We're running a social media and media law workshop. Why? Because when the door flies open and someone important demands to know what you are going to do about that newspaper's Facebook comment you know where you stand. And Brexit isn't making things easier.
by David Banks
Brexit means Brexit was one of the less helpful slogans that came out of the scintillating debate over the EU referendum.
Withering sarcasm aside, what does it actually mean?
Well, for those of us working in comms it could mean one particular very nasty headache.
I’m going to talk about EU directives now, stay with me.
If you allow third party content on your platforms – website, chatrooms etc that could be a big risk. The general public don’t all know about the law and they can put any old libel, contempt, racist remark or incitement to insurrection up there.
At the moment if you are running a site which allows such contributions, you have no liability for the stuff people put up there on two conditions:
1. You didn’t pre-moderate it – so no human pair of eyes looked at it and approved it for publication (filters that remove sweary language don’t count as pre-moderation here)
2. If you get a complaint about a post and you see it is legally problematic, you remove it asap (I would suggest within 24 hours)
Very simple, easy to understand and works like a dream for those of us running sites that allow public participation.
It is given to us by an EU directive on Electronic Commerce, because the clever old EU realised that the internet would break if legal actions were allowed for every post the public put online.
Now we have voted for Brexit, and unless that directive is enshrined in UK law we will lose it protection come the day we exit the EU.
Many local government websites do not allow public participation in this way, which is fine. However, most of them will have a Facebook page – and that does allow public posts, and you cannot turn them off. So you do need to worry about this stuff.
My guess is that a legislative answer will be found before Brexit, but whether it is as simple and effective as the EU directive remains to be seen.
In the meantime, brush up on your law and watch those public contributions like a hawk.
- The comms2point0 media law for social media workshop with David Banks is on October 25 at The Parcel Yard, Kings Cross railway station, London. For more information and to book click here.
David Banks is an experienced journalist and media law trainer and is a former editor of the landmark Essential Law for Journalists textbook.