Interpreters and Social Media

08 Jun 2015, by Julie Judd in Articles

The proliferation of social media has changed how people all over the world share information and communicate with friends, family and colleagues. The use of social media by interpreter practitioners in Australia has increased with individuals utilising various platforms in a variety of ways.

As a frequent Facebook user I have noticed various types of information shared by individual interpreter practitioners.

The type of information I refer to includes the following examples:

– Interpreter practitioners posting updates about the location of an assignment where they are hired to work

–  Updates detailing individual travel plans to an assignment

– Posting photos of themselves or the venue – pre, during or post assignment

– Promoting interpreting assignment information i.e. sharing organisation advertisements that outline the event that the individual has been hired to interpret

– Promoting that they will be interpreting at a particular event either via a status update, or in response to comments posted by other Facebook users

– Commenting and sharing individual experiences of the event

– Interpreters commenting on obituary notices by disclosing they had previously interpreted for high profile dignitaries or Deaf individuals when they pass away.

– Posting statuses that interpreting assignments are cancelled/finished early with emotive connotations relating to this occurrence.

These are just some observations that have prompted me to consider social media and the use of it by individual interpreter practitioners. Is it appropriate for appointed interpreters to use social media to share certain details surrounding their assignments? Is it appropriate for assigned interpreters to advertise the event they have been contracted to interpret? What is the perception of deaf consumers regarding the use of social media by interpreter practitioners?

I look forward to further discussion and reflection.

Julie Judd is one of Australia’s most seasoned theatre interpreters having worked on large scale productions such as Nine, Big River, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera, War Horse, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked, plus various school productions and community arts events. With 27 years of interpreting experience behind her, Julie has completed her Masters of Auslan/ English Interpreting from Macquarie University and was recently accredited by NAATI as a Conference Level (English – Auslan) interpreter.  She has previously worked as a mentor in the K-12 educational sector. Julie is passionate about interpreting and loves musicals!  Her favourite productions are Wicked and The Wizard of Oz. 

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  • Maree Madden Reply

    I, too, wonder about the boundaries what constitutes appropriate use of social media when it comes to interpreting assignments. There were a lot of questions posed in the original blog post, so I’ll bite the bullet and be the first to respond.

    Of the list of examples given above, I’ve copied the ones that relate to me and given my reasons below for why I used Facebook at that particular time and in that particular way. Facebook is the only social media site I use because I’m old and it is the only one I can cope with! 😎

    I would say upfront that performance and platform interpreting assignments (i.e. very public ones) are the only ones that I consider personally sharing about on Facebook.

    (i) Updates detailing individual travel plans to an assignment: I do post updates in relation to teaching work that I do, like presenting at PD events, because I don’t consider that information private. Usually the workshop and my presence at it has been broadly publicised beforehand. When I’m travelling for interpreting work I don’t post about it. Others may post about me working in different places, and I cannot control that. It’s one of the things that interpreters and Deaf people need to talk about.

    (ii) Posting photos of themselves or the venue – pre, during or post assignment: I have posted photos of myself outside a venue before going to watch a performance I will be interpreting. I have taken and forwarded posed photos with presenters and performers after the assignment as well, knowing that they would be posted on websites and Facebook. I agree to this because I consider it promotion for productions that make their works accessible for a Deaf audience.

    I am very aware that other people take my photo when I am working and post on Facebook and other sites (most of the time without asking me first, which is a whole other conversation that we all need to have!!).

    (iii) Promoting interpreting assignment information i.e. sharing organisation advertisements that outline the event that the individual has been hired to interpret: I have done this in relation to performance interpreting work that I have done or will do for Auslan Stage Left. My reasoning is two fold: first, that my name has already been attached to and promoted well in advance of the event and second, I’m promoting the event so that Deaf people who may not have heard through other channels have the opportunity to attend the event if they wish.

    (iii) Promoting that they will be interpreting at a particular event either via a status update, or in response to comments posted by other Facebook users: I did this just this morning! I viewed the conversation as a colleagial one in which I offered congratulations on a job well done to colleagues and where I was able to get valuable information to help prepare. This particular conversation was not a promotion of my future work. If I had my time again, would I take that conversation offline? Probably, yes.
    (iv) Commenting and sharing individual experiences of the event: I’ve done this as a means to share the experience of performance or platform interpreting. I’ve provided a short response about my experiences to Auslan Stage Left, knowing that they would be used for promotional purposes. I have not disclosed personal information about anyone who may have been in attendance.

    (v) Posting statuses that interpreting assignments are cancelled/finished early with emotive connotations relating to this occurrence: I think I may be able to claim to having created the goddesses of interpreting – of getting a “rockstar” park, of a job finishing early or of a late cancellation. Do I sometimes cringe about the way these names are used and talked about? Yes. Do I consider them to be a part of the culture of our work? Yes. If anyone is offended by my use or another interpreter’s use of these terms, then I’d really appreciate a conversation about it.

