By MARK PEARSON Follow @Journlaw
It was only in planning, researching and writing my book ‘Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued’ that I started to think about various levels of legal risk in the use of social media.
The book was never aimed to substitute for expert legal advice, but is designed for the serious blogger or social media user who wants to know the main areas of risk – basically when to sound the alarm bells so they either refrain from pressing that ‘publish’ or ‘send’ button or see a lawyer before doing so.
I have thought more about this, and the level of social media literacy in the community, and have developed these six-point lists to identify the levels of social media legal risk users and their organisations might be facing.
Looking at the lists, I feel my book is mainly targeted at Levels 1-4 in each category – individuals and organisations needing basic knowledge of social media legal risks to help avoid complete disasters and to blog, post and tweet with confidence – on legal advice when needed.
No such list is perfect of course, and I would welcome your suggestions for improvement either as comments to the blog below or as tweets citing my handle ‘@journlaw’.
So here they are, open for your comment:
Level 1 (highest risk) RED ALERT! –Totally ignorant of the legal risks of social media and reckless in your use of it
Level 2 – Blissfully ignorant of the legal risks of social media but basically cordial, polite and well meaning in your social media interactions
Level 3 – Vaguely aware of the legal risks of social media but happy to tweet and post regardless
Level 4 – Aware enough of the legal risks of social media to show some caution in your use of social media and to know when to seek legal advice. (Suffering the ‘legal chill’ factor through fear of risks.)
Level 5 – Fully expert in social media legal risks and strategies and aware enough of your rights and defences to be bold in your expression
Level 6 (lowest risk) – Legally qualified and up to date with media law and the numerous emerging additional laws affecting social media use internationally.
Level 1 (highest risk) RED ALERT! – ‘Twit What?’ Still in the 20th century with no social media policy (or many other policies for that matter) and employees can post whatever they like with no distinction between their corporate and private roles
Level 2 – Reasonable corporate communication policies hopefully applicable to, but not yet expressly incorporating, social media use.
Level 3 – Good corporate communication policies and a series of directives on social media use forming a good platform for a social media policy which has not yet been created.
Level 4 – A specific social media policy covering the main bases, but developed by HR department without expert legal input and lacking organisational follow-through with training and management awareness.
Level 5 – A specific social media policy developed on legal advice, but lacking in a key aspect such as currency or in-house training and awareness.
Level 6 (lowest risk) – Fully developed, monitored and routinely updated social media policy, with expert legal, HR and employee input, allowing for active but sensible social media presence with a clear firewall between employees’ private and corporate use. Regular training and briefing of management and staff on policy and changes.
Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.