Cornell's Law School puts it this way: "The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government." From the beginning, social media has challenged the very essence of free speech as to what can and cannot be said. The boundaries of free speech are changing and evolving to better address the problems spawned from new media sources.
After reading the first two chapters of Daxton Stewart's book Social Media & the Law, I have put together a list of important things to remember when using social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr). Whether you're using as an individual (public figure or average joe) or a business, this list of tips can surely help you avoid breaking any laws.
- Everyone hates dirty laundry. Maybe you should keep your private matters private. I understand that you've just gone through a terrible divorce, but most people don't wish to have their feeds filled with your personal problems. The process of writing our feelings out can be very cathartic, I understand that, but that's what Password Journals are for.
- There are ways around your privacy preferences. In Chapter 1, Henderson writes: "Social media networks are more a fish tank than a lock box." Despite your personal privacy settings on your various sites, government agencies, employers, and advertisers all can peep in on your site. I know, it's weird, & sometimes makes you feel royally violated, but we're working on it. Trying to make everything better for both users & agencies.
- You can be sued for defamation! Defamation is a false statement of fact that is harmful to another person's reputation. Be careful of what you're saying and who you're saying it about. Defamation can be directed to both the rich and famous & people in your high school that you like to bash on your Tumblr.
- Use your brain! Think (no, overthink) about the possible outcomes from what you're about to post. Educate yourself on the consequences of posting risqué material so that if something terrible happens and you go to court, you can defend yourself and say that you were not in the wrong.
- Wait, which account? If you are a social media manager for a company, please remember to check which account you're posting for. Too many times someone has tweeted company business from personal accounts & personal business from company accounts. It takes a very short amount of time to check & it will make all the difference in the world.
- Remember who your friends are. Did you friend your new boss? Your pastor? One of your students' moms? Your friends are watching everything you post. Images are very important & a defamation lawsuit won't stand if you personal posts can be used against you.
Henderson & Silver bring up some great points in their separate chapters of the book. Sometimes we don't think about what we're saying and really need to take a second look. Now I want to ask for your opinion on some Frequently Asked Questions from the end of these chapters.
1. Should companies be allowed to fire people for making a Facebook post?
2. Are social medias private or public spaces? Which do you think they should be?
3. Should anonymous gossip sites be responsible for libel despite the laws protecting them?