    Now that I’ve written this, I feel a bit like I’ve been to confession and need to do penance!! In all seriousness, I own my decisions to share on Facebook and I accept that other interpreters may disagree with my reasons.

    I remember facilitating a discussion about the ethics of social media at an ASLIA NSW Professional Development week-end. There is a need for discussion that includes Deaf people as well.

    I’d love to see / hear other people step up and share their rationale for their particular use of Facebook or other social media.

    • Amanda Galea Reply

      Thank you for your honesty Maree! Very important conversation and some very interesting and diverse responses here. To start with can I put my hand up, as per your request in the ASLIA update, & say I would definitely be interested in attending a symposium to discuss this further!

      Roundly speaking, and this seems to be generally agreed on here by most, I am against private job posting of any description (including cancellation & goddess excitement, ha ha). However I may tag myself in a remote country town, doing something unrelated (catching up with a friend, checking into a cafe), & if I’m asked what I’m doing there I think “work” is a perfectly acceptable answer, no details required. Interpreters travel – that’s life.

      Public events – I used to be a bit sqeamish about mentioning or posting these. I’ve since let go of that and am now a big believer in posting about publicly interpreted events. Why the change of heart – because I’ve seen funding disappear, due to not enough Deaf attendance. I’ve seen interpreter provision drop to nothing, at events that were previously always interpreted for – because Deaf people don’t know about it. When I questioned why I felt unsure about posting upcoming interpreted events, my answer was that I didn’t want to look bad or be talked about amongst my interpreting peers. Ironically, my reasons for not posting were about me and my (ego’s) benefit (not wanting to look bad), and NOT that of the deaf community, who I truly believe DO benefit when they know what is out there & what events are accessible. From that point on when I am questioning whether to post something, it is as simple as this: Will Deaf people benefit from knowing that this event is interpreted? If I post this, will MORE Deaf people attend/receive more access/organisation will continue to provide access? If the answers to both are yes, then I post.

      In regards to posting photos of myself on a public job – yes I have done this also, and for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just a good photo of me doing something I love and I’m proud of it. Sometimes it’s retrospective – I want people to know these events/rallies/parties are being interpreted, so more Deaf people get on board for future events of that nature. Sometimes the photo captures something gorgeous about interpreting life – life on the road of a tour bus, hanging out backstage under lights with your favourite co, being on stage with an amazing backdrop of the city/Kylie Minogue/Town Hall up in lights. Is this self-promotion? Or am I just proud of what I do and love my life? Do I hurt anyone or injure anyone’s privacy by posting these pictures? If not, then I post. I’m happy to reconsider these things, in light of hearing other people’s opinions, in particular our clients’. And I would welcome a symposium to discuss such ideas 🙂

  • Thank you for your post. In fact I am actually glad you raised this because as a Deaf member of the community who use interpreters every week and as a Deaf interpreter myself.

    I do find some postings posted offensive and embarrassing because I consider interpreters as paid employees doing a job for a Deaf person to provide access to communication.

    I don’t have an issue with public photos or postings such as theatre, conference etc as we are prepared to see interpreters in the spotlight there.

    However I do find it a bit ummm too revealing seeing posts eg ‘job cancelled woo hoo’ it embarrassing because there’s no reason why it was cancelled. That leads us to think ‘oh maybe that deaf person was too lazy to turn up?’ As it is true some of us take interpreters for grant and we sometimes forget how the fund is cover for the cost.

    Posts on where they are flying to or how they are getting there is another issue. Does it mean that state’s interpreters are crap? What’s so wonderful about that interpreter?

    Or maybe I mentioned I am seeing a heart specialist in the city hospital and the interpreter post ‘yah appointment finished early I have time to sit in a cafe under the city hospital’ that make us connect ‘ah Becky had this interpreter for her heart appointment’

    I like to see privacy and I like to see interpreters have more control and respect for ethics. Myself as a Deaf Interpreter I could not do that even as an regular employee I couldn’t either.

    For me it just doesn’t feel right. That’s my perspective.


    • Lorraine Mulley Reply

      Well said Darling Becky admire your honesty and factual information. Continue to speak up and inspire .
      Lorraine Mulley

  • Hi All –

    Julie invited me to chime in from NYC.

    My thoughts are in line with Becky’s. I think that public events such as interpreted theatre or interpreted public hearings might be acceptable to post – in order to inform the community that the event is accessible.

    My head explodes when I see interpreters sending more details about their work that makes it open for anyone to see. If interpreters are thrilled that an assignment ended early or has been cancelled I think it’s prudent to not mention it! Why would we want anyone to know we are happy not to do our job? And what does it say about the value of the event for the participants (both Deaf and hearing)? I think it’s also a matter of us learning what to make of social media – its power and its reach.

