Media law. For years it felt largely like an ever constant. But along came social media and all of a sudden things felt dangerously different. Add some law changes and the landscape has tilted somewhat. One issue? Your staff's social media accounts. With media law consultant David Banks we're running workshops. This is a flavour of why.
by David Banks
Just so we're clear, the following are my views alone and do not reflect those of comms2point0.
That's fine then, anything I say on this platform they've given me is my responsibility alone and the good folks at comms2point0 should bear no responsibility for anything I write here.
Here goes. I don't like cake. Not only do I not like cake, I don't like people who like cake. They symbolise all that is wrong with our country, sitting there eating cake when they could be doing something much more useful.
Glad I got that off my chest. I know you must be shocked.
But what if I were one of your employees and I had said something much, much worse?
If they had used your channels to do so, then the implications for you are quite clear - you are responsible for your organisation's output and if any employee puts something up there that is legally actionable you can expect a letter from m'learned friends.
But what I am increasingly being asked about is employee's personal accounts and here things are much less clear.
Of course, you could try a burnt earth social media policy and ban any use of personal social media during work time by employees. I know of newspaper companies who tried that when Facebook and Twitter first emerged and thus denied themselves a huge source of stories as well as cutting themselves off from their audience. Sheer genius.
It is not really realistic, or practically enforceable to go for a ban in the age of 4G mobile, unless you lead line your offices to cut off mobile phones.
Nor is it really desirable. Your new employees are increasingly digitally native, they are adept at using a multitude of platforms. This is where they live and it is where many of the people you want to reach live. Why would you deny yourself that level of communications expertise?
At the same time there is the risk of them saying something online which is libellous; an invasion of privacy; in contempt of court; racist or sexist. How do you stop this?
Well, there might be a simple answer to that problem, but I have yet to find it. I suspect it doesn't exist and that we have to accept that lie life, social media is at times messy and not easy to control.
Before journalists are let loose on a newspaper or website they do weeks of legal training. No such precautions are taken when you sign up for Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. But there are many ordinary users out there, ie not celebrities, who by now have built up follower numbers that the local evening paper would envy.
The best you can do is give people to knowledge and skills to avoid the sort of things that gets your organisation into legal trouble and them on a disciplinary.
This is where comms2point0 and I come in, and the workshop we're running will provide the knowledge needed to head off most problems before they arise. I look forward to seeing you in Birmingham or London.
Oh, and I do like cake - Bara Brith in particular - what can I say, I'm Welsh.
The Essential Media Law for Social Media and Communications workshop with David Banks will be held at:
- Impact Hub, Oxford Street, Birmingham on Tuesday September 22 from 10am to 4.30pm.
- The Parcel Yard, Kings Cross Station, London, Tuesday October 27 from 10am to 4.30pm.
For more information and to reserve a place click here.
David Banks is a journalist and media law consultant. He blogs here.