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Times of India takes away their journalists' privacy on Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, 27 August 2014 - 7:48pm IST Updated: Wednesday, 27 August 2014 - 7:49pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

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In what might be seen as an intrusion of the personal space, the Times of India and its sister concerns have formulated a policy wherein the social media accounts of its employees can be converted into accounts used by the company to push its material on social media.

The Times of India basically wants its journalists to hand over their Facebook and Twitter profiles - which means usernames and passwords - to the company so that the latter can use them for professional purposes.

The Times of India journalist now has two options - either to convert his/her personal social media account into a company account or to create a new account to be run by the company. Moreover, no journalist will be allowed to post news and related material on their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Newslaundry, a site focussing on media happenings, accessed a copy of the contract. A relevant excerpt from the contract:

The company shall be the owner of the access passwords, username and associated email address for the User Account, which shall be used by you on behalf of the Company to make posts. Company retains administration rights of the User Account, which shall be made accessible to the Company on demand. It is understood that sharing of such details of the User Account shall be an integral part of your contract with the Company and shall also be necessary for processing any settlement related to termination of such Contract.

Thus, according to the new contract, the company can post at will on the journalist's social media account even without his/her knowledge.

Even worse, the journalist will not regain exclusive use of his/her account even after he/she has left the company. Times of India will retain the right to continue operating the account in the journalist's name.

In short, as a Times of India journalist you will be promoting the company's stories and viewpoints on social media even after you quit as an employee! As the contract reads:

The company may upload news or other material on the company User Account through any means, including automated upload streams, at its sole discretion, notwithstanding any termination of your contract with the company.

Also, all journalists have to disclose to the company any social media accounts they hold, so there isn't much they can do to avoid the situation altogether.

Here's a relevant part from the contract:

The posts made by you on User Account shall contain news and other related material and may also contain any personal material and interaction, which we encourage. You shall inform the company about your personal user accounts and the same will be allowed by the company, subject to you refraining from posting any news and other related material on the same. The personal user account shall always belong to you and carried by you in the event of any severance of your contract with the company. At your request, while in employment, your personal user account may be converted into a company User Account. It is specifically agreed that on such conversion, all intellectual property rights in such converted User Account shall be vested in the company.

To be fair though, the company's journalists are still active on Twitter, so the new policy does not seem to have come into effect yet. 

Meanwhile, Satyan Gajwani, CEO Times Internet, tweeted that the story was inaccurate, but he did not expound upon what he meant by inaccurate, even after being questioned by Twitter users.

Bennett, Coleman and Co. Limited (BCCL) CEO Ravi Dhariwal did not respond to an email , from a website, Quartz India. BCCL is the publisher of Times of India, the Economic Times and many other related publications.

But this is not the first instance of a bizarre, even oppressive clause being part of the Times of India contract. For example, though the contract stipulates that an employee should not receive gifts from a person/s who may have dealings with the company, it even goes on to state that gifts given as prizes at exhibitions or as part of a free raffle may be accepted but 'in principle' it belongs to the company.

In conclusion, apart from the fact that the proposed social media policy constitutes a violation of the personal space of an individual, it also means the employees are reduced to virtually being PR agents of Times of India. While it is unclear whether the policy has been implemented as yet, the ethics of it must be questioned.

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