Ethics and Permanence: Social Media and a Country in Mourning

By: Brandon Yee

As the news of Kobe Bryant’s death spread across various news outlets almost two weeks ago, a cascade of posts flooded social media in the hours and days following the helicopter crash that ultimately claimed nine lives in Southern California. While the majority of the posts across social media shared an overwhelming sentiment of grief and remembrance for Bryant, one Facebook post from the principal of Camas High School has drawn significant scrutiny. Liza Sejkora, the principal of the school posted after the news first broke of Bryant’s death, “Not gonna lie. Seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today”. Although the post was deleted only an hour after it was originally authored, the damage had been done. With Sejkora receiving backlash online and in the local community, she was placed on administrative leave. Prior to Sejkora being placed on leave, students threatened to walk-out of class in a show of solidarity against the comments and in remembrance of the victims.


(Photo: Damian Dovarganes/AP)

This should be a very real reminder that everything posted on social media has a degree of permanence. It should also serve as a case study for others to remember to always ask ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ prior to posting online. Specifically, in a time when millions of people across the world are mourning the loss of global icon and the innocent lives of children and families, it may be best to moderate your online reactions. This can also be a lesson to brands as well. When tragedy strikes, the world is not awaiting your witty reply or disingenuous post. More harm than good can be done to your credibility and trust.



This Article Has 3 Comments
  1. Cassidy Stevens says:

    Thanks Brandon. I had no idea that principal posted that and was shocked she didn’t think that through before doing so. This is very much like what we’ve been learning about in class in terms of asking yourself before posting on social media “What’s the worst that can happen?” With a death, social media can be a place of remembrance and mourning for a lot of people and others should respect that by staying out of the conversation if they don’t have anything respectful to say.

  2. Yujun Mei says:

    Thank you, Brandon. I think this example reminds audiences about how to present the suitable comments in some special time. When masses mourn for one celebrity, making the comment that presents the attitude of taking pleasure in other’s misfortune should be blamed. Undoubtedly, such comment would incur the tremendous disaster for the organization that the spokesperson on behalf of. Hence, it is important to pay attention to each comment during the period of mourning.

  3. Katie Zurbrick says:

    Good job Brandon. I hadn’t heard about this before — good find.

    Yikes, dude. This is a huge testament to the permanence of social media. Once it’s out there, you can’t retract it even if you delete the post. I think it’s also a good reminder that you should remember your role and your sphere of influence before making the decision to comment in any sort of capacity on an issue not directly related to your role. That’s not to say don’t do it, necessarily, but be aware of the scope of your reach and the impact your comments can have outside the virtual world, as well.

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