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Social media engagement and maintaining a position of trust as an interpreter

By Loretta Walshe

As a major service provider in the Deaf sector, Deaf Children Australia (DCA) was invited to contribute to this continuing discussion on interpreters and their social media activities. We greatly appreciate the vital role that interpreters play in our workplace and our service provision.

Social media now plays a central role in the community, and particularly the Deaf community. There is an increasingly blurred line between our professional and personal lives which can be difficult for all of us to navigate. On the whole, we have greatly appreciated interpreters’ capacity to maintain confidentiality and impartiality.

DCA expects the same professional behaviour from the interpreters we contract as we do from our staff. We engage interpreters via language service providers, most of whom have social media policies, or references to the same in their employment agreements or staff manuals. Interpreters need to be aware of their obligations under their employment agreements and the expectations of the organisations who contract them.

As interpreters are privy to many confidential discussions and are in a position of trust, we have high expectations. We don’t want to have any doubts about their ability to maintain privacy and impartiality. We understand interpreters have connections across many parts of the Deaf community and it can be a fine balance between their professional responsibilities and personal lives.

Yet whether they do or do not directly provide interpreting services to DCA, we expect all NAATI accredited interpreters to refrain from getting involved in any sector politics, publishing damaging comments, or sharing confidential information.

If an interpreter engages in any debate in the Deaf sector and publishes his or her opinions, then turns around and wants to work with an organisation involved, it could be very difficult. It’s hard to maintain that professional reputation of neutrality in these circumstances.

So our advice is to use your best judgement when engaging online. Remember that what you  publish on your personal pages can reach far and wide, and live on for a long time - so you may want to put your emotions aside and reconsider. Even reposting or liking someone else’s inflammatory comments can damage your professional reputation as an interpreter. 

The best insurance is 'if in doubt...don't post'. If you make an error on a social media site, be upfront and honest about the mistake and correct it immediately. Remember to highlight that an amendment has been made.

If you are accused of posting something improperly, such as copyrighted material or a defamatory comment, deal with it quickly outside of the social media site (for example by telephone or in person), and then apologise and correct it appropriately on the site. We appreciate your consideration of the complicated challenges which arise through our engagement in the social media terrain.

Loretta Walshe is currently the Communications Manager for Deaf Children Australia.  She has previously worked in communications, marketing and fundraising with other not-for-profit and health sector organisations including Guide Dogs Victoria, CatholicCare, Australian Red Cross, Cancer Council Victoria and Austin Health. This article was originally published in the ASLIA e-update and is reproduced with permission.