In the job market and corporate world, it doesn’t matter who you are: your social media and digital footprint are now a crucial part of your public persona. One new Twitter employee learned this the hard way last week. Former AngelHack founder Gregory Gopman had been hired to lead Twitter’s new virtual reality team, but within 48 hours, he was fired. Why? A public Facebook post from two years ago where he denigrated the “lower part of society” in San Francisco, lambasting the city’s entire homeless population in an odd, aggressive tirade.
TechCrunch, who broke the story of Gopman’s old post, criticized Twitter for hiring him: “For a company with such an abuse problem from trolls, it might initially seem like a double win that they’ve hired Gopman, a ‘VR expert’ who’s also voiced his passion for dealing with ‘degenerates.’ That is, until you realize that the ‘degenerates’ he’s referred to as a “burden and liability” were SF’s homeless population.” It seems as if Twitter did not know about Gopman’s post before hiring him and, sensing a firestorm of bad publicity, fired him almost immediately after the release of the article. This situation begs the question: is the blame on Twitter for not doing proper vetting in the hiring process? Or, should Gopman have kept better track of what he posted and what he made public? In any case, it is a company’s prerogative to terminate an employee once news like this comes out. Given Twitter’s issues with harassment, trolling, and virulent language on their site, it’s no wonder they wanted to avoid a potential publicity nightmare. But, by not doing their due diligence, this still caused quite a firestorm.
Gopman had already received flak for the 2013 post and had apologized for it, which really sheds some light on Twitter’s hiring process; if this was already public information, how did it not come up? Gopman deleted the post years ago, but it didn’t take much for TechCrunch to dig it up. In a move of personal PR recovery, Gopman has issued multiple statements blaming TechCrunch for writing a “smash piece” on him. The lesson to be learned here is one of due diligence: on potential employees being mindful of what they post online, and of recruiters and companies being careful in screening their candidates and their history on social media, especially those in the PR-sensitive social media industry. It is also important to remember that anyone is susceptible to the same level of social media scrutiny and that regardless of seniority you need to be careful what you post online.