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Legal guidelines for social media users

This topic contains 1 reply, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Tebogo Boroto 2 years ago.

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  • #34080

    sylvia hammond

    Skills-universe is “social media” – that is like more well known big brothers: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  So anything posted on skills-universe needs to be carefully considered in the same way.

    Any postings are actually “published” and so employees need to consider what they say about their employer, and potential employees or young people starting out on their careers need to consider the image that they portray.

    Postings also fall under the same legal constraints as print media – so members should be careful not to say anything that they wouldn’t have said in public or that could be seen as hate speech or defamation against another person.

    Skills-universe reserves the right to immediately delete any content which comes to our attention that we deem inappropriate.  All members are requested to immediately bring to our attention any content that they feel may be inappropriate.

    The following explanation of the legal implications of posting inappropriate content is an extract from an article first published on


    Defamation can be defined as the wrongful, intentional publication of words or behaviour in relation to another person which has the effect of injuring his status, good name or reputation.

    Our courts have recently set a new legal precedent after it granted a Facebook user an interdict preventing a friend from posting about his personal life on the platform after she defamed him thereon.

    In another case a woman was awarded R40,000 in damages after claiming that her former husband and his new wife were bad-mouthing her on Facebook. The judge found that although the former husband was not the author of the postings, he was tagged in and knew about them and allowed his name to be coupled with that of his new wife thus creating liability jointly with the author of the postings.

    Hate Speech

    Hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is prohibited because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, race, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.

    Although freedom of expression is a constitutional right, it is not an absolute right. If what you say, or publish via social media platforms, has a negative impact on the rights of another, then your right to freedom of expression may be limited.


    Disciplinary action, including dismissal for social media conduct have increased drastically over the past few years often following on the heel of comments made or posted on social media sites by employees. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) have dealt with several of these cases where the dismissal was found to be fair based on the evidence garnered from the social media sites.

    Some of the grounds for dismissals have included derogatory Facebook status updates, an employee criticising management, criticising the employer, employees using social media to convey internal matters of the business to former employees, etc.

    Take note

    What should you take note of when using social media to avoid legal or disciplinary action arising from your conduct on these social platforms?

    • The most common defence against defamation is that the publication was true and in the public interest. Make sure about your facts before posting anything and ensure that you can back your comments with substantiating evidence and factual information. Accordingly, making a comment about a friend on a matter that is not in public interest could be defamatory even if it is true.
    • Regularly check your social media profiles to ensure that your name is not being linked to defamatory statements of others.
    • Do not post anything which could be regarded as incitement to cause harm based on race, religion, ethnic background, gender, sexual preference etc.
    • Adhere to the social media strategy and policies of your workplace. Find out what these are, and if these are not in place, keep the following guidelines in mind:
      • Keep posts legal, ethical and respectful.
      • Do not engage in online activities which could harm the reputation of the company.
      • Do not disclose any confidential or business information of the company.
      • Do not discuss colleagues, managers or information pertaining to the company.

    A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you would be willing to say something out loud in a room full of people or colleagues. If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t consider posting it on social media.”

    The original article was written by Nanette Janse van Rensburg, Associate, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys: Commercial Department and published on  

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  • #34083

    Deon Binneman

    Whilst these guidelines are excellent, it also imposes a responsibility on the Employer to write and desin social media policies and ensuring that these are well communicated to staff using internal communication tools.

    A social media policy outlines for employees the corporate guidelines or principles of communicating in the online world.  Do you need an explicit social media policy? We’ll outline steps to make that decision, as well as what to include and how to implement the new policy.

    Writing a Social Media Policy: Deciding When to Create a Social Media Policy

    A social media policy can be a company’s first line of defense to mitigate risk for both employer and employee.  You may already have a confidentiality agreement but it might not be enough. Adding a few lines in the employee handbook to clarify that the confidentiality agreement covers employee interactions on social media sites might suffice.  But it is advised to create a separate social media policy to have something specific on file and accessible to employees and that they are aware of the policies existence.

    Jason Falls, a social media strategist at Social Media Explorer LLC in Louisville, Kentucky, thinks companies should have several social media policies.  “Part of the problem is that social media policy is a misnomer,” Falls says.  “It’s more than just telling employees what they can and cannot do on company computers.” 

    Here is a list of some social media policies Falls suggests companies should consider creating:

    •    Employee Code of Conduct for Online Communications
    •    Employee Code of Conduct for Company Representation in Online Communications
    •    Employee Blogging Disclosure Policy
    •    Employee Facebook Usage Policy
    •    Employee Personal Blog Policy
    •    Employee Personal Social Network Policy
    •    Employee Personal Twitter Policy
    •    Employee LinkedIn Policy
    •    Corporate Blogging Policy
    •    Corporate Blog Use Policy
    •    Corporate Blog Post Approval Process
    •    Corporate Blog Commenting Policy
    •    Corporate Facebook Brand Page Usage Policy
    •    Corporate Facebook Public Comment/Messaging Policy
    •    Corporate Twitter Account Policy
    •    Corporate YouTube Policy
    •    Corporate YouTube Public Comment Policy
    •    Company Password Policy

    “While it may seem frivolous to spell out policies for every social network, that’s not quite the point,” Falls says.  “Different networks have different implications for different companies.”

    There are two approaches to creating a social media policy.  You can write one complete social media policy that addresses all currently available social mediums.  Or you can write polices as you need them.  For example, if your company doesn’t have a social media presence on YouTube you may not need to address YouTube and video usage.  But as your business expands you add a YouTube policy later.

    “I’d say there are two broad reasons for having a social media set of guidelines for every company: crisis management or brand opportunity,” says Mario Sundar, community evangelist at LinkedIn.  “Social media may be a huge opportunity for your employees to help build your company’s brand, but let’s not forget that there also exists a tremendous risk for individual employees to inadvertently damage the company’s brand and by defining a set of guidelines you help mitigate that risk.”

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  • #34082

    sylvia hammond

    Thank you Deon – a most useful posting and I do agree that companies must have electronic media policies.  Maybe each one of those items could be a section within a greater policy – lots of work for consultants.

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  • #34081

    Tebogo Boroto

    Good afternoon all

    I do understand and appreciate all what is shared, the challenge with what Deon shared is that it will end there with the company whereas the new act is much broader. It goes beyond company policies as it involves outside stakeholders like: sheriff of the court, the police and the magistrate. All I am trying to say is that the complainant will lay a harassment charge at the court of law and the sheriff with the help of the police with deliver that restraining order.

    That is why I mention that this is much bigger. People are going to have to prove why that temporal restraining ordrer shouldn’t be made permanent.

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