    In addition, it’s astonishing how connected the Deaf community is! I learned that as a new interpreter in the 70s (Yep, that long ago) – and relearned it a few years ago as I was experimenting with social media. I took a photo of the United Nations building – commenting that it was cool to live in a city that had the UN in it. I thought it was veiled enough that no one would think of work.
    Until the ever alert Alex Jones in your country told me to say hello to the WFD members in attendance – clearly working out that I was interpreting there and who the participants were. I felt as if I had betrayed a trust – and vowed not make that mistake again. It was ok with the Deaf friends, but not ok for me to break a solemn commitment to respect the privacy of the Deaf participants, even at a public event.

    So I learned how far and rapidly social media can spread. Yikes!

    It upsets me that so many interpreters in the US are advertising where they work, when they come and go, how it goes, etc. Just imagine – “I was interpreting here in this city at this photo for a secret home for domestic violence victims “, or like Becky said – for a heart specialist. People have a right to privacy and interpreters are invited into their lives at critical moments. It’s not our information to publicize.

    Conference interpreters do travel a great deal. And that is exciting – but I can’t imagine a good interpreter going into more detail.

    For some events that I’m interpreting I struggle with how much I am allowed to reveal. A friend attended a free conference and put an ad on her FB page. I wanted to copy it and announce it – but I was an interpreter and felt a tremendous conflict of interest. Later, two Deaf friends in the field asked me why I didn’t tell them about it. In their opinion I could have shared the info and helped them find it. No easy answers.

    I think instead of posting, we need to ASK permission – do you mind if I share this announcement about the conference?
    And if I’m too embarrassed to ask the Deaf person if I can advertise that I’m there for their medical appointment, then right away I should know it’s better to not divulge that info.

    As for public events – such as theatre – I might repost an advertisement after it has been posted. And if my name is public knowledge, then I can fess up that I will be there.

    I’d rather be a fuddy duddy than make Deaf people worry that if I blab about the little things…what else will I share? And can they no longer trust me.

    Thanks for letting me join this discussion.


  • Alex Jones Reply

    Hi all,

    I think the discussion raised here are very valid and relevant to what is happening in the interpreting community. Therefore, I would love to see this conversation to be held and available more widely for other interpreters to see such as on the ASLIA website. Interpreters from the wider community will benefit from this dialogue as we are entering in new era of Social Media and understanding how Ethics fits into this picture.

    Personally, I agree with Maree and Stef’s (hi, Stef!) comment about posting status updates for public events is – OK! ALL of Auslan Stage Left events are public and promoted widely, therefore it is in their and the community’s interest to share what is happening in the public domain. Indeed, there is a fine-line where you should do not enter or tag audience members as that is private as Maree mentioned. I must say, there is always a fine line wherever you do and before posting status update (when you are working) need to be taken with precaution. 🙂

    Outside of public events domain, I have always refrain from posting status update where I am or what I am doing in the area IF I am interpreting. Confidentiality is very important for clients and simple posting of where you are and the time can be easily picked up by someone else. You never know as Becky mentioned above. It is best to do nothing than to do harm.

    On the other hand, the more promotion we have about interpreted events, the more community are aware about it leads to more accessible events. This is what we want in our society especially for the deaf community. In retrospect, the use of social media in this circumstance is more appropriate and have been encouraged by Auslan Stage Left. It is about also about ‘awareness’ where these events can be educated to the wider community and keeping the message flowing.

    Those are my two-cents worth.


  • Benjamin Souter Reply

    Hi all,

    Thanks for posting your questions, Julie, and thanks to the previous responses tendered so far. The world of social media is still relatively new and so I think that it is natural and necessary that we go through a period of transition as we navigate and negotiate what is and is not appropriate. There are bound to be gaffs and accidental slip ups, as well as innocent postings that have unforeseen consequences (thanks, Stephanie – a valuable lesson for everyone, I would hope).

    My general view is to err on the side of caution at all times. For public events, I agree that to ask before posting/reposting is always going to be the safer option. It might be prudent, then, to also mention that the posting is being made with permission of the client/agency, etc. In academic circles, you would always cite the source or the owner of the information. As an interpreter at a public event, I do not believe that we have any ownership of that event and so should not share the information without the expressed permission of someone who has.

    The question of the appropriateness of social media postings also raises concerns of another nature for me. I often balk when I see interpreters posting very private details about their lives, loves and other intimacies on social media. I’m not talking about the “went for a jog” posts or the “had a great time with friends at such-and-such a place” or even the “I totally love such-and-such a person” ones…everyday, run-of-the-mill things are, in my opinion, fine and dandy. I’m talking about the kinds of things that most people would only share with close friends or some other kind of inner circle. Obviously, this is a very fine line and is extremely subjective – everyone will have a differing view on where that line is.

