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Hootsuite Puts ICE Contract On Ice After Employee Tweets About Human Rights

‘The decision has created a divided company, and this is not the kind of company I came to lead. I--and the rest of the management team--share the concerns our people have expressed. As a result, we have decided to not proceed with the deal with ICE,’ says Tom Keiser, Hootsuite CEO, via Twitter.

Hootsuite has cut ties with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency a day after an employee at the social media management firm called attention to a deal between the two organizations in a social media post.

The contract was expected to be fulfilled via one of the company’s channel partners, FCN.

Sam Anderson, a training specialist at Vancouver-based Hootsuite, on Wednesday tweeted via her non-work Twitter account that she has been debating whether to disclose the contract.

[Related: Social Media Strategy A Must For Business Growth: CompTIA]

“Been debating talking about this publicly because I don’t want to get fired, but it seems like the cat’s already out of the bag so whatever: yesterday Hootsuite signed a three-year deal with ICE. Over 100 employees have been extremely vocal in their opposition to this deal,” she tweeted.

Anderson, who describes herself in her non-work Twitter account as an “intersectional feminist” and “furious,” was responding to recent reports of alleged human rights violations by the ICE, including allegations that ICE was forcing female detainees to undergo hysterectomies.

Hootsuite on Thursday responded with its own tweet that it has decided to not do business with the ICE because of the attention drawn to the contract.

“We typically do not make public facing statements about specific customers or contracts. However, due to the attention around this particular case we can confirm that Hootsuite has decided not to do business with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement,” Hootsuite tweeted.

Hootsuite CEO Tom Keiser less than two hours later followed up that message with his own statement in which he wrote that while he normally would not make a public statement about a client, he felt it important to talk about it.

In his statement, Keiser wrote that the process of deciding whether or not to take the ICE contract sparked a lot of internal debate, but that it went ahead because of a belief in the power of communications and social engagement to break down barriers.

“Over the last 24 hours there has been a broad emotional and passionate reaction from our people and this has spurred additional dialog. We have heard the lived experiences from our people and the hurt they are feeling. The decision has created a divided company, and this is not the kind of company I came to lead. I--and the rest of the management team--share the concerns our people have expressed. As a result, we have decided to not proceed with the deal with ICE,” he wrote.

The contract at the center of the attention brought to Hootsuite appears to be a $508,832 contract to provide Hootsuite licenses to ICE starting September 18. A copy of the contract summary, which can be read online, shows that the contract was being fulfilled via FCN, a Rockville, Md.-based solution provider.

FCN, a woman-owned small business, is ranked as No. 221 on CRN’s 2020 Solution Provider 500 list.

As of press time, neither Hootsuite, FCN, or Anderson had responded to CRN’s request for further information. An ICE spokesperson replied to CRN’s request that the agency is planning to make a statement available by close of business day Thursday.

The controversy around Hootsuite’s ICE contract came after the company’s Tuesday unveiling of its Social Transformation Report which had three primary conclusions: social media helps companies build closer relationships with stakeholders, increases brand value and operational efficiency, and accelerates the digital transformation of companies.

Keiser, in a prepared statement for the unveiling of the report, said Hootsuite‘s findings show that the days of social media being used solely as a megaphone by marketing teams should be over.

“To realize its full value, social needs to be connected into the lifeblood and workflow of the entire organization, not just the social media marketing department—and be completely focused on the customer and the customer’s experience. Every single employee should be involved in forming and executing on the company’s social media strategy,” he said.

Dylan Martin contributed to this story.

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