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IP Quick Intellect

Using Social Media responsibly and by the rules you signed up to

Posted by on 12 Sep 2012

The media is currently full of the story of Robbie Farah and the offensive Tweet he received over the weekend. The "network" worked fast and it now seems as if the source of the Tweet has been identified.

Onthe spur of the moment, a Tweet or Facebook post may seem like fun, letting off steam or sending an anonymous message you would not dare say face to face. However, the Terms and Conditions of using these social media giants are clear and users are not as anonymous as they may think. You may not think of yourself as a publisher, but as soon as you post via social media websites you are governed by the fundamental law of defamation, contempt and confidentiality just as you would be were you working in broadcasting or as a print media journalist.

You are also governed by the terms and conditions of the social media tool you are using. Along with the terms and conditions of many things we check the box to, there is a high chance you checked that box when you registered and did not really look at what was included.

The use of social media is now multi-faceted but the underlying truth is that if you are going to Tweet or post on Facebook, you should be very careful and ensure you understand just who is seeing your message and what the worst-case-scenario would be should the message or post end up where you did not intend it.

Twitter lists the basic rules of use which includes the following:

  • Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through Twitter in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others.
  • Trademark: We reserve the right to reclaim user names on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those user names. Accounts using business names and/or logos to mislead others will be permanently suspended.
  • Privacy: You may not publish or post other people's private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.
  • Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.
  • Copyright: We will respond to clear and complete notices of alleged copyright infringement. Our copyright procedures are set forth in the Terms of Service.
  • Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.
  • Misuse of Twitter Badges: You may not use a Verified Account badge or Promoted Products badge unless it is provided by Twitter. Accounts using these badges as part of profile pictures, background images, or in a way that falsely implies affiliation with Twitter will be suspended.

Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities is long, but in relation to the rules which guide use relating to what you post or what you direct at others, the message is clear:

  • You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
  • You will not post content that: is hate speech, is threatening or pornographic, incites violence, or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

Facebook advises that it reserves the right to divulge personal user information if it is subpoenaed or receives court orders. It will also consider requests from other entities including government departments, lawyers or companies if it believes a response to their request is required by law. Your details will be handed over as part of that request.

We now live in a world where "hackers" are part of our lives and we are constantly on guard, but privacy settings on social media sites are not watertight and you cannot be assured that anything you upload to your personal page will be secure and prevented from entering the public domain, now or in the future. Should you leave the privacy setting at the default of "everyone" your information is available to the "public internet" and will be indexed by search engines, not just Facebook users, and can be distributed and redistributed by others worldwide.

Companies should ensure that they have up to date clauses in their employee contracts re: social media use by their employees and have policies which reflect the company's beliefs. Bullying and harassment of staff, loss of company information or IP issues could all stem from not ensuring the correct policies and practice is put in place.

Individuals should be mindful of what they post or tweet and ensure that their privacy settings are set for maximum safety to loss of your personal information, photographs or posts.

Should you have any issue requiring assistance relating to social media, please don't hesitate to get in touch with one of the lawyers in Coleman Greig's Brand Protection team today.

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