DC Comics sent out an email late last night informing their freelance community about their updated social media guidelines.
It’s a wide ranging email that pretty much tells their creators to keep their mouths shut on social media.
“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.” That seems normal, nothing really out of the ordinary there.
However it continues, “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 guidelines. We ask, and expect, that you will help to create an online environment that is inclusive, supportive and safe.”
Well there we go. There’s a few key words to point out: may be. Basically this means it’s all up to interpretation. You never know what someone might consider “discriminatory, harassing, [or] hateful.” There’s no clear definitions to what this means. Anyone can claim someone made a comment that was cruel, rude, crass, or mean spirited to them. However, it’s quite possible the comments could be taken wildly out of context. It’s not like it doesn’t happen. It’s done all the time! Even Daisy Ridley had to clarify comments she made about returning to the Star Wars franchise!
I hope DC Comics will also allow their creators to share panels depicting villains who say mean-spirited things to Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, or any number of DC Comics superheroes. What’s the real line DC is trying to draw here? It’s extremely broad and many of these restrictions are open to interpretation.
I can also easily see sharing any kind of political content quickly becoming taboo. People on both sides of the political aisle find the other side’s views insulting and even hateful. How will DC Comics handle political posts. It’s not like they aren’t afraid to allow political commentary into their comics. The latest issue of Justice League made conservative commentator Sean Hannity an official enemy of the Justice League. If they are going to create these guidelines for creators on their own social media, would it not be reflected in the comics as well? I guarantee people found it hateful to make Hannity an enemy of the Justice League.
This opening paragraph already seems extremely draconian and overly restrictive.
However, there might be a reason for the strict guidelines. A number of Marvel Comics freelancers have gotten in hot water over the past year. America writer Gabby Rivera was openly racist to white people. Current Captain America scribe Mark Waid insinuated all Republicans were pedophiles. Even Star Wars scribe Kieron Gillen accused Cable artist Jon Malin of being part of the Alt Right. However, it’s not just Marvel who has had issues with freelancers. IDW was accused of lying by their own freelancer Aubrey Sitterson after his G.I. JOE book was cancelled due to poor sales.
DC Comics was also most likely monitoring the recent social media scuffles involving Ethan Van Sciver. Van Sciver has had to repeatedly defend himself against claims that he is a Nazi. He isn’t. As he’s stated he’s a Republican.
Will DC defend their freelancers when accusations like this are made against them? Will they aim to “create an online environment that is inclusive, supportive and safe.” Or will they allow their freelancers to be constantly attacked with false claims?
After giving their introduction to the guidelines, they get list out a number of bullet points for freelancers to follow. Here is DC Comics’ official Social Media Guidelines for Talent:
- 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 DCComics.com, 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.
What do you think about these new guidelines? Do you believe like I do that they are overly draconian and restrictive or are they necessary for DC Comics to maintain its public image and give them legal recourse against creators who damage their image?