Business Insider's CTO forced out after his offensive tweets stir reaction

Business Insider fired Chief Technology Officer Pax Dickinson Tuesday after reports about his Twitter feed roiled some Twitter users, Stefan Becket reports. "A Business Insider executive has made some comments on Twitter that do not reflect our values and have no place at our company," Business Insider CEO and Editor-in-Chief Henry Blodget writes. "The executive has left the company, effective immediately."

Monday evening, prompted by a Valleywag story, Dickinson's Twitter feed became an object of fascination for many online.

Matt Binder swam through four years of Dickinson's tweet sewer, surfacing with tweets like "Women's suffrage and individual freedom are incompatible" (June 2009) and "A man who argues on behalf of feminism is a tragic figure of irony, like a Jewish Nazi" (October 2012).

"Pax was speaking for himself, not Business Insider," Blodget told Valleywag's Sam Biddle Monday evening. "We obviously don't condone what he said." But was Dickinson's online jerkiness grounds for dismissal?

Katy Rand and Michelle Bush wrote last year that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that social media policies that use language like “Avoid harming the image and integrity of the company" are overly broad, and that encouraging employees to "“Adopt a friendly tone when engaging online" is unlawful "because discussions about working conditions or unionism have the potential to become precisely that."

But how about when online conversations aren't about working conditions? The NLRB said the Arizona Daily Star was within its rights to fire a reporter in 2010 because he tweeted a bunch of stupid stuff about people he covered.

"[I]n general our message is that people should be thoughtful," The New York Times' standards chief Philip Corbett told Poynter about the Times' informal social media policy.

They need to realize that social media is basically a public activity, it’s not a private activity, and that people will know that they work for the Times, that they are Times journalists, and will identify them with the Times. And so they should just keep that in mind and be careful not to do anything on social media that would undercut their credibility.

That's pretty good. Another good one I've seen contains essentially the same advice, written in a folksier style: "Remember that, at all times, everything you tweet will reflect not just on you but on us--so use your noggin and behave professionally."

That one belongs to Business Insider.


Related: How to create effective social-media guidelines | Why your news organization’s social media policy may be illegal

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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