    Now I understand that social media is an important tool for people to be able to connect with other like-minded people from, potentially, around the globe. It is a wonderful way of keeping in touch and feeling connected. But what you post is not only seen by JUST the people that you intend to share with…it will also be available to…well…everyone who has ever connected to social media.

    As a professional, I prefer to be seen as a professional. As a professional in an industry which continues the struggle to be seen as a profession, I prefer to project a professional image of myself and my industry. As a professional who is a member of an industry that is so intimately involved, periodically, in the private and/or professional lives of my clients, I prefer to maintain a certain professional image. That is not to say that I am trying to convey a falseness about myself, rather a filtered version of the whole person that I am. I don’t want clients that I work with to be thinking “oh, I’ve seen him doing ‘this'” or “I know he’s into ‘that'”. It becomes a distraction to the purpose of the work and has the potential to have unwitting interpersonal consequences.

    As interpreters, we know about registers of language: frozen, formal, consultative, casual and intimate (Joos, 1961). They describe the formality of language that people use in different situations with different people and are often dependent on the proximity (the closeness or distance) of relationships that we have with other participants in those situations. Most people probably wouldn’t tell that dirty joke shared with mates to a prospective employer at an interview, or to their grandmother (for example). Should we not also be conscious of behavioural “registers” when it comes to our lives on social media?

    I look forward to any and all comments on the whole, broad topic of social media ethics.


  • Benjamin Souter Reply

    Forgot to tag the “notify me of new posts” box in my earlier reply so I can follow this blogversation (I think I just made that word up!)

  • …A much needed article, a dilemma I have been pondering for sometime, which has been the boundaries of interpreting and social media. The lines to me are very clear, if you as an interpreter are working, you must not EVER disclose ..without consent of the Deaf consumer of your service either as a solo freelance interpreter or booked interpreter via a service .. And here is my reason why…

    Confidentiality … The message is clear, interpreters who identify they are ” doing a job, at a location, had a cancelation etc. etc” had breach their ethics.. ( are there ethics around social media? Should there be?) I reckon so…

    Promotion of events should be just that ….promotion and by those who are paid to do so…

    Real life situation of identifying where you are as an interpreter also gives certain community members permission to share your location and therefore, identifies a community member who wishes to be anonymous …

    I have always requested permission from interpreters to photograph them and ask them if I can tag them into a photo about my experience in my work, at training, at conference or other general appointment that is about well as respecting their positions and privacy as well…

    So what would be best practices?? As a consumer of interpreting services I would require that all forms of confidentiality is respected and that all interpreters source my approval to share anything about a job that has me involved in any capacity..

    I must also say that ASLIA national may thing about making this a priority as we use the digital arena on a frequent based and confidentiality is paramount ..

    Thanks for letting me share my opinion

    Jody Barney .

  • Therese Lewis Reply

    Great discussion, Julie has raised some poignant questions that certainly got me thinking.

    One thought was that if we align ourselves with other practice professionals such as nurses and physiotherapists how do they apply the notion of social media in their work? What do they deem to be appropriate or not? Is social media used at all?

    What are the consequences of social media being used in the ways that Julie and Maree have described? Becky and Stephanie have given us some clear examples of the negative consequences. The community connectedness of the Deaf community and the notion of six degrees of separation -as others have said means we must err on the side of caution or prudence.

    All of this pondering leads me back to the ASLIA Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Professional Conduct

    Tenant 1.1
    1.1.1 Confidentiality –Practitioners will respect the privacy of all participants and hold in confidence all information obtained in the course of professional service, be that within an interpreting assignment or in the details about an assignment
    Tenant 1.2
    1.2.1 Professional Conduct-Practitioners will hold the needs of participants primary when making professional decisions.
    Tenant 1.3
    1.3.3 Scope of Practice- ……..When working under the auspices of an agency or other employer, it is not ethical for the practitioners to promote their professional services independent of the agency or employer
    Tenant 1.4
    Integrity of Service
    1.4.1 Practitioners will demonstrate sound professional judgment and accept responsibility for their decisions. Practitioners will make every attempt to avoid situations that constitute a perceived conflict of interest……..
    Tenant 4.1 Professional Relationships
    4.1.1 Practitioners shall understand the difference between professional and social interaction. They will establish and maintain appropriate boundaries between themselves and participants………

    The tenants offer us guidance and insights into our own practice as we endevour to navigate our dynamic, ever changing world.

    I came full circle in my thinking to find that as recently as 2014 physiotherapists have a Social Media Policy

    Certainly has me thinking, pondering and questioning the decisions that I make and the consequences they may or may not have- thanks

  • Marnie Kerridge Reply

    Interesting discussion. It does appear there needs to be ethical guidelines established around social media.

