Online Social Networks and their influence

After last week’s lecture about online social networks, I thought it would be interesting to examine a real life situation of how online social networks can influence businesses and what their employees say about them. As mentioned in the lecture, certain nodes may have a greater reach of people who they can influence. So what happens when that node happens to be an enraged employee complaining about their employer? If that employee has a high degree of centrality, they could very quickly allow many people to see their complaint which may be very damaging to the employer.

In an article posted in the New York Times, something very similar happened. Two disgruntled employees were fired from the restaurant they worked at because they discovered they owed taxes that they believed was due to an error of the restaurant and went to Facebook to express their anger. The following day, they were fired because the boss believed they were being disloyal to the restaurant by complaining on such a public forum. Within days, the restaurant’s lawyers contacted them saying they needed to remove the comments and make a pubic apology for the alleged defamation. If they didn’t do so, they would sue them for defamation. The outcome was that the restaurant was not allowed to fire their employees because of what they say on Facebook or limit their activity on social media due to the Labor Relations Act.

After reading this article, it is interesting to note that employees have a lot of knowledge (not including privileged information) about the business they work for that could be very damaging if made public and employees who have a lot of power in their social network, could have a great deal of influence. It is understandable that companies wouldn’t want employees making public complaints about the company but on the other hand, customers do the same thing. So why can’t employees do it? If they feel that they are being treated unfairly or are noticing unethical business practices, wouldn’t they be able to evoke more change if they make their complaint public? What do you think? Do you think companies should be allowed to limit what employees say about the company on social media? Do you work for a company that has a social network policy? If so, how do you feel about it?



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