Social media and recent incidents in football have come together to expose an undercurrent of racism and prejudice that many hoped had been left behind. Whilst Gary Lineker has tweeted sound advice, the most important point surely is that people still have racist views and the fight against racism and prejudice still has far to go.
Recent cases involving social media illustrate that people are posting comments on sites such as Facebook and Twitter as if they were having a conversation with their mates in a pub. However, such comments are not private and individuals will find it difficult to argue successfully that they have a right to freedom of expression or that any action on account of them is a breach of their privacy. Arguments that such comments are protected under the Human Rights Act have failed, see "Facebook friends - there is a girl at work".
Social media has created new forums in which racism, discriminatory comments, bullying and harassment can occur. Recent events demonstrate that employers need to be more aware than ever of the risk of reputational damage that can be caused to their business through employees' comments and conduct on social media sites, both in and outside of work. Had Mr Stacey been an employee, no doubt his employer would currently be the focus of media attention seeking to know what action would be taken against him. Where an employee's conduct outside the workplace has a detrimental impact on his role in the workplace it gives grounds for potential disciplinary action. As mentioned previously, it is important that employers have a comprehensive social media policy in place providing guidelines for employees and potential disciplinary action that may be taken in response to a breach of that policy.