Understanding the legal implications of what you do online is important for everyone, and yet it is rarely discussed. I had the absolute pleasure last week of hearing Steve Kuncewicz speak about this very issue, and it was an eye-opener not just for me but for some of the police officers who use social media to support their work in local communities.
I continue to be a strong advocate of social media and regularly talk about the benefits it brings to organisations. But we also need to have a clear understanding of the problems it brings and the potential pitfalls.
Steve covered a whole range of subjects including Contempt of Court, copyright, Data Protection, and the issues related to employees and the use of social media. I won’t attempt to cover what he said because I wouldn’t do it justice. However, in thinking about his points I have boiled it down to five key points that users of social media need to be aware of and remember when they are posting.
1. You represent yourself and your organisation
When you tweet or post or blog what you say reflects on you and that is something to be aware of if you are job hunting. But you also represent the organisation that you work for. In the same way that getting drunk and arrested would land you in hot water with your boss, so it will if you act irresponsibly on social media.
2. Legal issues remain on social media
Just because you say it on social media does not mean the normal rules of law have gone out of the window. If it would be contempt to print it in a newspaper or say it on radio, then it will still be contempt when you say it on social media. This means the responsibility lies with the user and they need to be aware of the issues.
3. It is not just about me
I can control what I post but I can’t control what others may say about me. The thing I can do is be aware of it and able to challenge what may be said if it is not an accurate reflection of me.
4. What is said will linger
The fast moving nature of social media means we can lose sight of the fact that it will potentially linger on the Internet for years. You may say it on a Friday night in 2012 but who knows when and where what you said may appear again. It is important to think about the future and not just relegate social media statements to the past.
5. Use your common sense
In short, think before you post or tweet or blog. Ask what your mum or boss would say if they saw what you have said. And never use social media in anger or when you are in a dark mood.
The growth in social media has brought with it many difficulties and challenges these are things we should be aware of but they should not stop us. The opportunities are vast and that is the important message for companies and their employees.