    Personally, I have no problem with interpreters stating they have a job cancellation or have finished early. It is part of the trade. It happens. It is human nature to enjoy perks like that and I think no less of them, except to think ” Lucky duck!”

    Public platforms ( eg conferences, theatre) – obviously interpreters will be recognised through other people’s social media. I believe interpreters have the right to state they enjoyed an experience or similar comment on a personal level. I have spoken about certain events at work that benefited me personally or professionally, but in no way compromise my core business, my students and the school. In a public platform, there would still be a need to regulate comments and postings via social media – no negative comments, no information that may compromise agency, clients and interpreter etc.

    My question is this – where do we draw the line between personal life and work? Interpreters are not robots. Friendships are made. Enemies are made. Relationships occur. How do we decide how to separate this? Some people will find this easy to do – separating work and personal life. They may never mix the two.The majority of interpreters and deaf community know each other and are often friends outside of jobs. There will be crossovers. How do we manage this? I can separate the roles easily, but not everyone can. Me seeing a drunken photo or dirty joke posting does not affect my opinion of the person’s work capacity and professionalism. The two are separate. Likewise, for the interpreter, they have to regulate the professional side and the friendship side of their deaf clients.

    I often wonder about the role of the deaf person and client in social media too. I believe there should be some regulation in this area too. It is a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship.

    This is something that needs a robust discussion and some agreed regulations. It has to also be realistic and common sense and some forgiveness/ flexibility needs to occur too. If such a discussion happens, I’d love to be there. 😀

  • dani fried Reply

    Hi everyone. Julie, thanks for starting the conversation, and thanks to everyone for comments on an issue which I think has been concerning to Deaf people and terps for a few years now.

    This is my personal opinion: this isn’t anything new. Social media is just a more effective way of communicating the same things we could have chosen or not chosen to communicate 10 years ago. We should therefore be making the same decisions as we did then. To me, the issues are:
    1. Am I breaching anyone’s privacy by what I reveal?
    2. Am I personally benefiting from what I reveal? If so, what is the balance between the personal benefit to me, and the benefit to Deaf individuals or the Deaf community?
    3. Am I balancing the big picture vs the little picture for the Deaf community?

    Here are some examples of how this logic might work (for me).
    A. There’s an organisation which books terps ALL THE TIME for public events. In many years of doing these gigs, I’ve yet to see a single Deaf person at these events. I have formally and informally, and directly and indirectly alerted this organisation to the need to market these events to the Deaf community. So far, they haven’t done so. If I go on Facebook and provide the event details, and say it will be interpreted, hopefully Deaf individuals will benefit from that. No-one’s privacy has been breached (I’m just providing information that is already available publicly) and while one could argue it means I get an actual ‘audience’ (which I would love, frankly – I hate interpreting for Mr and Ms Nobody) there’s a much greater benefit for both the Deaf community and this organisation, both in the short term (ie Deaf people get access to a public event) and long term (so the organisation doesn’t realise they never get Deaf people at the events and stop providing access in order to save money). (Btw, there are plenty of events I’ve been to as a member of the public, which I found out when I got there were interpreted, and there are no Deaf people because they didn’t market it properly. In those cases, I again always let them know they should market to the Deaf community, but it’s too late for that event itself! If the interpreter had felt empowered to let people know, many Deaf people could have potentially benefited – again, in both the short and long term.)
    B. Let’s say I’ve been booked to interpret for the annual general meeting of a Deaf organisation. It’s a public event but they are already brilliant and spreading the word that it’s on – and of course, accessible to Deaf people. So I wouldn’t feel at all compromised if I DIDN’T help spread the word.
    C. Let’s say I’ve been interpreted to work in a particular Sydney suburb. Everyone in Sydney knows that this suburb contains the main office for a particular company which has lots of Deaf people working there. As soon as my Facebook page shows that I’m that suburb, all my Deaf/terp Facebook friends can make the assumption I’m interpreting at that company, and can probably figure out who the Deaf client/s are. So although I might feel perfectly comfortable, for example, stating on Facebook something like “Doing a challenging job today” or “looking forward to my job today” or even “Yay, my job today was cancelled”, I wouldn’t include anything about the location or anything else which could point to who it was. (And I don’t think it’s fair to read into a cancellation comment that we’re saying anything about either the Deaf or Hearing client, btw. Jobs are cancelled for LOTS of different reasons.)
    D. Let’s say I’ve just interpreted for Gough Whitlam’s funeral (I didn’t; it was my dream job so I’ll just have to live with this disappointment.) This job would have been televised. I reckon it’s absolutely and completely appropriate for me to post something like “I was honoured to interpret PM Whitlam’s funeral today” or something like that. Why shouldn’t terps be openly proud of our work or excited about the jobs we’ve done, as long as it’s something which is completely public? It would NOT however be appropriate for me to post “I was honoured to interpret PM Whitlam’s funeral today but holy moley did you see the side eye Gillard gave Rudd!! But nice to see you there [insert Deaf person’s name].” This would be an obvious breach of privacy for the Deaf person, and a breach of objectivity re Gillard.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. Let the conversation continue!!!

