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Performing Social Media Background Checks the Legal Way

February 5, 2021

A resume offers employers a one-page inkling of who a job candidate is. From this vitae, employers might learn about past employment history, educational background, and if they’re lucky—a few insights into extracurricular/volunteer involvement. Social media, however, provides a much more robust picture of an applicant. And, a proper social media background check often also helps reveal aspects of an applicant that could either harm or enhance your company’s brand reputation. 

But...there’s that word… ”proper” in front of “social media background check”—because there is a right (proper) way to vet candidates’ social media—and a wrong way.

Conducted appropriately and legally, social media background checks can absolutely help protect companies just like yours to safeguard your reputation and avoid any legal pitfalls. 

And, we’re going to tell you how!

Is a Social Media Background Check Legal (for Vetting a Job Applicant?)

As we said earlier: there is a right way and wrong way to conduct social media background checks. And, unfortunately, some human resources departments have learned the wrong way the hard way. One of the most dangerous things an employer or human resources manager can do is conduct an Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook background check on their own. 

Even if the social media check is done with the best of intentions and most innocent of motives—human bias does and has gotten businesses into trouble. In February of 2020, for example, a former employee filed a lawsuit against Amazon for a superior allegedly asking her to “scour” job candidates’ to determine ethnicity (to help recruit more diverse employees). 

A young female employee looks uncomfortable after being asked by her female boss to look at social media of a job candidate.

While this scenario is definitely a more overt example of bias, even the subtle hint of discrimination toward an applicant or employee is completely unlawful and poses a significant risk. Unfortunately, any human who looks over a candidate’s social media can’t make themselves “not aware” of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, or immigration status. 

How then, can social media scanning be legal? 

What many legal experts suggest as the answer: using a third-party vendor. But, not simply any third-party vendor. You want to choose an online reputation management company that is both U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliant. 

Why is EEOC and FCRA compliance important? Because it means that the third-party vendor you are partnering with essentially protects you from the bias that human beings possess. And, it presents information and reporting on harmful social media content that in no way violates discriminatory protection laws. 

How Artificial Intelligence Takes Bias Out of the Equation

At LifeBrand, our AI scanning technology is incapable of bias and only flags harmful posts containing racist, sexually inappropriate, and profane content (as examples). And, job applicants must first agree to have their social media platforms scanned. With our scanning capabilities, candidates are also offered a chance to revise and clean up social media posts, (those they often aren’t even aware are inappropriate). This protects you both from being judged unfairly and protects your HR director from more serious legal ramifications. 

We enable companies of all shapes and sizes to conduct social media background vetting safely, so they can help find highly-qualified, perfectly-suited employees—without having to worry about their brand reputation being tarnished or legally compromised. 

Schedule a Demo today!