The temptation to tweet what is on your mind can often be very strong. Perhaps someone has annoyed you at work, or, if you are a student, has failed you as a teacher. However, before you pick up your phone to type out those 140 characters, think twice – could what you write cause you to be investigated or disciplined by your professional body?
One ICAEW regulated individual recently fell into this trap. In October 2014, he tweeted a number of statements about tutors on accountancy courses and the nature of teaching provided by a college based in Birmingham. Although the tweets reflected his own views, the ICAEW took the stance that, in tweeting those comments, he had failed to comply with the requirements of section 150 of the ICAEW’s Code of Ethics.
Section 150 of the Code states that accountants should, “avoid any action that the professional accountant knows or should know may discredit their profession”. It goes onto specify that this includes actions that a reasonable and informed third party, weighing all the specific facts and circumstances available at that time, would be likely to conclude adversely affects the good reputation of the profession. Under the Code, professional accountants are expected to conduct themselves with courtesy and consideration towards all with whom they come into contact when performing their work.
This matter was disposed of on 30 March 2016 with the consent of the ICAEW member. Despite him choosing not to defend the allegations made against him, the Investigation Committee of the ICAEW made an order that he be severely reprimanded, fined £3,000 and pay costs of £2,580 in respect of the complaints made against him.
Cases like these should make every professional think twice about comments they make on social media. The severe reprimand handed down demonstrates the ICAEW’s strong stance against members who are seen to discredit the profession online.