Whose views are they anyway?

What’s the most common text in Twitter bios?

Is it text that declares your football allegiances? Your whereabouts in the world, or your favourite colour? No. It’s the ubiquitous disclaimer “Views are my own”, often found next to the suffix, “Not my employer’s”.

Cases such as Sarah Baskerville, a government official who was on the wrong end of a PCC decision about the privacy of her tweets mentioning “wine induced hangovers” amongst other things, have made such disclaimers seem pretty important.

I wondered aloud on Twitter whether this meant such disclaimers had any practical use, or whether like watching X-Factor, we have no idea why we’re doing it beyond the knowledge that everyone else is.

The discussion with @zoeamar, @MissAJBurton, @dom_stevenson, @twinspeeks, @b33god, @jill_jillo, @leahmouse, @louisebrown and myself was fascinating. Here’s what we came up with (disclaimer – views below are not necessarily my own, nor those of the above individuals).

Some people do tweet on behalf of their own organisation, so it’s worth stating that you don’t, in case your views are construed that way. But most of these people are very high profile CEOs – few would speak for their organisation via such an individual channel when official ones are available.

For other employees, if you don’t talk about who you work for in your tweets, then you don’t need a disclaimer. Although some quick Googling could easily reveal a tweep’s employer, even if they didn’t name them in their bio.

If you did tweet something inappropriate or offensive on your personal account that mentioned your charity employer in your biography, and work found out, would the disclaimer protect you from disciplinary proceedings? I very much doubt it. So what is the point?

Distinction.

Many of us are so committed to our charity’s cause that our views and theirs do often converge. So when they don’t, or it’s an issue that we’d rather not second guess on our employer’s behalf, it’s worth making the distinction to be clear.

But if you go to a work event,┬ádo you write a disclaimer on your name badge, in case you express your own views while networking? What about if you’re overheard at the pub? There could be no end to it, even if Twitter does have a wider reach than such examples.

What’s more, you could further argue you don’t have the power to speak for your organisation, any more than putting “My views are those of the BBC” would make your views official BBC policy.

Overall, commonsense must prevail. If people are going to listen to your opinion, they should know that’s all it is.

One Response to “Whose views are they anyway?”

  1. Jennifer D Begg 08/23/2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Great summary of the discussion (was tweavesdropping).

    I’d also argue that although you don’t distinguish your own views at an event or in the pub, they’re unlikely to be recorded somewhere in any permanent way (unlike your electronic conversations on twitter).

    For me, it’s definitely a matter of distinction rather than any legal liability.

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