On July 20, 2017, I posted a blog entitled Hate Speech Online. That blog recounted the disastrous consequences that one potential client endured after posting a hateful statement on Twitter. A third party that the potential client did not know re-posted the tweet for the purpose of vilifying the man and then sent a screenshot to the potential client’s employer. Within three days, the potential client was terminated. His tweet went viral before he could delete it. When his name is searched, a person can still find the message he posted on social media.
Online Hate Speech
This blog revisits the issue of what I call online hate. In the last week, I have seen two more instances of online hate resulting in unfortunate consequences. The now-former headmaster of my oldest son’s private school, whom I have known for more than ten years, sent a private message on Twitter to the lawyer representing a woman that Judge Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted. The message was laced with profanity and it should never have been sent, even in a private message. You can guess where it went from there.
The lawyer, who is well-trained in the art of making other people look bad, and hungry for media attention, took a screenshot of the profanity-laden private message. He then tweeted about it, prominently mentioning the fact that this man was the headmaster of a private school in Texas. Predictably, that man is now the former-headmaster of that private school.
But wait, there’s more. A Sullivan & Cromwell partner this week sent a profanity-laden response to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders after she praised comments by Senator Lindsey Graham concerning Judge Kavanaugh. The S&C partner has now deleted his Twitter account and is likely facing appropriate adversity from his partners.
This is like road-rage, but online. One reason I live in downtown Dallas is because I can walk to my office and avoid driving. I personally feel at risk behind the wheel in part due to the epidemic of distracted drivers, and in part because of the anger displayed on the open road. Similarly, once logged-in to Twitter, people apparently lose their inhibitions and spew online what they would probably never say in front of their parents, children or business colleagues. My office is currently handling five different matters for clients (that I cannot discuss in this forum) that involve issues associated with online hate speech.
To my friends, family and colleagues who may read this blog, I emphasize the importance of being professional in what you write online and in private messages, especially on social media. I was told some 30+ years ago that all of my correspondence should be written with the assumption that it may appear in the New York Times and could be read by my parents. That was good advice then, and it is good advice now. It is OK to express your opinions online as long as you do so in a manner that is logical and respectful. Failure to follow this simple advice can and will have adverse consequences, both now and forever.
Let me repeat that.
It is OK to express your opinions online; just do so in a manner that is logical and respectful. Failure to follow this simple advice can and will have adverse consequences, both now and forever.