Forbid Twitter at Work?

Selective Internet Blocking as Employment Policy and Warning

Twitter can be a distraction in the workplace.  Oprah, who boasts almost a million followers on Twitter, caused mob scenes at KFC stores by tweeting about a free chicken coupon download-able from her web site.  News spread as other Twitter authors repeated the message.

To be sure:  much of the Twitter traffic and downloading attending to this stampede happened in the workplace, on office computers.  What a waste of employee time.  What a tax on business computers.  What a threat to security.

As Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and other social media swarm the workplace, they’re almost impossible to block entirely.  The channels of communication (web pages, widgets, instant message and more) are too numerous.

Update:  A large percentage (24%!) of all Twitter Tweets are generated by robots (“bots”), not individual people, which suggests Twitter contains a lot of junk and spam.

So should management surrender control of company networks? No.

Selective blocking is a strategy.  Selective blocking can remind employees that they are expected to be responsible adults.  For example, here is a screen that Cyberpatrol could produce when employees visit web sites like Twitter or Facebook:screenshot

(Note: I created the custom message to employees by editing the html in one of the blocking screens available in Cyberpatrol. )

A screen like this cautions employees that social networking at work is a bad idea.  Will it stamp out wasteful e-chat in all of its forms?  No.  But it does respectfully display management’s concern and authority.  It reinforces an employee acceptable use policy.  And it hints that management may be able to monitor what an employee is doing on company computers.

–Ben Wright

At the SANS Institute Mr. Wright teaches IT administrators how to avoid going to jail.

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One Response to “Forbid Twitter at Work?”

  1. Buck Turgidson Says:

    For an unskilled workforce, blockers are fine.

    If you employ professionals who actually use the web as an integral part of their work, the blockers are an infantilizing annoyance at best.

    Sure, hold employees accountable. Maybe even give managers a weekly listing of the sites visited by their employees. But blockers are a blunt tool that frustrates and devalues employees.


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