With the introduction of the Internet and later social media platforms, the way in which we communicate has changed forever.
Almost overnight people from all walks of life all around the world had access to informative content, the news and previously controlled information.
We are in a position to voice opinions, share feelings, showcase talents, promote hobbies, sports and brands, share our thoughts and say what we like and don't like.
We discuss relevant and irrelevant matters with those we know, those we don't know and even communicate with celebrities, politicians or world leaders. An opportunity few would have enjoyed before teh birth of social media.
Very soon this newly found interactivity, the connectivity and communicating ability became the order of the day. Social media platforms allow users to have conversations, share information and create web content. There are many forms of social media, including blogs, micro-blogs, wikis, social networking sites, photo-sharing sites, instant messaging, video-sharing sites, pod casts, widgets, virtual worlds, and more.
Billions of people around the world use social media to share information and make connections. On a personal level, social media allows you to communicate with friends and family, learn new things, develop your interests, and be entertained. On a professional level, you can use social media to broaden your knowledge in a particular field and build your professional network by connecting with other professionals in your industry. At the company level, social media allows you to have a conversation with your audience, gain customer feedback, and elevate your brand.
But are You taking personal and full responsibility for your username, your posts, and any information provided. Your posts may be subject to the Public Records Act Public Publishing Act or to discovery under pending litigation.
While social media platforms are open forum, your posts are subject to civil criminal and publication law. In South Africa amendments were made to the ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSACTIONS BILL 2002 on 26 October 2012. Due to the ever growing and changing online environment, the need developed for certain much needed amendments.
The Amendment of section 1 of Act 36 of 2002, paragraph 1 point t , for example, made provision for various new terms like the insertion after the definition of "electronic agent" of the following new definitions:
- "electronic communications"
- "electronic communications facilities"
- "electronic communications network"
- "electronic communications network services"
In South Africa we have more binding regulatory and legal bills and we are subject to the likes of The consumers Act and The Bill of Rights. Anything you publish on your blog, your Facebook page, that what you tweet or any comment offered on a public forum, are regulated by these ACTS and BILLS. How many of you are aware of these facts?
As the saying goes. ' You can think what you want but you can't say what you want!' So be very careful of what you publish on social media platforms.
As we are not all legal experts and most have pure intent and are participating on these public forums for fun, to share and to enrich our lives and that of others, how do we protect ourselves from possible action taken against us for something we said on social media? If you want to practise your freedom of speech, share, discuss, debate, showcase enjoy and optimise on the fantastic opportunities of the internet and social media, simply keep to these basic rules of humanity and stay within the framework of general acceptable behaviour.
Ensure that your posts does now include any of the following if published publicly.
- Profane language or content;
- Content that promotes, fosters or perpetuates discrimination of protected classes;
- Sexual harassment content;
- personal attacks on religious, sexual preferential and / or political groups OR any other groups or individuals;
- Conduct or encouragement of illegal activity;
- Information that may tend to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems;
- Content intended to defame any person, group or organisation;
- Content that violates a legal ownership interest of any other party, such as trademark or copyright infringement;
- Making or publishing of false, vicious or malicious statements concerning any person, the Country or its operations;
- Violent or threatening content;
- Disclosure of confidential, sensitive or proprietary information;
- Hate speech
You might argue that your Facebook page is not set for public access. If your Facebook page privacy setting are set on friends of friends or public for example, it is deemed as published publicly. If your page is set on friends only it is not seen as published publicly. This said, if one of your friends decide to share you post to their page and where their page setting might be set on public, you remain 100% responsible for your post.
Most importantly, the minute you join a pubic group, you expose yourself to public publishing as every person that belongs to that group can access your page, even if only through limited access.
You are what you think, but you can only be exposed by what you say and publish. What you publish on Social Media is what you are responsible for, both in personal and legal capacity.
With your newly found social media freedom, your self claimed freedom of speech and your alleged rights to post what you want, you have traded the personal protection & privacy rights you once enjoyed and you alone exposed yourself to a harsh cruel yet wonderful world.
As Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! so we can say that Social Media is in the eye of the beholder!
Author: Heidi Stassen
Published: 19 October 2014