11 Basics of social media law – part 3

This is part three in Clicklaw’s three-part series called 11 Basics of Social Media Law.

CLICK HERE TO Read part one – Basics 1-3

CLICK HERE TO Read part two – Basics 4-7

BASIC #8: You can get fired because of Facebook

The idea that your Facebook account is personal and private is a myth, as is the presumption that your Facebook statements do not form your reputation and influence your career.

The truth is that you are in a 24/7 trust relationship with your employer. If you bring the company you work for into disrepute after work hours, you may be dismissed as a result.  This principle applies to the online sphere.

South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) confirmed that employees may be fired for what they said on their personal Facebook pages. In Sedick and another v Krisray (Pty) Ltd in 2011, derogatory comments were published on social media about their employer. They were dismissed and this was approved by the Commissioner of the CCMA.

LESSON: If you won’t say it to your boss, don’t post it onto Facebook.

BASIC #9: The World Wide Web knows everything

One of the biggest mistakes you can ever make is to assume that the information you share with online friends will remain between you and them.

The #blackface social media scandal from 2014 serves as an example. In 2014, a photo was taken of two students at the University of Pretoria that were dressed as domestic workers for a 21st birthday party. Their faces had been painted brown. One of them shared it to her Facebook friends. One of these friends was aggrieved by the photo and distributed it online. It spread like wildfire across social media sites along with the caption #blackface and the allegation of racism. The students apologised.

Screenshots make it possible to share information that is intended for private use with a potentially unlimited audience. This means that any social media user can take a screenshot of what you have sent them and distribute it across the world, regardless of whether you have agreed to that.

LESSON: No matter how hard you try to keep content private, privacy is not guaranteed online.

BASIC #10: Read the Ts & Cs

Social networking sites have terms and conditions according to which users are expected to streamline their online behaviour.

These terms and conditions require users to be polite and to refrain from acting in unacceptable ways. A few examples follow.

For Facebook’s terms and conditions, visit https://www.facebook.com/policies.

For Instagram’s terms and conditions, visit https://help.instagram.com/477434105621119.

For Twitter’s terms and conditions, visit https://twitter.com/en/tos.

For WhatsApp’s terms and conditions, visit https://www.whatsapp.com/legal/#terms-of-service.

For Snapchat’s terms and conditions, visit https://www.snap.com/en-US/terms/

LESSON: Calm down and read the fine print

BASIC #11: Don’t steal

Any creative creation is by fault copyrighted in terms of South African law. This means that any creative text, photographs, videos or other creations on social media are copyrighted.

If you want to report someone’s creative work, ask them for permission before you do so and credit them.

It is the right thing to do.

LESSON? You would not steal a handbag. You would not steal a cellphone. Do not steal someone’s creative work either.

Helene Eloff

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