  • Kirri Dangerfield Reply

    Social media: Is this the start of our decline in adhering to the interpreting code of ethics? Can we compare the immediacy of advertising/promoting events via social media, to before the age of Facebook, Twitter, and the like?

    I would like to expand on a few themes that I have noticed emerging from comments in this thread;
    – public vs private interpreting appointments being promoted or mentioned in a Facebook status update
    – social etiquette and marketing issues of interpreted events

    Admittedly when I first succumbed to joining the www of social media such as Myspace (showing my age??) and Facebook, and the like, in my naivety I did post upcoming public interpreted events, and yes, at times I happened to be one of the interpreters employed for such events. Over time I fell into conversations with a variety of interpreting colleagues, friends and members of the Deaf community, and opinions ranged considerably.

    One opinion that has stayed with me described self promotion in a negative view and that promotion of interpreted events should remain under the coordination of appropriate avenues such as event newsletters and the organisation that have engaged the interpreting service. I have, over recent months found that organisations have tried to hand this responsibility over to me and for all intent and purpose I have tried to educate the organisation to promote their events to Deaf community members through appropriate avenues.

    While I cannot control what others post on Facebook, whether it is a photo of me interpreting an event or other comments relating to my work, I can control what posts land on my own Facebook wall. If I have been tagged in a photo, my settings have allowed me to keep the tagged photo/post hidden or I can limit who is able to see the image.

    I have seen other interpreters promote events they are/will be working at via the online group ‘Auslan Matters’. I do question if this is the appropriate place to be promoting, as I believe this chat group should be discussing relevant issues related to Auslan, interpreting, and community, not using this as a platform for brazenly advertising interpreted events.

    I agree that we need to look at social media ethical guidelines aligning with the interpreting code of ethics, to encourage a standard of what is and what is not acceptable to post on Facebook and other social media portals. While social media has many positive aspects, we as an interpreting cohort need to keep in the forefront of our minds what impact we are having on the community at large when we engage in promoting (either self or others) interpreted events, private jobs, and so forth. What image do we want to create for ourselves out there in the ether? Whether it be our professional or private lives on show? Can the twain ever meet?

  • Elena Down Reply

    Good comments and discussion!
    Public, televised events- I usually have no problems with FB pictures that are clearly posed and people knew they were posing in them.
    Tagging should always be up to the individual unless clear consent was given at the time to tag someone.
    However there could be reasons that people don’t want to be tagged in some public events, eg at a political rally, or even have that photo posted to FB. Once it is on the internet (even if subsequently deleted) it is searchable forever (including by agencies overseas).

    I travel with interpreters overseas for international development work and often for work that is subject to confidentiality agreements that bind both me and the interpreter.
    I would recommend checking with the Deaf client consents to posting about even the social aspects, There is a big difference between emailing a pal to say ‘just saw the [landmark attraction] at [name of site]’ compared to posting that info on FB.
    Clearly they cannot post about the meetings and business aspects where confidentiality clauses apply.

    Also an interpreter would also have to consider that even posting or tweeting about social aspects of the trip will inevitably lead to curious questions like ‘oh, what were you doing there? – PM me!’ that can make it harder to (be seen to) maintain confidentiality.

    Many organisations already have social media policies- so e.g. if an interpreter was interpreting for a particular organisation, it could be a breach of that organisation’s policy to upload photos to a private page (vs an official FB page for that org, which are subject to more rigorous clearance processes etc.)

    Ultimately, I think it could be useful to work together as an industry to have broader discussions around these issues, and possibly develop a policy on social media.

  • Melinda Mindum Reply

    It’s been really interesting following this. I agree that it is a conversation that needs to happen. There have been some really good points made so far, about presenting a filtered version of yourself, and not leaving breadcrumbs that people can work out where you were working and who you were working for. Possibly it comes down to being mindful and careful about what you share – which you should be anyway, and being clear on why you are sharing that information. Perhaps it needs to be thought of in terms of our ‘Wh-Questions’. ‘What’ am I sharing, ‘Why’ am I sharing it, ‘Who’ will see it, Do I want people to know I am interested in this, and so on – but I think they are fairly basic online rules anyway. I like to share information about upcoming interpreted events, mainly for the purpose of spreading the word and showing my support, or sometimes reminding myself so I make sure I go. I think this whole issue is something people need to think about and be aware of, so thanks for bringing it up Julie.

