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Four recent news headlines featuring social media red flags

By Bianca Lager on 8 Jun 2017
  • social media background checks

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Two weeks ago, an Oregon man was arrested for fatally stabbing two men, and wounding a third. Jeremy Joseph Christian was charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation in the second degree and felon in possession of a restricted weapon. The stabbings occurred on a Portland train when Christian allegedly started yelling “hate speech toward a variety of ethnicity and religions.” According to theSkimm, Christian’s Facebook page “includes racist posts and shows sympathy for Nazis.”

Unfortunately, we do live in an age when more and more people are taking to their social media accounts to express views that are racist, violent, and even threaten other people. This is one of many recent news stories featuring red flags on social media accounts. Consider the following stories that have circulated over the past week:

Reality Winner accused of mailing classified information to a media outlet

Earlier in the week, a federal contractor with top secret security clearance was charged with leaking classified information. Reality Winner is accused of printing classified documents, making copies, and mailing said documents to a news outlet. Although it doesn’t appear that she explicitly discussed this on her social media, she did post about attending private government meetings, and was following Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, and several similar accounts on Twitter.  

Harvard College takes back admissions offers because of social media messages

At least ten prospective members from Harvard’s incoming freshman class found that their offers were withdrawn this week. The students were found to be members of a Facebook group that exchanged “sexually explicit memes,” as well as “images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children.” According to The Crimson, the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child was referred to as “piñata time” by one commenter. It appears that Harvard’s decision to rescind their offers is final.

UND professor in hot water after Scripps Spelling Bee comments

Over the weekend, Ananya Vinay was announced as the winner of the Scripps Spelling Bee. Shortly thereafter, a professor at the University of North Dakota took to her Facebook profile and wrote, “I’m sure she’s an immigrant, not worthy of interacting with our pure Americans. Send her back.” UND responded that the comment is not in keeping with the university’s core values, which include diversity. The professor has since deleted her post, stating that her comment was sarcasm used to convey her belief that “our society is strengthened by the presence of diverse cultures.” She later realized that the comment could be misconstrued.

Although these examples aren’t all employment-related, they can serve as cautionary tales. Due to the current climate in our society, we believe that this concerning social media behavior will continue to surface. For this reason, we recommend that companies screen all potential candidates and current employees. That way no red flag behavior such as illegal activity, violence, sexually explicit content, and racism or intolerance slips through the cracks.

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