Why Times Of India’s Dictate To Its Employees Asking Them To Surrender Twitter & Facebook Passwords Is Bizzare

Times of India has asked its journalists to hand over their Facebook and Twitter accounts since the company wants to own it even if they have resigned.

Times of India social media dictate

UPDATE: TOI has tweaked its social media policy following the social media outrage caused by the earlier one. While there are some changes in the policy, it still retains most of the controversial clauses, including the one that encourages employees to convert their personal social media accounts to official ones and hand over passwords to the company. Read more here.

Indian publications are resorting to eccentric methods on social media usage by their staff. After Hindu, now it is the Times of India which has come up with a peculiar request to the hundreds of journalists working for it and it’s sister publications.

“Hand over your Twitter and Facebook passwords and let us post for you. Even after you leave the company,” reports Quartz India.

Quartz has got hold of a copy of the contract circulated to the employees last week by Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd—India’s largest media conglomerate and publisher of the Times of India, Economic Times, among many other properties. The message told employees not to post any news links on their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Excerpts from the contract shared by Quartz India:

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.

The company is also telling journalists that they must start a company-authorized account on various social media platforms. They also have the option of converting existing personal social media accounts to company accounts. Journalists have been asked to disclose all personal social media accounts and going further the company will own the log-in credentials of such accounts to use its own discretion.

Excerpts from the contract shared by Quartz India:

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.

Even if you quit, the company will still reserve the rights to continue operating that account in your name.

Excerpts from the contract shared by Quartz India:

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.

So the only way left for the staff working at the organization to use social media is to either agree to convert the personal account into a company account, or start a new company account.

Indian publications wary of digital?

Times of India is not the only one doing this, The Hindu recently issued a social media norm that advised employees to refrain from sharing stories of other publications on social media platforms including Twitter. The News Week Minute that had revealed the story informed,

“A mail sent to some of The Hindu employees by Managing Editor P Jacob and Senior Managing Editor V Jayanth says that there is a need to use social media responsibly.” The mail further said, “With the growing presence and salience of the social media and increasing market competition, it has become imperative to underline the importance of responsible use of social media platforms including Twitter by all journalists of The Hindu.”

The mail had further warned or let’s just say cautioned employees that by sharing stories they should not end up doing a ‘favour to the competition’. “We need particularly to ensure that in our enthusiasm and urge to participate in an on-line discussion or debate, we do not end up doing a favour to the competition. When a person identifies himself/herself or is known as a journalist of The Hindu, even when it is made clear that the views or actions are one’s own, balance, restraint and sobriety will be expected to be observed in online conduct and expression.”

Before ending the mail it also made a point to share that Hindu is not the only publication that is asking for such culture but the same is also being followed by other media organizations who do not encourage their journalists to tweet links from competitors.

Looks like The Hindu was not completely wrong, Times Of India is giving it company.

“It’s ridiculous, and obviously some warped ‘wisdom’. The Hindu’s Malini Parthasarathy has been regularly tweeting links to stories from other media till a short while ago, before this ‘wisdom’ dawned,” informed Anant Rangaswami, Editor at CNBC-TV18 during The Hindu social media norm.

However, B. G. Mahesh, Founder and MD at Oneindia shares that official publications’ accounts not sharing articles from competing publications on social media is understandable but restricting journalists not to do so is restrictive. We at Oneindia have no such policy and shouldn’t have. All I can say is we have to strive to publish better articles by which each of our journalists would be inclined towards sharing Oneindia articles instead of the one from competing media house.”

The BCCL dictate goes one step further in not only asking to surrender social media credentials with the office but hold it even after the employee has left.

Print is definitely being challenged in this digital era. Today news breaks and spreads faster on social media networks than in news rooms. Publications need to face this bitter truth with new strategies like leveraging the influential folks on social media.

Twitter is known for its journalist clout and BCCL wants to use it. For example, Sagarika Ghose, who is quite well-known in media circles is also popular on Twitter with 389K followers. She is also the consulting editor at TOI; BCCL wants to leverage her social clout to get more reach for its news and stories going viral.

Would her followers like it or would she like to have two Twitter accounts: one for official TOI stories and another personal one where sharing stories of competing publications might be questioned. What if tomorrow she moves to another publication? Wouldn’t there be a conflict of interest when TOI is still running her official Twitter account when she is already working at some other publication.

Madhu Trehan, Content Editor & Talk Show Host, Newslaundry who spoke to LI during the The Hindu dictate shared, “Any news organisation that warns journalists about tweeting other news groups’ stories only exposes that they really do not understand the digital space and a massive insecurity. We all know what happened to dinosaurs .”

While there has been no clarification on the dictate from TOI or BCCL, Satyan Gajwani, CEO of Times Internet has tweeted a while ago that the story carried by Quartz is not true. Though there isn’t a statement carried out by the company.

Looks like the Indian publications are desperate to stay ahead of the times in this digital age.