The social media policy for working with asylum seekers is so tough, you could be fired for your Twitter followers

A barge carrying rescued suspected asylum seekers. Photo: Getty Images

If you work for Transfield Services, the company the Australian government outsourced offshore immigration detention centre management to, best stay off Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media if you want to keep your job.

The Guardian reveals the tough new rules on Transfield Services new social media policy.

The company updated the policy in February. It applies to staff and contractors working at the Manus Island and Nauru facilities and explicitly forbids any contact with current or former “transferees”, as they are known, especially via social media.

The obligation is on employees to check whether anyone who friends them on Facebook or Twitter is not an ex-transferee, and the policy also places the onus on the employee to stop clients making contact with anyone else in a worker’s social circle.

The policy has the usual clauses companies make about not disclosing confidential information or saying anything in a public forum or on social media that would embarrass or damage the reputation of Transfield Services or the government’s department of immigration. Employees sign confidentiality agreements and the social media policy essentially prevents them for interacting in any way, shape or form about the policy area they work in, calling it “incompatible material”.

As the company points out in its policy, many of these restrictions are imposed on them as part of the Australian government’s $1.2 billion contract, but it’s so strict, it means even saying something complimentary could land you in trouble and even retweeting something by minister Peter Dutton or the department of immigration could put an employee in breach.

“A breach of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including instant dismissal,” the policy states.

Workers are banned from sharing any information – the “incompatible material” – with transferees and ex-transferees, as well giving out their email or contact address, and the details “of any person associated with the worker”.

The only exceptions on contact are with the express permission of the company.

And here’s what the specific section warning employees to be careful about who follows them on social media says:

A worker must not give a transferee or an ex-transferee access to the worker’s social media (such as a Facebook site) or any person associated with the worker.

A worker must use his/her best endeavours to check that any person who seeks access to the worker’s social media is not a transferee or an ex-transferee.

The policy also warns workers to steer clear of “incompatible organisations” – those who oppose government policy, which includes church groups, political parties and refugee support groups. The Guardian suggests the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Australian Human Rights Commission would all be on the list of organisations that would warrant a “conflict of interest with the conduct of the operations on behalf of the department,” according to the company policy.

Attending demonstrations or rallies is also banned. Any action that supports the closing down of immigration detention centres is prohibited.

Of course one thing workers certainly shouldn’t share is the government’s Moss Review, released on the day Malcolm Fraser died, which looked into claims of abuse at the detention centre on Nauru.

The Moss findings were handed to the immigration department in early February. Here’s the review,, which makes 19 recommendations, and found there was an under-reporting of sexual and physical assault, generally for family or cultural reasons, and that detainees were concerned that lodging complaints would have a negative effect on their asylum claims.

But most critically, the report explored the removal of nine Save the Children employees working on the island who were accused of coaching detainees. At the time, then-minister Scott Morrison described them as “political activists” on “the taxpayer’s dollar”.

The nine were subsequently dismissed, but the Moss review found no evidence to back any misconduct claims.

One immigration department official said that whether the decision was right or wrong it had the desired effect of creating a “shock”, which effectively ended long-running protests at the camps.

Recommendation 7 of the Moss review is that contract providers review their social media policies and ensure that staff have a clear understanding of their obligations.

An extract from Transfield Services social media policy.

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