Social media legal risk: Are you ‘red alert’ on the @journlaw 6-point scale?


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.

© Mark Pearson 2012

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.


Filed under Uncategorized

5 responses to “Social media legal risk: Are you ‘red alert’ on the @journlaw 6-point scale?

  1. Pingback: Social Media and the Legal Implications « Web 2.0 and the Enterprise

  2. Hi Mark.The manner in which you have broken down the hierarchy of risk for social media use for both individuals and organisations is succinct and logical. I think the risk levels aren’t mutually exclusive and an organisation’s social media policies influence employees’ use of social media, and social media savvy employees can also provide valuable input into an organisation’s development of social media policies. Given the prolific use of social media tools within the workforce, I think it is imperative for organisations during the recruitment process to assess a potential employees knowledge of responsible social media use and the ramifications of breaching the organisation’s social media guidelines.

    I have recently produced a blog entry on social media policy that highlights the risks of the use of social media. I would really appreciate it if you can have a look at it and provide some feedback.

  3. Pingback: Enterprise 2.0 – The Legal Side « e2karen

  4. Pingback: Blawg Review #319: The Power of Myth and the Myth of Power « THE TRIAL WARRIOR BLOG

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s