Why ‘bad’ social media posts could haunt you

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By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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Social media platforms are now adding a whole new meaning to “giving someone enough rope and they will hang themselves” as more organisations make scrutinising posts made by individuals a standard routine.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat among others are available to anyone with an internet connection at any time.

With the ease of access comes the possibility of users making posts in jest, not knowing that those uploads may be their undoing later when they need a job, a visa or admission to a certain institution.

The US embassy in Nairobi, for instance, has since May 25 been adhering to a March 6 directive by President Donald Trump on extra vetting of visa applicants.

One of the items to be probed in the heightened scrutiny are an applicant’s social media and e-mail accounts.

Ms Fiona Evans, an information officer at the embassy, told the Nation that if a person does not satisfy interviewers in the initial stages of the visa application, then they have to provide additional information that includes social media handles.

She said in a statement that the checks will be enforced “when a consular officer determines that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting”.

But the checks are not just limited to visa applications. On Monday, a man who went for a job interview in the hope of getting employment at the Homa Bay County government was left speechless after the panel confronted him with a post in which he had made snide remarks against Governor Cyprian Awiti.

“He couldn’t even talk after he was shown the post,” says writer Innocent Ngare who witnessed the ordeal, noting that the man was his friend.

“Don’t post anything on Facebook that is deleterious to the image of a governor especially if you want a job in the county the governor heads,” Mr Ngare stated on a publicly shared Facebook post on the day the incident happened.

And in the United States, Harvard College early last week shut down the celebrations of at least 10 youth who had been admitted to the prestigious institution because of posts they had made on Facebook.

The Harvard Crimson, a publication that centres on the affairs of the college, reported that after securing slots in Harvard, the students formed a Facebook group of about 100 members to share memes about popular culture. But some posts were a bridge too far.

The group was named “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens” and screenshots taken from posts made revealed that some prospective students had made posts “mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children” as reported by Harvard Crimson.

“After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least 10 participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group,” the paper added.

Such instances are bound to increase as more and more people gain internet connectivity.

Kenya has the fastest internet connections in Africa and the 14th fastest in the world according to a recently study published by content delivery network Akamai.

That means mistakes are bound to be committed at breakneck speeds and observers are urging users to tread carefully.

“Some have been sacked for posting revealing photos of themselves on social media, so before you send that bikini photo, think twice,” Ms Mwikali Muthiani, the Managing Director of Millennial HR, told Nation in a previous interview.

With new US visa rules in place, it is expected that one of the areas where Kenyan social media users may eat their words is during application.

Ms Evans, the embassy information officer, insisted that the scrutiny involving checks on social media accounts will only be applied as an exception rather than the rule. “We estimate these changes affect only a fraction of one per cent of the more than 13 million annual visa applicants worldwide,” she said.

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