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Is Reuters’ Social Media Staffer’s Indictment Their Problem or His?

Matthew KeyesThis story might be categorized as a cautionary tale regarding making sure you are hiring social media experts whose past might not come back to cause some pain for your company.

According to CBS News, Reuters has an employee that may have been a little less than loyal to a previous employer.

The deputy social media editor of Reuters news service was charged by a district court in California with conspiracy for leaking information about one of his former employers to Anonymous, the hacking collective.

The Department of Justice accuses Matthew Keys, 26, of providing Anonymous with log-in information to a computer server belonging to the Tribune Company in December 2010. Keys worked for Sacramento-based television station KTXL FOX 40, owned by the Tribune Company, as a web producer until he was terminated in October 2010.

If you are Reuters your problem here is that your current employee is being accused of something they did a while ago while working for another company. What they are accused of can lead to real questions of character. Like it or not, this instantly becomes a matter of character and Reuter’s reputation might be at stake even though the events Mr. Keyes are accused of assisting in didn’t happen on their watch.

If you are Reuters don’t you think the natural question you have to ask is “Is this guy doing this to us?”. While it’s nice to claim to go by the rule of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ can Reuters afford to sit and wonder if they are not at risk as well with having someone like this on their staff?

The CBS report continues

“According to the indictment, Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server. After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website,” the DOJ press release reads.

The indictment also alleges that Keys conversed with a hacker who took credit for breaking into the Los Angeles Times website, also owned by the Tribune Company, in which Keys responded “nice.” When the hacker allegedly said the Tribune Company locked him out, Keys allegedly tried to regain access for him.

“Let me see if I can find some other users/pass[words] I created while there,” Keys allegedly said in a chat with the hacker.

Indictments are usually served when prosecutors feel like they have a decent shot at winning. Does that mean they are always right? Not by a long shot. Does Reuters stand by their employee or do they look to cut ties? Of course, doing that might incense this person who may already have a predisposition to handing over sensitive data to someone wishing to do a company harm. Quite the social media conundrum, huh?

So what is Reuters saying? They are being diplomatic which is what you would expect.

“Thomson Reuters is committed to obeying the rules and regulations in every jurisdiction in which it operates,” the spokesman said. “Any legal violations, or failures to comply with the company’s own strict set of principles and standards, can result in disciplinary action. We would also observe the indictment alleges the conduct occurred in December 2010; Mr. Keys joined Reuters in 2012, and while investigations continue we will have no further comment.”

Folks we live in a very different day and age than ever before, so doing ‘business as usual’ with regard to how you treat the hiring of employees could ultimately cost a business dearly. How do you establish trust in a world where a password to a server could lead to very serious issues for a business?

How do you see this story? Is it something companies should be concerned with? Have you had experiences like this or do you think this is just a ‘one off’? Let’s hear your take in the comments.