Home' micenet eMag : micenet April May 2015 Contents LEGAL ISSUES | MATT CROUCH
hese days we are inundated with
electronic communications. As I
ride on the train, almost everyone
in my carriage is glued to their
phone... First it was email. Then came smart
phones and text messages. Then blog-sites,
Myspace, then Facebook, LinkedIn and
Twitter... and a gazillion other social network
and communication platforms.
Of course, it’s not just private individuals
catching up on the latest pearls of wisdom of
the Kardashians or sending messages about
the party next Saturday night: businesses
now use social network technology as a
promotional tool to “get the word out”.
The meetings, events and business travel
sectors have been early adopters of this
technology. Some larger events have their
own dedicated “apps” that you can use to
find out what’s on where and to
communicate with your fellow attendees –
and the organisers.
This relatively new technology is a mighty
powerful tool. The ability to send a message,
image or sound, even video – instantaneously
to hundreds or even thousands of (or more)
individuals was unheard of even a few
But as is so often the case with powerful
tools, there are dangers too. Think “power-
tool”. It’s like a chainsaw; a wonderful aid to
taking out a problem tree or chopping up
firewood, but in the wrong (or naïve) hands it
In this two-part series, Matt Crouch delves into the
murky waters of social media and the law.
AND YOU –
WORK OR PRIVATE?
is a mighty dangerous thing... The use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter are often
seen as purely private activities. It is important to remember that, given the widespread access to
these platforms, what you say can and does reflect on your business and reputation. If you
mention your company, its business, its staff, clients, suppliers or anything connected with your
company – that is regarded as a work context and it is subject to the principles that apply at your
I had an ex-student a year or two back who rang me fearing that she would be fired from
work that day. Apparently she had gone home after she’d had words with her boss. Angry and
hurt by the boss’s criticism, she went on Facebook and gave her boss what I would describe as
a fairly (in)decent “spray”. Not complimentary, let’s say.
A potential client that was just about to sign up to a lucrative new chunk of business for her
company found the material she’d published and had called next morning to tell her boss that they
were not going to proceed. The client had a significant social media program of its own and would
not give business to a company whose senior employees were so ill-disciplined in their use of it.
My ex-student was fired. No references. I hasten to add that my events law course does
include a class on e-commerce and I do warn of these potential dangers.
The fact is that the dividing line between the personal and business world has now well and
“But I posted this from home!” This will not save you – and didn’t save her! Equally: “But I did
this at 2.00 am!” and “I was using my private computer/phone.” is no answer these days.
The workplace is no longer (if it ever was) confined to the office and nor is it limited by the
hours of 9.00 to 5.00 .
Some social media platforms have settings by which you can limit those who can gain
access to the material you post. But there are (I’m told) ways to circumvent those settings – and
in any event, when you’re acting emotionally and in haste to get something off your chest, it’s
easy to forget to ensure that the settings are applied.
Moreover, the person that you counted as a “friend” today, may not be your true friend
tomorrow. Sorry folks, but that is the reality. Information has a way of getting out there.
A good rule of thumb is – if you would not post the message on a giant billboard on the
Pacific Highway, don’t post it! Stay tuned - we’ll continue exploring the legal issues that
surround the use of social media – and electronic communications - next time. m
Matt Crouch can be contacted at Hodgkinson McInnes Legal via email - firstname.lastname@example.org .
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