Social Media Of Civil Service Candidates To Be Screened

The Department for Transport is to screen the social media use of job applicants, in a new move that will apply to staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency; the Maritime and Coastguard Agency; and the Vehicle Certification Agency.


Under the new security checking regime, the social media checks will screen posts made by candidates to identify areas of risk that might be identified, Civil Service World reports.

While there is a series of requirements for existing civil servants covering matters of propriety in their social media use while working in the service, this takes matters a step further and is designed to help identify any problems with possible future employees before they have a chance to occur.


The DfT’s contract documents state that the checks will “compliment [sic] existing pre-employment checking” and the standard background check procedure used for all government recruits will also be followed.  


This is detailed on the department’s careers website, which notes this includes the BPSS check, counter-terrorism check, security check, and ‘developed vetting’.

Many firms will consider whether they need to go as far as undertaking a social media check and what grounds this is on. That, however, may be considered by some to be rather different from a DBS check.


A DBS check will be more important because it can specifically demonstrate whether someone has a disqualification such as a specific criminal offence. That is why it is important to use a service like ours to ensure that this particular area is covered and that your organisation is protected and, where this applies, legally compliant.

It is at the discretion of the employer whether a social media check is needed, although there are many instances where this could be a possible issue.


High profile cases involving sports stars or politicians are more likely to find their way into the public realm at inopportune times, like elections – the case of East Lothian council candidate Ruaridh Bennett being a case in point after historic tweets came to light, or cricketer Ollie Robinson, whose racist and sexist tweets from a dozen years earlier were publicised on the day of his England debut.


In such cases, individuals are likely to be in the public eye more, have direct dealings with the media regularly, and are seen as being representatives of the people, especially in the case of the politicians that voters choose to elect. It may be considered less likely that a company will suffer reputational damage just because a little-known member of staff once posted something offensive.


Indeed, there may be those who take a libertarian view, perhaps echoing the stated intentions of new Twitter owner Elon Musk that social media should be a platform for unfettered free speech.

However, such checks may yet be useful if extreme content has been posted by individuals, not least when it comes to the issue of terrorism, as the nature of attacks means that those posting with intent do so ahead of incidents that leave them dead or in custody. How much weight the DfT gives expressed opinions on other matters remains to be seen. 

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