Social media background screening is again in the spotlight after the latest controversy involving a UK government official. The UK Government is once again under scrutiny for its hiring and vetting process, following the “reprehensible” and “racist” comments online of Downing Street adviser Andrew Sabisky.
Online reputation screening and social media background checks remain absent from the official public sector hiring guidelines. As a result, high profile, avoidable controversies such as this continue to crop up. With the likelihood being that there are still unsavoury comments out there in the public domain, waiting to be found – surely, it’s time for governments to introduce social media screening to its background check policies?
Mr. Sabisky, who has since resigned as the PM’s top aide, recently prompted fury with his views on eugenics, race and women. In 2014, he wrote that to stop unplanned pregnancies from creating a “permanent underclass”, there should be legal enforcement of contraception. His comments online also suggested that black Americans had lower IQs than white Americans.
Ian Lavery, the chairman of the Labour Party wrote in a letter to the PM, “there are unanswered questions about how someone with such abhorrent views was ever considered for employment in the first place.” The spotlight is now focused on the Government, with their recruitment and vetting processes very much in question. Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng has also stated that the Government’s hiring process should be “looked at”.
It is no surprise that when unsavoury comments are discovered online, the reputational damage and public outcry can be huge. As we’ve stated before, a proactive attitude towards online reputation screening could have mitigated risk from the outset and informed the hiring process.
Our message to any employer would be that if it’s out there for all to see, wouldn’t you want to see it first? We just hope the Government seriously considers online reputation screening, following the footsteps of the Federal Government in the US.
Online Reputation Screening should be provided by independently accredited providers to ensure it is conducted in a legal and compliant manner, such as those accredited by the Association For Online Due Diligence (AFODD). Only employment-related business risks should be flagged such as terrorism, violent content, and hate and discriminatory behaviour. Online reputation screening helps firms to recruit with confidence and gives employers the opportunity to open up a healthy dialogue about their behaviour online.