  • Melissa Lowrie Reply

    Interesting discussion here peeps.. a lot of what you have all said reasonates with me. However, as a Deaf client, i DO get annoyed when i am trying to book a last minute interpreter and i see interpreters post “job cancellation! whoo! time to sit and have a coffee in the park/go for a haircut/ read a book” etc. Its just plain annoying and frustrating. Id prefer not to know!! another thing is when interpreters check into airports in flash ‘qantas clubs’ etc, again annoying when i am constantly battling organisations over the costs of interpreting being a barrier for that client who cant get an interpreter to see a lawyer/accountant/ any other appointment they need. our needs for access are paying for those luxuries and we dont need to know that (im aware i sound harsh, but thats how the community sees it at times). By all means, interpreters have a highly technical and sensitive job, and you deserve to be paid well, and paid more! You will not find a bigger supporter of Auslan Interpreters than me, but there are somethings that the community just dont need to know.
    Then comes the next thing. For me, working in the Deaf and hard of hearing communities has its definite downsides. Everyone knows who you are. Everyone sees me as “Melissa at Deaf Victoria” rather than just “Melissa”. Therefore when i post on social media, i always ALWAYS have to think about how this might impact on my organisations image. i have been in trouble before for posting an unfiltered thought on facebook, and got a number of text messages telling me to remove it because of the impact it might have on the organization i work for. Thats the way it is, and thats the downside. i can NEVER just be ‘me’, i have to be ‘me and Deaf Victoria” .With interpreting, there is the SAME downside. It probably isnt fair, but just as we have to deal with it, its just the way it is!
    My honest two cents!

  • Peter Bonser Reply

    hi people many thoughts shared here, and yes I think some structured discussions, work shopping needs to happen so we all are clear on what’s acceptable. I tend to concur with Marnie & Dani’s views overall. I think Dani, you outline some good examples of how to approach things. My view for now is that raising these concerns just opens the whole thing up to many more questions needing to be asked and clarified before we can say what’s ethical and what’s not! Such as, what is the assignment? How public is it? Who is involved? What hat am I wearing when I post? Which state am I in? Some states are better at this than others. Who is my employer and what are their policies about social media? Will my post be detrimental to the Deaf community or will it be helpful? Do the organisations understand how to reach the Deaf community? Am I talking about life in the city or a regional area? The needs are different and the Deaf community has a more isolating situation to overcome in regional areas. Often it’s not our job to promote something but many times the Deaf community & individuals has thanked me for making them aware otherwise it’s another missed opportunity. This is opening a can of worms, or Pandora’s box! There are many layers to this onion! I get a sense of fingerprinting here, egos at play, throwing the cat among the pigeons etc….. Yes let’s discuss the issue, let’s get ASLIA to work with Deaf organisations to get us all on the same page. Remember solidarity, this too is ethical and needs to be considered. I think comments on assignments with individuals are yet another consideration to the questions I raise which have been asked more with public events in mind. So much for a short response! Gotta go I have a plane to catch

  • dani fried Reply

    Hi, with the idea of ‘advertising’ events – ultimately, yes, it’s the organisation’s responsibility to market their event. BUT we know that most organisations are pretty hopeless about marketing to the Deaf community. Interpreting agencies, ASLIA and Deaf organisations need to help them – but in the meantime, there’s the very real risk that (a) in the short term, Deaf people miss out on events they might like to attend, and (b) that the Deaf community ultimately loses access permanently, because organisers realise there’s no Deaf people and so stop providing interpreters. Instead of seeing an event posting as ‘brazen advertising’, I see it as simply assisting to let people know that an event is accessible. I honestly don’t know any interpreters who are fundamentally self-promoters, and I know a lot of interpreters. Nearly all of us got into this business – and stay in this business – because we value communication and access; we’re passionate about it. I don’t really personally benefit if one or ten or no Deaf people come to a gig I’m interpreting. I get paid regardless. But yes, I’d love to see Deaf people in the audience. And I’d love them to tell their friends so that next time – whether it’s me interpreting or someone else – there are even more Deaf people enjoying an event. We should definitely keep working with event organisers so THEY take responsibility for marketing – but ultimately, we know that the Deaf community has its own ways of doing things, and it may be that this is a completely reasonable ‘niche marketing’ role that we can choose (or not choose) to assist with.

  • Nicole Clark Reply

    A conversation long over due! I agree with much of what has been said. A major challenge for me when I see posts from interpreters pre and post public events they work on is that instantly the post changes the playing field, the job becomes about them as individuals not about the job and the reason they were present at the setting. While I find it frustrating and sometime heartbreaking that often the interpreters who are booked are the only ones to know about accessible theatre events or rallies, promoting a job that you are booked on proposes too many ethical challenges to sit comfortably with me. And while after a public event information about who was present/working at the even is public information, seeing interpreters post photos of themselves on stage, yells this is about me, not about what I was employed to do….
    The reality is as non natives to the digital age we have probably all posted things a little naively (sometime my timehop alert causes me to cringe for many reasons!) What I think is important is that as a profession this conversation takes place in many forms – not just here onsocial media,but face to face with each other, our stakeholders and with booking agencies (who seem to be particularly absent from the conversation)! Interpreter teainers should be discussing this topic with interpreting students, we should have a discussion at ANC andother and other PD events…. Like many times in the past, it is time for our profession to evolve and consider the current needs of all involved.

