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February 13, 2018

Missed It: Talent Relations Department At DC Sends Out Social Media Guidelines

imageA friend sent me the content of an e-mail purported to be a social media guidelines document shot out by DC's talent relations department last week. I'm not 100 percent great on how that particular company works internally, but I believe this is the office at DC they hired Ben Abernathy to run that took over things like pay sheets, art returns and how talent was taken care of at conventions -- it was one of their Burbank-era improvements.

Here's the text I was sent:
Dear DC Talent Community --

The comic book industry is a very special creative community dedicated to telling epic and legendary stories of action, heroism and intrigue with a rich and diverse portfolio of character. Both DC's employees, as well as its extended family of freelance talent, contribute to our success and are a direct reflection of our company, characters and comics. As such, DC expects that its employees and freelance talent community maintain a high level of professionalism as well as reasonable and respectful behavior when engaging in online activities. Comments that may be considered defamatory, libelous, discriminatory, harassing, hateful, or that incite violence are unacceptable and may result in civil or criminal action. In addition, comments that may be considered insulting, cruel, rude, crass and mean spirited are against company policy and guidelines. We ask, and expect, that you will help to create an online environment that is inclusive, supportive and safe.

Below you will find the most current version of the company's social media guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact DC Talent Relations department so that we can be of assistance.

DC Entertainment Social Media Guidelines for Talent
This policy has been developed to empower DC Talent to participate in social media activities, represent their creative endeavors well and share their passion for DC's characters, stories and brands. We recognize the vital importance of online social communities and this policy reflects our commitment to the best possible use of social media. Below are DC's recommended guidelines when partaking in social media.
* Stay positive when you post and we also recommend that you avoid negative comments in this very public forum. You may want to refrain from engaging with individuals who may be speaking negatively about you, other talent, DC, our fans and the comics industry as this is a no-win situation. If there has been a personal threat to you or those around you then in addition to alerting DC, please involve the proper law enforcement authorities.
* Use good judgment when posting, reposting and liking comments, photos and videos as these may have unintended consequences. Talent should take special care when using social media to ensure that comments and postings made by you are not associated with DC. Under all circumstances, please indicate that you do work for DC, but that your comments are your own and do not reflect those of the company.
* The internet is permanent regardless of "privacy settings" or other limits you may try to place on your posting. Think before you post, comment, retweet or like something.
* Do not reveal plot points, storylines or launch timing -- including photos or video of in-progress assets, artwork, story outlines, scripts, panels, announcement details, etc. without coordinating with DC Publicity. Members of the press may follow you on social media, and your posts can -- and probably will -- become news.
* Don't break news on social media. If you have any questions on what you can or can't post on any platform, DC Publicity or Talent Relations departments are available to assist. If you'd like to share DC news on your social pages, we recommend sharing news from, DCE-sanctioned social media pages and other news widely reported on credible news outlets.
* If you are contacted by members of the press or asked to participate in an interview about your work for DC, please coordinate this with the DC Publicity department so that news can be rolled out in an orchestrated fashion and elevated on DC digital and social channels as well.

And finally, we recognize that there can be a dark side to social media and to that end if you feel that you are being harassed or bullied through social media channels because of your work for DC or your association with us, please feel free to contact the DC Talent Relations department so that we can be of assistance.
There seem to be a few things going on here.

Whether due to causality or proximity, it's reasonable I think that this be seen as a first step to curtail abusive behavior by DC talent on the Internet. A corporation likes to have standards in place and recognized as such before they seek to hold people to those standards, and this strikes me as useful to them that way. I know when I have signed contracts they usually include the possibility of punishment for behavior that embarrasses or puts that employer in a bad light, so it's not surprising for me to hear that employers of contracted creative talent want something like that, too.

It's timely. Comics culture suffers in this moment from an advanced version of dog whistling where you just kind of openly complain about someone and then people that like you or have common-cause with you will step into that person's on-line space to extend that complaint. This may involved simply making their presence known or to directly argue against a specific this or that, or to ask a question, but the implication is clear: "I and others like me see you."

This is one of those activities that's clearly hostile in real-world terms but on-line gets the benefit of a kind of strident, ding-donged assertion that there's a definition of harassment out there carved into the back of the throne of the Kingdom Of Nerdania that means harassment occurs only by those a half-step removed of physically assaulting someone while shouting their motivations into an emotional lie detector as faultless as Wonder Woman's lasso that they are hateful and intend harassment. I suspect that for most of us, harassment occurs when someone is feeling harassed and a reasonability standard is applied as to the how and why. Directed group actions of any sort, even the invisible-lever kind, usually pass that reasonability standard. The recent comics-culture versions more than do so.

If nothing else, it seems that those involved in the culture now know the place at DC Comics interested in these matters, to add a direct e-mail to openly tweeted commentary about why this action or that action is allowed and/or tolerated: (I encourage DC to accept related complaints there even if that was not their attention; and if not, I hope they provide another devoted e-mail address.) In a time when mentioning specific names in public on-line in terms of their potential abuse adds to a narrative of persecution that justifies and advertises aberrant behavior and its practitioners, this is a good thing to know.

All of this strikes me as tricky territory, for sure. There is something profoundly distasteful about any employer dictating your conduct or having a vote in how you speak on your own time. This distaste multiplies in an era where many people are paid far short of a living wage and are asked to mind such rules as if they were. Avoiding limits to one's behavior of this type is something that many feel they should be able to enjoy for what they give up by not being an employee -- or to reverse that, if one is to be treated like an employee, please provide health insurance.

In that way and others there may be potential slippery-slopes worth talking through. It seems likely any policy will be lawyered so that there are complaints from both sides of the political spectrum based on that political spectrum rather than the action on hand -- complaints that even when absurd may gum up the works. In an era when so much of the bulk of what's published is borderline profitable, more creators than usual may have what they say scrutinized in a "why bother?" fashion rather than what's just or fair to that person and all creators more generally.

In the end, every policy is judged by its execution. This one will be, too. A smart, sensible, outcome-and-implication minded approach will be needed to make any such policy work. I hope for the most beneficial, least-damaging result. We are far from there.
posted 1:25 am PST | Permalink

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