You're Fired—for a Wikipedia Update

An employee is dismissed for updating Tim Russert's entry before his death was made public.


Entry No. 17 in the book of Lessons for Safe Internet Use at Work:

While NBC held back announcing Meet the Press host Tim Russert's death for about an hour—long enough for his family to be informed—his Wikipedia entry was updated to reflect the news in about half that time.

So who told? An employee at Internet Broadcasting Services, which works with local NBC stations. From the New York Times:

An I.B.S. spokeswoman said on Friday that "a junior-level employee made updates to the Wikipedia page upon learning of Mr. Russert's passing, thinking it was public record." She added that the company had "taken the necessary measures with the employee and apologized to NBC." NBC News said it was told the employee was fired.

This blog has touched on these sorts of issues before, but this one is a bit different. It's less a computer policy issue than a loyalty problem.

Here's the difference: Employers can no longer assume that employees have their policies, privacy, and best interests at heart. Loyalty has gone the way of job security. (I'm not suggesting the I.B.S. employee was intending harm, but his or her first concern was obviously not the company's welfare; otherwise, he or she would have run the Wikipedia update by a manager.)

Employers today need to offer clear direction on what employees can and cannot communicate, along with a frank explanation of the consequences of violating the policy. The security of long-term employment is no more—and what's left behind sometimes has a hard time competing with the instant gratification the Internet can provide.

Russert, Tim

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