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WHITE PAPER: Social media and the law | A handbook for UK companies

Social media has grown exponentially in the past few years, fuelled by a combination of greater internet access, smart mobile devices and advert-funded business models.
Social media is different from traditional forms of media and social interaction in a number of important ways:

Spontaneity– Users can instantaneously
Tweet, post or send comments from
almost anywhere without any safeguards
to vet that communication.

Reach– At the same time, social media
provides an instant global audience,
potentially reaching thousands if not
millions of recipients, depending on the
popularity and following of the user.

Permanence– Social media messages
can be saved or reposted to create
a record that is difficult to withdraw or amend.

This leads to a greater risk of saying something stupid, or at least a greater risk that the stupid things you once shared later at night with a few friends, forgotten the next day, are now read by thousands, never to be lost. This has not prevented the wide-spread adoption of social media, though users have been adapting to these challenges both through greater awareness and new technologies, such as Snapchat which sends selfdeleting messages.

Social media is also becoming an important tool from a corporate perspective and a number of organisations are now using it to inform, educate and influence the wider public.

Equally, companies are faced with the increased use of social media by employees and the difficulties this raises given the blurring of the distinctions between personal and professional lives.

These developments raise important new legal issues. We consider the risks and rewards of using social media in this handbook and the practical implications for employers, particularly in light of the influence of the fundamental rights of privacy and freedom of information.

 

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