Twitter legal guidance: what you can and cannot say on Twitter

Posted on 27/02/2019 by Team Hallam

Businesses need to know their responsibilities when it comes to social media. Learn how your business can comply with the appropriate legislation.

Twitter legal guidance

Businesses are rightly worried about their employees’ legal and ethical use of Twitter. If one of your employees tweets something offensive or defamatory, then your firm could be liable.

It may be oversimplifying, but tweeting is just another form of communication, and a business has the exact same responsibilities as say writing a letter or sending an email.

From Elon Musk at risk of contempt of court for a tweet violating the terms of a settlement to the courts using Twitter emojis as evidence in court cases, you and your employees face a variety of risks using Twitter.

Twitter legal guidance:  top 10 risks

I am no solicitor, but I’m happy to share with you some simple but effective ways in which you can ensure your staff, and your business, make best efforts to ensure you are complying with the law and the top 10 risks you face.

Businesses, like individuals, need to know their responsibilities when it comes to social media. Here are 10 of the riskiest areas when it comes to tweeting:

  1. Breach of copyright tweets: copying the work of another without consent
  2. Trademark infringement tweets: creating confusion or false association with another brand
  3. Defamatory tweets: causing hatred, ridicule or contempt
  4. Harassing tweets: causing alarm or distress
  5. Malicious tweets: damaging another business
  6. Menacing tweets:  causing fear or apprehension
  7. Deceptive tweets: containing false information
  8. Threatening tweets: intending to cause harm or intimidation

Have a social media acceptable use policy

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ensure your business has a social media acceptable use policy that forms part of your company handbook.

Provide your employees with social media training, and ensure you have a culture where it is obvious and the norm to stay on the right side of the law. Hootsuite has produced an excellent guide to creating social media guidelines and Econsultancy have shared some real-world social media policies and guidelines. There are a number of collections of social media guidelines that you can take a look at, but my favourite version may be slightly out of date, but belongs to TNT. Here is an extract from their excellent set of guidelines – you can download the full PDF document by clicking here.

TNT Social Media Guidelines

Complying with the CAP Code

The UK Advertising Codes lay down rules for advertisers, agencies and media owners to follow, and these also apply to social media.

You can see a full copy of the CAP Code here, but in brief, it stipulates your tweets must:

  • be legal, decent, honest and truthful.
  • be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society.
  • respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business.
  • not mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration or otherwise

Don’t forget consumer protection from unfair trading regulations 2008

In particular, these regulations provide guidelines in relation to the payment for editorial content to specifically promote a brand, product, or service within a social media environment. You can learn more here.

As an example, if you are paying for a celebrity to promote your products via Twitter, then they must identify the tweet as paid-for using the #ad hashtag.

Read more at IAB – ISBA Guidelines on the Payment for Editorial Content to Promote Brands within Social Media

We have written previously practical tips for complying with the regulations, and here are some of our favourite tips:

In the online marketing world, banned activities for businesses include:

  • writing fake reviews on sites like TripAdvisor or Google Plus
  • creating fake blogs
  • asking questions on Q&A sites, and then answering the question yourself
  • editing Wikipedia entries under a false identity
  • imitating a consumer
  • falsely advertising on social media sites

What happens when things go wrong…

First, you may want to take a look at Twitter’s own Legal FAQ’s to consider when your Twitter account is named in a legal request, for example, if tweets that may have content that violates laws to do with defamation, illegal activity, or national security.

Get legal advice if you are unsure.

If you need help with your social media don't hesitate to contact us.

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Twitter legal guidance: what you can and cannot say on Twitter

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