Self-censorship on Internal Social Media: A Case Study of Coworker Communication Behavior in a Danish Bank

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  • Vibeke Thøis Madsen
  • Joost W.M. Verhoeven, Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Internal social media (ISM) or social intranets provide organizations with a communication arena in which coworkers can actively contribute to organizational communication. Coworkers are, however, far from impulsive and spontaneous when they communicate on ISM. A case study in a Danish bank found that coworkers considered carefully the consequences of their posts or comments before publishing them. These coworkers perceived four different risks associated with ISM communication, and they used seven self-censorship strategies to ensure that both the content and the formulation of their communication were relevant and appropriate. Coworkers not only censor themselves by withdrawing, as previous studies have suggested, but they also postpone publishing content, phrase or frame content differently, imagine responses from organizational members, ask others for a second opinion, choose another channel, or write only positive comments. Through these seven self-censorship strategies, coworkers retain the quality of communication on ISM and prevent conflict or relational damage. Future research should explore the self-regulation strategies underlying self-censorship in order to improve understanding of the circumstances that increase the likelihood of responsible use of ISM. The potential dark side of self-censorship also requires exploration: when can self-censorship threaten coworkers’ freedom of expression, and develop into organizational silence?
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Strategic Communication
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)387-409
Number of pages23
StatePublished - Oct 2016

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