  • It’s hard to add something new to the conversation, since so many wonderful things have already been noted in the comments above. But, I’ve been remunerating on this post since Julie mentioned it to me, and Susan has asked me to chime-in. So, here goes …

    In the U.S., and my local area, I am known mostly for my work on stage as a theatre interpreter. I’ve been doing this since 1986, and have been disappointed by the lack of effort on the part of theatre staff to promote interpreted shows to the Deaf community. In fact, they seem to think it is part of what they pay for when they hire interpreters. For that reason, my company both advises theatre companies about how they can be proactive, and we are also proactive, ourselves. We’ve created backstage vBlogs which are designed to give the Deaf community a peek into what the show will be about – and we reveal the sign names which will be used in the show. These are often signed by the actors, themselves, so that the Deaf community members see the faces and names signs together. We typically name the interpreters who will be interpreting, and they may appear as the narrators of the backstage blogs, but the focus remains on the show itself.

    I feel that promotion of performances should emphasize the show, not the interpreters. I feel interpreters should share the promotion of the interpreted performance – in which their names may be mentioned – but, that the emphasis should be on the event itself.

    Beyond this, any other mention of interpreted assignments online gives me the collywobbles.

    In a recent blog in the U.S., a respected interpreter in Washington D.C. decided to publicly shame an unqualified interpreter, who had accepted work in the court system. She did so in a blog post that has circulated throughout our community on FB. Certainly, the unqualified interpreter should never have accepted the work described. In creating the blog, the respected interpreter researched three separate interpreting assignments of the unqualified interpreter, and then detailed the problems she had with the unqualified interpreter. In doing so, I felt the qualified interpreter revealed masses of information that was far too specific, and that others reading the blog might be able to piece together the details and identify the Deaf people involved. I was shocked by the blog; however, the qualified interpreter justified her actions as being a rightful attempt to week out a bad interpreter. She also stated that she felt what she was doing was fine, because all of the court cases are public record.

    Even more ironically, the qualified interpreter’s blog is replete with photos of her interpreting at public events for various U.S. presidents. This, too, I think is too much. I appreciate the well-crafted comments above, which articulate my gut feeling: When we post photos of ourselves interpreting, we are shifting the focus from our purpose to ourselves. Not good!

    In my own community in Michigan, there are interpreters who have said to me, “Oh, you don’t interpret anything except for theatre.” Of course, they are wrong. They only think that I only interpret theatre, because I NEVER discuss my other interpreting with anybody. I never want to put anyone at risk by posting online that I was at an interpreting assignment – the community is just too small to risk it.

    Furthermore, Deaf people (and hearing consumers, too) deserve to go about their business without ever worrying that information will be inadvertently revealed. They also deserve to live their lives without their daily business becoming a self-promotion tool for interpreters.

    I could go on forever, but I shan’t. Thanks, for this lively discussion!

  • Davi Rojas Reply

    In my opinion, say nothing at all!!

    According to our guidelines, it says nothing is allowed to be disclosed, except for specific circumstances. We all know them. Why would anyone want to jeopordise their business. We are not employees, we are owners of whatever positions we hold within our contacts. Realize that you do not work for someone else, you are providing a service. As owners of this service that your providing, remain adhere to all our laws. Protect your business! How you provide your service to your client, be it the contract holder or the one your client, treat the situation as if you were never there. You say nothing, you know nothing, unless our laws and ethics allow under specific situations.

    If you’re exposed through any type of media, let it be through another persons media where your involvement is accidental. Other than that, we treat it as if they never needed us in the first place and we were never there.

  • Peter Bonser Reply

    A follow up to this discussion. I met a Deaf person a few days ago who, in a polite way, ticked me off for not informing them that I interpreted for the Dalai Lama in Brisbane as if they knew it was interpreted they definitely would have gone! Seems the problem is with advertising to the Deaf Community and interpreters are seen as a source of this information that otherwise is not reaching them! I told them of this blog and discussion, their comment was, Come on! This is a public thing not a something private that is personal to an individual!

    • Susan Emerson
      Susan Emerson Reply

      Hi Peter,

      Can you get this person to email us at and then they will be kept up to date! This way they will never miss out on information!!! The other issue is we do send all our promotions to organisations however we do not know if these are then send on? In many instances, it looks like organisations do not! So what do we do in this situation?