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Marriott, the international mega hotel chain, fired a low-level social media employee after he accidentally liked a tweet that offended the Chinese government.
Roy Jones, a 49-year-old based in Omaha, Nebraska, worked in Marriott’s customer engagement center. On January 14, Jones was fired for liking a tweet from the Marriott Rewards official twitter account.
The tweet? A post from a Tibetan separatist group that praised Marriott for calling Tibet a country, instead of a part of China, in an online survey the company had sent out.
#BoycottMarriott was trending on Twitter, which Jones noticed, and there was uproar on Chinese social media over the survey. But Jones said his team was not briefed on the situation by any of his higher-ups.
“I was completely unaware of what was going on,” Jones told The Wall Street Journal. “We were never trained in any of the social graces when it came to dealing with China.”
China has a history of reprimanding companies that offend the Chinese government and go against its official policies. Delta Airlines and Qantas have issued apologies after listing Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong as countries.
Twitter is banned in China, so the Chinese public would have had trouble even seeing the tweet.
China enacted a law last year that banned content that “endangers national security, national honor and interests” or “incites subversion of national sovereignty.”
Jones said that he would go through about 300 tweets a shift but doesn’t remember liking the tweet, although he recognized that it was possible it was him. This was the tweet Jones liked:
The Marriott Rewards Twitter account issued a response two days later apologizing for their actions after being forced by the the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration to do so.
Not only did Marriott have to apologize, but the Chinese government also suspended online booking services for a full week as a punishment. It also told Marriott to “seriously deal with the people responsible.”
China is Marriott’s second largest market, where the company has almost 300 properties.
TPG reached out to Marriott for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. Craig Smith, a Marriott executive, did issue a statement to the Wall Street Journal:
“We made a few mistakes in China earlier this year that suggested some associates did not understand or take seriously enough the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Those incidents were mistakes and in no way representative of our views as a company.”
Featured image by AFP / Getty Images.
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