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Social media rules

What can journalists say on social media?

Where is the line between what you can say on social media and your role as an employee? The relevance of the question is growing as the power of social media is expanding.

There are examples of how, for instance teachers, have had problems with parents after having been outspoken on social media in controversial issues. The latest example is a young woman just hired as a reporter by US news agency Associated Press (AP) who got fired after having been employed less than three weeks for violating the news agency’s rules about expressing opinions.

“I am one victim to the asymmetrical enforcement of rules around objectivity and social media that has censored so many journalists — particularly Palestinian journalists and other journalists of colour — before me”, the reporter herself stated after having been fired.


Emily Wilder, 22, had during university years been active in pro-Palestinian groups and after she was hired at the AP, she had re-shared some stories. AP fired her referring to that she had violated the company’s rules for social media. After strong negative reactions, the agency announced that it is reviewing its rules. Many journalists have stood up and defended her.

Wilder started at the AP on May 3 in Phoenix, covering news in Arizona. Just over two weeks later, the AP said she was being fired for violating the news outlet’s social media policy.

The agency did not say what Wilder had written that violated the policy and Wilder herself says was not told that either. The understanding is that AP’s decision had to do with tweets supporting the Palestinian people and opposing actions of the Israeli government.

Wilder graduated from Stanford in 2020. While at the university, Wilder, who is Jewish, was a member of pro-Palestinian activist groups. After she was hired by the AP, she was targeted by conservatives accused of being an “anti-Israel agitator”.  She was fired two days later.


After joining the AP, she had retweeted a reporter’s footage of a pro-Palestinian protest, news footage of Israeli airstrikes, and a journalist’s tweet that stated reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does readers a disservice if it lacks historical context. She also retweeted a post detailing edits made to a New York Times headline on the conflict, which had removed mentions of Palestinians being evicted from their homes.

The AP said Wilder was fired for violating social media policies as an employee. Employees are not allowed to share political views or opinions on other public issues in order to protect the outlet’s reputation for objectivity.


Wilder tweeted she was being used as a scapegoat after having been targeted conservatives. “This is heartbreaking as a young journalist so hungry to learn from the fearless investigative reporting of AP journalists — and do that reporting myself. It’s terrifying as a young woman who was hung out to dry when I needed support from my institution most. And it’s enraging as a Jewish person — who grew up in a Jewish community, attended Orthodox schooling and devoted my college years to studying Palestine and Israel — that I could be defamed as antisemitic and thrown under the bus in the process.”

AP’s policy states employees are forbidden from expressing opinions on political matters and other issues that it feels could damage its reputation of objectivity and that could be harmful to its journalists around the world. In a statement, AP spokesperson Lauren Easton said, “We have this policy so the comments of one person cannot create dangerous conditions for our journalists covering the story. Every AP journalist is responsible for safeguarding our ability to report on this conflict, or any other, with fairness and credibility, and cannot take sides in public forums.”

Around 100 staffers at AP has signed a letter to the management asking for clarifications of why Wilder was fired saying they are concerned the decision would embolden others who would launch smear campaigns against reporters, and have already made many reluctant to engage in social media.


The news agency’s leaders said sharing more information was difficult: the company does not publicly discuss personnel issues to protect the privacy of staff.

“We can assure you that much of the coverage and commentary does not accurately portray a difficult decision we did not make lightly”. It was not specified what information was reported inaccurately.

The AP announced that it is reviewing its rules. “One of the issues brought forward in recent days is the belief that restrictions on social media prevent you from being your true self, and that this disproportionately harms journalists of colour, LGBTQ journalists and others who often feel attacked online. We need to dive into this issue”, the agency’s news leaders said in a memo.


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