Social media is something that whilst it is relatively recent, it is increasingly becoming a far bigger part of people’s lives. What this has meant is that while it allows for more open communication there are some potential legal issues that you should be made aware of.
Who should be on social media
The first legal issue is who should be on social media. For example, some platforms will have strict controls on who can register and many will not allow people under the age of 13 to register.
Of course it is fair to say there are ways around it. However, this is why it is important to make clear to younger users why they should not be on there and to make them aware of it.
A lot of businesses use social media to promote themselves. However, it is important to be careful as libel laws apply equally on social media as they do in print or other forms of media. While it could be tempting to disparage rival companies online this can also have legal implications as well.
Sometimes people try to get around this by including “All opinions are my own” in their profile. However, this does not take into account that if your profile is associated with a business then people will make that assumption so people still need to take responsibility for those opinions.
There is also the issue of privacy and you need to make sure that sensitive information is not passed on. This also includes private messaging systems, as these can get leaked as well so it is important to be careful.
Different companies will have different rules on how employees use social media at work. While companies understandably want to restrict people using social media at work it is important to not go over the top and spying on employees could have legal implications later on.
Equally employees themselves need to be aware that making disparaging comments about your employer could get found out. With some professions such as teaching or police, employees are encouraged to use assumed names online to prevent people looking them up online as this can undermine their work.
There can also be implications if employees go on social media to improve the rankings of the companies they work for.
Ultimately a social media policy should be clear and employees should be aware of their responsibilities while businesses should also be aware of not excessively controlling or monitoring them to avoid any complaints later on.
Drafting a social media policy can help to remove a lot of the problems that people associate with it. It should be made clear that anyone working with social media has to take responsibility for what they do and say, both in their private and public lives.
If you have concerns about this then it is worth contacting our legal specialists so we can discuss your circumstances in more detail and help you work with social media in a positive and productive way while avoiding legal pitfalls.