A taboo is a strong social prohibition (or ban) against words, objects, actions, discussions, or people that are considered undesirable by a group, culture, or society. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent. Some taboo activities or customs are prohibited under law and transgressions may lead to severe penalties. Other taboos result in embarrassment, shame and rudeness.

Last year I had a saucy little number of a discussion appear in my ASK Maureen group over on ERE that titillatingly titled itself "Illegal Sourcing". "Interesting," I thought. "We'll see where this one goes."

Alas, it was not to be. After a promising and riotous first post in which the author reported that he had spent four months working for two different recruiting firms that "taught employees how to ruse illegally for candidates" the string took a nosedive. It seems at both of these companies the heads of the firms, the "presidents", had both taught recruiters how to impersonate U.S. governmental officials in order to get very quick responses/source names from target companies. The author had left both firms because "their behavior was illegal and unethical".

It all sounded perfectly deliciously gossipy to me and just the perfect kind of discussion things can be learned from.

It wasn't 45 minutes later and an emphatic response came flying in that said, "It is illegal to impersonate anyone in the United States - it is considered fraud. This is based upon Federal AND State laws..." and the author went on to describe in detail reasons that included considerations of such things as identity theft, privacy laws and, always the whopper these days, "issues of Security of our Country". The author went on to mention importantly that a business domain name they owned had been "impersonated" and that "The D.A is currently working on this situation for me..."

Trying to put some damage control into what appeared to be headed towards one of those frightening and off-putting threads, I remarked that the first thing a sourcer should know is that it's illegal to impersonate a government official, and I further asked the original poster if anyone had pointed "this out to the heads of these firms and what was the response?"

The poor guy answered, telling us that he had informed one but that the rogue didn't care. He then contacted me a couple hours later asking me to take his response down, that he regretted his answer because after all, "that person's dealing with a District Attorney - all it takes is one person to make your life hell..."

A few other "Tsk, tsk, MY skirts are clean..." chimed in and it was enough to make this guy really uncomfortable. He sent me an email that same evening asking me to take the whole thread down because, in his words, "Few are going to admit they see illegal activities. And I put myself in an unpleasant situation. My kind of comments spark the wrong kind of interest. Thanks."

I did as he asked and took the whole thread down but as I did it I was reminded of a discussion we had recently on the Recruiting Animal's Radio Show. I bring this post to your attention once again as an example of a discussion that could have afforded meaningful and helpful information to a group but because of the way some people express themselves, conversations like this, that hold such promise, wither on the vine. Some people are intimidated against becoming a part of what could be a very valuable process.

I see this form of censorship as a virus running through our industry and I would like to see it stopped.

Are there "taboo" subjects in our industry nobody wants to talk about?
What are they?
Is intimidation a form of censorship?
Is it a healthy stance for the industry to tolerate?

"The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion." ~ Henry Steele Commager
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