Public servants in social media net
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Public servants in social media net

Another federal public servant is set to be sacked over his online activity as the bureaucracy's troubles with social media mount.

The latest flashpoint is a Facebook page set up in Canberra to support an embattled officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The department says the site has threatened and defamed its staff, as well as Labor politicians Bob Carr, Craig Emerson and Richard Marles.

The public servant at the centre of the row, Darrell Morris, was suspended in February and accused of being involved in the Facebook page called The Anti-Bullying and Discrimination League of Australia.

He is now likely to to lose his job.

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But Mr Morris' father says Darrell was not involved with the page, and denies its comments were threatening or defamatory.

The page is one of many websites - such as Victims of CSIRO, APS Bullying and OzLoop - that have appeared in recent years and are dedicated to publishing claims of systematic bullying, harassment, cronyism and other wrongdoing in the public service.

However, Mr Morris' case is believed to be the first in which a public servant has been stood down and threatened with dismissal for being involved in such a site.

Clashes over social media between public servants and their bosses are becoming more commonplace.

Immigration Department official Michaela Banerji lost a court appeal this month, opening the way for her to be sacked by her department for ''highly critical'' material posted on Twitter.

Taxation Office worker Darryl Adams was punished last year for using a satirical Twitter account to describe an anti-porn activist as ''rootable in that religious feminist way''.

Mr Morris is a well known at Foreign Affairs for his colourful behaviour; at one point, his supporters produced their own line of office stationery to highlight his claims of mistreatment by his bosses. Several colleagues have outstanding complaints against him and he is accused of using email and text messages to ''bombard'' one of his accusers.

Mr Morris was stood down in February and told in a letter that his employer had evidence that connected him directly to ''the group purporting to be the Anti-Bullying League of Australia''.

''This group is allegedly responsible for sending defamatory and harassing emails to senior departmental officers and politicians,'' the letter said.

Mr Morris declined to discuss his case publicly but has previously denied being involved with the Facebook page, which was founded and maintained by his father and mother, Darrell snr and Aaimi Morris, in 2010.

A spokeswoman for the department said privacy laws prevented it from commenting on the case.

Mr Morris snr said the emails to politicians and officials were sent through the group, and not by his son, and he denied there were any threats or defamation.

''My wife and I sent some people some emails saying we believed they had been complicit in discrimination and bullying in their department,'' Mr Morris snr said.

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''But not a single person got back to us and said they were offended or tried to put their side of the case.''

Do you know more? Send confidential tips to ps@canberratimes.com.au.

Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

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