Local Expert Urges Businesses To 'Think Before You Tweet'

A local social media advisor is urging business owners across the county to ensure they understand social media etiquette to avoid affecting their corporate reputation and even breaking the law.

Jan Minihane, Founder of the Net Advantage, is warning employers to be aware of the potential risks facing the business when either themselves or their employees communicate via social media sites. The comment comes after a surge in cases where individuals have been prosecuted for comments made via Facebook and Twitter which are deemed defamatory or slanderous.

Social media law is certainly still a grey area in the UK, and although guidelines have been proposed, there is currently no actual legislation exclusively for social media ‘crimes’. However, last year alone, 653 people faced criminal charges in England and Wales as a result of Facebook posts or Twitter tweets that were defamatory or offensive in some way, and there have been a number of cases brought into the public domain recently, most notably the case of Lord McAlpine.

Jan explained: “More and more cases are coming to light of social media users breaking the law through expressing opinions or comments on social media sites – either through being misinformed or simply naïve about the impact their comments may have, and that what they are putting out into the public domain is actually against the law. This situation could be potentially extremely damaging to a firm’s reputation and its bottom line.

“A recent case saw a trainee-accountant suspended from her role after she tweeted an offensive and unsympathetic comment about knocking a cyclist off his bike. The tweet was shared hundreds of times and resulted in the cyclist not only discovering her identity, but the police launching an investigation into the incident.

“People have the right to communicate, even in an obnoxious or disagreeable way, as that is classed as freedom of speech. But, in a corporate setting it is essential staff aren’t seen to behaving inappropriately, as customers may believe their thoughts reflect the ethos of the company, and this could severely damage its reputation,” Jan concluded.

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Pete White Pete White

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