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A Warning to Architects to be Smart about their Social Media

11 September 2020. Published by Emma Wherry, Senior Associate and Laura Sponti, Paralegal

The Architects Registration Board has recently erased Peter Kellow from the register of architects as a result of a racist post on his Facebook which was publicly visible.

Mr Kellow's profile clearly identified him as a member of the profession and included a link to his practice. This resulted in the Architects Journal writing to the ARB drawing the post to their attention.

The post, an antisemitic tirade, compared Judaism to a cult and called for Jews to be banned from all positions of power from which they might discriminate against "non-cult members".

During the hearing, Mr Kellow maintained his views were not racist or antisemitic and declared that the ARB's investigation was a breach of his right to free speech. Mr Kellow then sought to argue that the ARB Code of Conduct was intended to regulate an architect's conduct while engaged on a specific job and therefore did not extend to their views and actions in the wider world – for example an architect's social media. He further argued that investigating his actions and posts on Facebook fell outside the scope of the ARB's regulatory powers.

The panel did not accept Mr Kellow's arguments. It found that Mr Kellow's actions represented a "serious departure from the standard expected of a registered architect" in breach of standards 1, 9 and 12 of the ARB Code of Conduct - the requirements to be honest and act with integrity, maintain the reputation of architects and to have respect for others. The panel therefore found that Mr Kellow's actions amounted to unacceptable professional conduct. 

The panel then went on to consider what sanction should be imposed. In the course of their deliberations they remarked on Mr Kellow's unwillingness to reconsider his position along with failure to appreciate the impact of his post on the reputation of the profession and the severity of its contents. Taking in to account all the circumstances, the panel considered that the only appropriate sanction was to erase Mr Kellow from the Register of Architects meaning that is unable to practice as an architect.

For completeness the panel went on to direct that Mr Kellow could not apply to re-join the Register of Architects for a period of two years, and he will need to satisfy the ARB that he has fully addressed his behaviour in order to be permitted to re-join in the future.

The decision in this case provides a warning to architects to be careful what they post on their social media, and a reminder that the ARB considers that the Code of Conduct is relevant to the way in which they conduct themselves in both their professional and private lives.

A full copy of the decision can be found here..