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Firms need social media policy for staff

4 January 2015
– 2 Minute Read

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An Increasing number of people are engaging on social media platforms and they are also used by companies to promote their businesses. People are connected and are engaging with others around the world in a way that has never been possible before.

However, the inappropriate use or abuse of social media has also led to several legal battles, in SA and around the world. There have been many arrests for cybercrimes and an increase in the number of employees dismissed for social media misconduct.

The most popular social media platforms for business in SA are Twitter, followed by Facebook and YouTube. Their use is fraught with possible pitfalls and hidden dangers, especially because the laws regulating acceptable behaviour on them are underdeveloped.

People access their platforms of choice on their smartphones at all hours of the day or night, and often without a thought for the consequences of what they post. This has resulted in many public relations debacles, significant brand damage and costly litigation. While there are no specific laws in SA regulating social media, this does not mean that its use is unregulated. As with any social interaction, the laws of general application apply.

All users should be mindful that what they post amounts to written publication that can make a popular but careless and potentially damaging comment impossible to recall. Employers may face brand damage and possible loss of business, and be liable for content or comments posted on its business accounts. They may also be vicariously liable for posts by their employees on their personal social media pages.