5 useful tips to help you avoid social media gaffes

Social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, to name but a few, are everywhere in society, and have become a part of our public and private lives. As a professional, you should exercise caution when using social media.

This caution applies to all your social media posts and comments. As three recent disciplinary decisions1  have reminded us, statements made, even on a private page, can not only be derogatory to the honour and dignity of the profession, but also violate professional secrecy.

Before you share information, express opinions or post pictures online, keep the following useful tips in mind; they will help you navigate the sometimes murky waters of social media and fulfill your ethical obligations:

  1. Be careful: The line between your private and professional lives is becoming increasingly blurred
    Given the ubiquity of social media in our daily lives, it is no surprise that professional orders are paying more attention to how their members are using them. What’s more, disciplinary councils are starting to punish certain actions, including those in the private sphere. So, even if you are posting comments in your free time, remember that you are always a CPA.

  2. Act responsibly
    Time and time again, the courts have reiterated that membership in a professional order is a privilege, not a right. This privilege comes with professional obligations that exceed those of the general population. In fact, as a CPA, you are required to act responsibly to avoid damaging the profession’s reputation. Remember that you must also at all times be prudent, professional and show restraint in using social media.

  3. Know the limits of your skills
    As a CPA, you have instant credibility, especially in matters relating to taxation, finance and financial reporting, for example. You should therefore use caution when making comments and clearly separate your personal opinions from facts. If you share information on social media sites, be sure to always mention that it is general in nature, and that it is best to consult a professional to see if the advice applies to a specific situation.

  4. Remain respectful
    Profane, offensive or threatening language is unbecoming of anyone, especially a professional. Take a deep breath before responding to someone’s angry words or sharing your emotions on social media. By stepping back for a few minutes, you could avoid a call from the syndic.

  5. Respect the confidentiality of client affairs
    Be vigilant to protect the confidentiality of the information obtained from clients or your employer. If you present a case, make sure no one can be identified, and speak in general terms. Do not provide any figures or information that could give away your client’s identity.

To conclude, remember that freedom of expression has its limits. It is subject to your ethical obligations, be it in the practice of your profession or, in some cases, in your private life. Always be careful when making statements or expressing opinions, regardless of the forum you use.

1 Psychoéducateurs (Ordre professionnel des) c. Gaudefroy, 2016 CanLII 15502 (QC CDPPQ)
  Médecins (Ordre professionnel des) c. Clavel, 2018 CanLII 34054 (QC CDCM)
  Comptables professionnels agréés (Ordre des) c. Pilon, 2021 QCCDCPA 22 (CanLII)