexualized pictures (none of the nudes) that could clearly be seen to be our client.  Also posted – our client was presently working in a position where the poster felt that such online sexual behaviour was not congruent with our client’s work environment. Through the use of hashtags, the poster was also able to surgically target social media users in the city that our client lived, to maximize its distribution and weaponization.

As the reader can imagine, our client became extremely concerned about their job, especially given that the weaponized Facebook and Instagram pages were starting to spread in both views and follows in their community. Understandably, our client approached their employer to bring to their attention what was happening. The employer was appreciative for the heads up, but because of the nature of the work, the nexus of the postings to our client’s job and work place, the employer had no other option other than to place our client on suspension pending further investigation. Could our client lose their job over this incident? – the answer is maybe. As a Canadian lawyer who specializes in this area of law stated to us:

“You can’t simply fire someone for what they posted on a social network; but if that spills over and affects a business in a negative way then an employer can take action”

In fact, in 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that

“Termination may be justified where the conduct; (1) is wholly incompatible with, and gives rise to a breakdown in the employment relationship; or (2) results is real or likely prejudice to the employer” (2)

Although both the weaponized Facebook and Instagram pages have been taken down, the damage is done.  Also, there is also nothing to stop this poster from creating other public shaming sites about our client in the future.

So, what are the takeaways:

  • Digital Literacy and Internet safety applies to everyone, not just youth.
  • Remember, there is no such thing as privacy online.  What you have posted can become public, permanenting, searchable, exploitable, copiable, shareable and therefore weaponized. This is true even if a social media site or app promises privacy! Think hard before you post.
  • There will be those who will want to weaponize what you have posted and use it for the purpose of public shaming.
  • Even if what you are doing is legal online, it can still have negative consequences in today’s onlife world, including the possible loss of a job.

Digital Food For Thought

The White Hatter

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