Comments meant as private jokes with friends had far-reaching consequences… Ben Polis, the founder and CEO of Australian company, Energy Watch has bowed to pressure to step down from his position after his Facebook page was found to contain a series of offensive comments.
These comments include disparaging remarks about the Aborigines, Asians and women – including the female Prime Minister of Australia who was the subject of one of Mr. Polis’ rants.
The results of these offensive Facebook comments could be far-reaching as TRUenergy, one of the largest power companies in Australia has ended its business dealings with Energy Watch as a result of the controversy surrounding the comments, putting a lot of jobs at risk.
TRUenergy said the comments were “extremely inappropriate.”
Their statement added:
“TRUenergy does not tolerate such comments within its own business and consistent with that position we expect a similar standard of behaviour from our service providers.”
“The remarks were deeply concerning to our company and are completely out of step with community expectations.”
Although Mr. Polis claims the comments were meant as private jokes and aimed at friends, the fact that his remarks are now publically visible has caused a lot of offense.
Ray Poole of digital marketing specialists Swoop Watch commented on the issue, saying that any expectation that Mr. Polis had that his comments would only be read by a private audience was extremely naïve. He said:
“Once we place a comment, photo or article to the internet – on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, in forums or chat rooms, it is near impossible to take it back. Once it has been posted, it can be reposted by, and shared, with others. It can be downloaded, screenshots captured – and all stored for future reference by competitors and the media.”
He continued, “In the case of Ben Polis, it seems that he was poorly advised about his use of social media, or he chose to ignore the advice he was given.”
This case clearly illustrates the need for having a thorough social media policy in place. The comments of Ben Polis may have been intended for just a few friends but because of the power of social media the scandal has reached everywhere from Melbourne football club (who have decided to terminate their sponsorship deal with Energy Watch) to the Prime Minister of Australia (who was the subject of one of Polis’ internet attacks) to the staff, management, customers and investors of Energy Watch itself. The message is clear – social media is an extremely powerful tool, it should be used carefully and responsibly.