Does Your Facebook Account Pass the Billboard Test?


eHow Tech Blog


billboard with tilde

Imagine the busiest road you know. Now that you’ve got that picture in your head, imagine a massive, brightly lit billboard along that road blaring your social media posts at every passing car. Picture your neighbors, your parents, your boss and even total strangers driving by that billboard, getting an eyeful of every image and word.

If you’re horrified at the prospect, you’ve failed the Billboard test — right along with clueless Police Detective Rob Douglas.

Douglas Facebook post 300

Douglas, a five-year veteran of the Marlin, Texas, police force, posted how much he “loved” visiting the grocery store on the first of the month, when food stamps are issued and many welfare recipients go shopping. He referred to these citizens as “useless lazy turd bags,” and promised (hopefully, in jest) that if he ever snapped, he would “go on a killing spree” in a supermarket on the first of the month.

It’s no surprise that the community found Douglas’ creepy comments upsetting. He was fired a few days later and may soon have an opportunity to experience a welfare program firsthand if he doesn’t find another profession. (What police department is going to hire him now — even if he was just joking?) Douglas has wised up enough to shut down his Facebook account, but that one indiscretion will haunt him forever. When it comes to the Internet, there are few second chances.

Douglas is not the only person posting life-changing, career-imploding social media content. Teachers, politicians and other folks who ought to know better have all been snared when careless comments were seen by the wrong people.

Here’s a line-up of some other very public social media gaffes:

Comedian Gilbert Gottfriedgottfried and duck ReutersLucas Jackson 350

In the days following the Japan tsunami, Gottfried, longtime voice of the Aflac duck, tweeted insensitive jokes making light of the tragedy.

“I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, They’ll be another one floating by any minute now.”

Aflac was not amused, especially since 75 percent of its customers were in Japan. Gottfried lost his job.

Massachusetts math and science supervisor Dr. June Talvitie-Siple

June Talvitie 350

Dr. Talvitie-Siple was forced to resign from her $90,000 + administrative position after calling pupils “germ bags” and characterizing their parents as “arrogant” and “snobby” on her Facebook wall. Like many Facebook users, she mistakenly thought her comments could only be seen by a close group of friends and family.

You can watch the whole cringeworthy story in this CBS Early Show interview.

For some reason, teachers seem especially susceptible to thoughtless social media posts. Check out more in the article The 11 Most Disgraced Teachers on Facebook to get schooled on some additional posting no-no’s.

Mayor in undies 300

Oregon mayor Carmen Kontur-Gronquist

You’d think a town official would know better, but Mayor Kontur-Gronquist of Arlington, Oregon, was stripped of her title when MySpace photos of her posing on a fire truck in her bra and panties went public.

A well-meaning relative thought the sexy poses would improve the single mother’s love life. Residents weren’t loving it, though, and opponents launched a successful recall.

Soldier under fire after Facebook post

IDF Poster Gizmodo

An unnamed Israeli soldier spilled the beans on his unit’s tactical plans in a Facebook post, forcing commanders to call off a planned raid on a Palestinian Village. This, despite the army’s program warning soldiers to be careful on social media. The poster on the left was reportedly plastered in multiple locations. Its translated headline reads, “You think that everyone is your friend?”

The indiscretion likely cost him his military career. He was court martialed, sentenced to 10 days in jail and kicked out of his battalion.

Think before you post

The moral of our story: Think before you post to Facebook or any other social media site. Ask yourself if a friend, enemy or future employer saw what you planned to post on a billboard would it damage your reputation? If the thought gives you the willies, you probably shouldn’t post it. And never assume anything you post will only be seen by a few invited friends.

The Golden Rule applies here, too, as it does in other areas of your social life. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be a good friend, neighbor, coworker and partner and always ask permission before posting things about other people in social media. An indiscriminate post could lead to their downfall. Just ask that lady on the fire truck. 😉

`Til next time,

Katherine & Liz

Join the privacy revolution by switching to the private search engine, and using, both projects Katherine has helped develop. You can catch Katherine on radio daily at And please read our book, Spychips, to learn more about privacy-invading technology and how to defeat it.

Photo credits: Silvae/Bigstock/Liz McIntyre,, Lucas Jackson/Reuters, CBS News,, Gizmodo


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