The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, will shortly be publishing guidance for Twitter users outlining what is permitted, and not permitted, when it comes to tweeting about high profile court cases. He aims to make online users comply with the law, and by raising awareness make it more difficult for those who commit contempt of court to use ignorance as a mitigating factor.
Twitter users may be unwittingly flouting the law, or deliberately skating very close to the wind, without knowing the legal consequences.
Greive sets the context, “I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law and make sure cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online.”
He may be opening a real Pandora’s Box with this, but it does serve as a timely reminder for business owners to review their own Twitter policy, and provide legal guidance for your staff in order to stay on the right side of the law.
Twitter Legal Guidance: Protecting Your Business
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.
Businesses, like individuals, need to know their responsibilities when it comes to social media.
Have a Social Media Acceptable Use Policy
Your Social Media Policy will form part of your company handbook, and provides a safe framework for your team to confidently use social media knowing what you expect from them as an employee.
There are a number of collections of social media guidelines that you can take a look at, but my favourite version belongs to TNT.
Here is an extract from their excellent set of guidelines – you can download the full PDF document by clicking here.
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.
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.
We have written previously with 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
And there’s more, I’m sure
I’ve picked out a few of the areas that I know will be relevant to most small business owners, but I’m sure there are more issues for you to consider.
Get legal advice if you are unsure – or give us a ring if you want to have an informal chat.