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SBI’s social media policy tells employees not to criticize management

SBIThe country’s largest lender, State Bank of India, has released a code of conduct for its employees for using the internet and social media. According to a report by The Hindu, the circular was issued by the bank on June 17 and the same is now being circulated digitally via its online human resources portal.

All employees of SBI, contractual and permanent, have to submit an online acknowledgement of the circular which will be stored on the portal. And it is made mandatory for all new recruits joining the organization to provide the acknowledgement on the portal. In the event of any employee being found violating the code, disciplinary proceedings will be initiated and penalties imposed.

What the code of conduct says

You can read the full code of conduct here. But here are some of the guidelines that we found were a bit off.

  1. “No employee of the Bank shall establish/form/promote any group/community on any internet site  which uses the name or logo of State Bank of India/SBI or shall become member of any such group or community unless such group is expressly created or permitted by the Bank.”
  2. “If any employee of the Bank is creating any social network profile he/she should create such profile in his/her real name and shall not create any profile by using any ID otherwise than his real name.”
  3. “No employee should criticize the management of the Bank or the business processes or strategies of the Bank or policies of the Bank on any internet site or social media.”
  4. “No employee shall engage in collusive behaviour on any internet site or social media, with Bank’s competitors or employees.”

While we acknowledge that an organization has the right to form/establish a policy to manage its social presence better, some of the points in SBI’s code of conduct is controversial and may infringe on freedom of expression.

Certainly telling employees that they cannot create any profile using any other ID otherwise than his real name in point 2, amounts that they want to censor what their employees are saying in their personal capacity. As Lighthouse Insights points out, Facebook itself has scrapped its policy of using real names for creating a social profile.

Point 1 above also says that employees cannot join communities which uses the logo of SBI unless permitted by the bank. This also brings a question whether employees will be allowed to join Facebook groups or communities  of the bank’s worker’s unions?

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Point 3 also sets a dangerous precedent and infringe on employees right to vent their frustration about work  in their personal capacity from their home computers and it remains to be seen what kind of penalties it would attract.  We need to see if it goes as extreme as highlighted in the case of four employees being fired from Hispanics United of Buffalo in 2010.

Earlier in April, SBI had created a twitter handle for the bank called @TheOfficialSBI and earlier in January launched its own YouTube Channel which is aimed at educating its customers.

Other bizarre social media codes of conduct

The Times Group has a social media policy where journalists and employees were asked to hand over their social media credentials to BCCL where both the company and employees could post content. Following outrage from journalists, the contracts were modified and there were multiple versions of the same.

The Hindu had a social media policy where employees were told to refrain from sharing stories of other publications.

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