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Your social media posts can get you in trouble

• May 13, 2019 at 3:00 PM

Be careful about what you post on social media. It can come back to haunt you.

Celebrities, professional athletes and public officials, as well as others in the spotlight, have found out how offensive remarks could get them in hot water — and even cost some their jobs.

One of the biggest celebrity blunders was made by actress Roseanne Barr. A year ago, Barr posted on Twitter a racist tweet aimed at former President Obama’s aide, Valerie Jarrett, an African American who was born in Iran. Barr wrote that Jarrett “is like the muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby.”

She apologized profusely, but the uproar about her comments prompted ABC-TV officials to cancel her popular television series. It was later rebooted under a different name and without her.

Former Major League All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling was fired from his job as a baseball analyst for ESPN after his insensitive tweet about transgender. It turns out that Schilling had a history of posting derogatory comments, but his last one ended his broadcasting career.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam got into a hot water when a photograph surfaced on social media of him wearing black face in a 1984 yearbook. Despite pressure for him to resign, he has remained in office.

Old social media posts also have put professional athletes under scrutiny. Major League Baseball players Josh Hader, an All-Star relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, and Trea Turner, an infielder for the Washington Nationals, had racists and homophobic tweets turn up from when they were in high school. Both apologized. There have been others who experience similar problems with their social media posts.

Another incident involving social media took place in Dearborn last week when a part-time city employee came under fire for posting offensive posts about Muslims. Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly told the Detroit News that, “I have no tolerance for this type of language.” The employee was fired.

I’m sure the founders of Facebook and Twitter didn’t intend for their social media platforms to be used as a sounding board for making derogatory comments.

On the surface, social media can offer positive experiences. Many of us use social media connections to keep in touch with family members and friends. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with people.

For myself, I love the fact that I can stay in touch with my brother and sister who live on the east side of the state; my cousins who live in Pennsylvania; and my high school classmates, teachers and my former journalism colleagues. I love to hear about the positive things going on in their lives. Social media is a great way of sharing information.

But social media has had its dark side. At one time, terrorist organizations such as ISIS (Islamic State of Iran) were using social media platforms to recruit new members and to promote their terrorism. We’ve also learned that the Russians used Facebook to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier this month, Facebook banned extremists Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Paul Nehlen and Milo Yiannopoulos for their hate and bigotry comments. Critics say that is a good start but that more needs to be done.

For all of us, though, we need to be careful about what we post online. I know that I have made comments that I should not have made. I’m sure that you have, as well. But remember, you may be hurting someone with ill-advised posts.

Also remember that a Facebook “friend” might not be a real friend, and take screenshots of your comments. You’ll have to live with that for a very long time. So please, be polite and be careful with your social media posts.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist

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