A recent BBC article quoted research suggesting that a shocking 46% of 18-24 year olds don’t realize that they can be sued if they tweet an unsubstantiated rumour about someone. The article explains ways in which twitter users can fall foul of the law, including defamation (tweeting that unsubstantiated rumour, as Sally Bercow did about Lord McAlpine), making threats and offensive comments or spreading information that is legally protected. According to the article 653 people faced criminal charges in England and Wales last year in connection with comments on Twitter or Facebook, including attacks and other behaviour that had been provoked by messages on the sites.
Even if there is no legal action, careless posting can have serious consequences. Relationships have broken down and careers and businesses been destroyed by thoughtless posts. The intimacy social media encourages and the way it blurs the personal and professional makes it very dangerous indeed. Post with care!
Some questions to ask yourself before you post:
- Why are you making the post?
- Who is the audience? Who is going to see it?
- Are you happy for anyone, including potential future employers to see it?
- Will you feel ok about what you post when you see it tomorrow? Next week? Next year?
Some thoughts for safe posting:
- Posting when angry can cause problems; you might want to give yourself time to calm down.
- Don’t post anything important when you are drunk. Letting the world know you fancy a kebab is probably ok, but anything more significant could lead to trouble.
- If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying what you are posting, you probably shouldn’t post it.
- If you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing your post on a T-shirt, you probably shouldn’t post it.
- If you wouldn’t want your mum/boss/partner or kids to see the post, think very carefully before posting it.
- Do you understand the privacy settings on your social media accounts? Make sure you know how they work, if they change and who has access to your posts.
- Even with privacy settings, accidents happen. It’s safest to think of anything you post on social media as being public.
- Think before you post!