Beware the hand that feeds...

Louella Schooley - Chirp Communications

Last weekend, the Sunday Times Magazine ran a story about a South London school teacher who was wrongly accused of scrawling racist words on a wall. The accusers were online, predominantly on Twitter. They declared his guilt within minutes of the crime coming to light, despite the fact that concrete evidence was available that proved he was innocent.

The police didn’t interview this poor guy for the crime, in fact they only got involved to protect him when threats on Twitter escalated to a point where his personal safety was at risk. Online campaigns called for him to be sacked from his job in the local school and he was unable to live in his flat regardless of the fact that he HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CRIME.

So, why are we writing about this, you may ask? Risk Management is the rather dry response, I’m afraid.  What do you do when your online marketing/promotions/presence turns from the wonderful world of videos of cats to a vicious man-eating tiger? How can you protect yourself? What should you do when the odd negative comment and feedback that can be quickly nipped in the bud, escalates into something much much more?

There are no easy answers to all of the above but a robust risk management plan is a good start. The key things your plan should cover are 1) the steps you will take to manage the threat to your business and 2) the person/people in your business who will deal with it, when and how. Alongside your plan, ensure that your employees are trained in the dangers of the Internet and sign a document stating their recognition of this training (by this we mean, how employees could bring your company name into disrepute, how their actions online could come back to haunt them professionally etc.)

As for the school teacher, Twitter was forced to apologise for it’s behaviour when what was always obvious, was at last acknowledged. The petition was taken down and the threats to his life stopped. He kept his job but only because his boss was careful to examine the evidence before jumping on the bandwagon. No risk management plan would have helped this individual but for a business, it is mandatory.

If you would like further help and information about how to protect your business from online threats and planning for how to deal with negative comments, please get in touch with Louella or Ruth at

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