International Laws Governing Social Media

by BirkettsLaw on November 21, 2012

International law governing social media has to adapt constantly in response to the social media revolution. Not since the industrial revolution has the world seen such a radical change in the lives of people and the laws that surround them.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and countless other social media networks, have and will continue to change the World and the way we communicate with each other on a personal and business level. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the international laws governing social media, meaning that breaking the law can be too easy.

Intellectual property and social media in business

So many laws can be broken in an instant and almost by accident as so many people are still unaware of the regulations. A 140 character tweet can change the course of a company in seconds. Company information can be divulged in the press of a button! Intellectual Property law can instantly be broken and the employee can find themselves in a whole load of trouble.

Employees sign contracts that say you should not divulge any information about the company and but it is too easy to tweet or Facebook someone with what is on your mind. The fact that employers prevent employees from using social media at work has done little to prevent these laws being broken and company policy being breached.

The latest mobile technology makes Facebook and Twitter so readily available, a quick hop onto the internet on the way home. You can tell the world about the woes of your day and the latest secret project you have been working on.

There has not been any radical change in the law, but the way social networking and mobile browsing is changing, there will need to be soon!

If there has been something posted by an employee regarding your business then it is well within your right to take action. If your business has posted something that “could cause legal problems itself then it will need to be removed immediately.”1

There could be a view that positive use of logos and names (which used to be copy protected) is now acceptable. In the past using a company’s logo was forbidden without their permission. The same rules applied to use of music on a video you have created. YouTube now do not simply remove your video if it contains a sound track from your favourite artist.

What has been their response? Whilst they reserve the right to take down your video the chances are as long as you are not taking credit for the music and give credit to the original artist your video is safe and so are you from being prosecuted under international copyright law. This is a prime example of laws constantly adapting and evolving in line with the social networks.

The darker side of social networking: Trolling
Social media has caused an explosion in the dark side of life where malicious individuals have taken it upon themselves to cause pain and distress for apparently no reason at all.

There is no doubt that international law is very clear on what deformation of character is and the consequences of it are clear. The issue is that catching individuals who carry out this new fad of ‘trolling’ on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is proving difficult. The question has to be asked is it the responsibility of companies like Facebook Twitter to take a more active role in preventing such instances occurring. Change must occur at a different level as opposed to just setting out news laws, regulations and rules.

There are ethical obligations and principals that are part of the rules and regulations surrounding social media law. Many businesses will create their own “social media policy”2 to include these things and eradicate any ‘trolling’ on their turf.

Social media can have a massive impact on the individuals and companies within. The fact that people can open an account with an email address and then can abuse others is a point that many social network bosses need to look into.

Perhaps it should be made more difficult to open an account? Maybe accounts should be reserved for one person, verified with a telephone number or other ways. The fact is, these giants can do so, they just choose not to.

Will the laws change radically in order to get rid of the ‘dark side’ of social networking? There has been a lot of talk regarding ‘trolls’ and how to stop them recently. Whether there will be a solution any time soon is not something we can speculate on just yet.

International laws governing social media are changing, it can be seen everywhere you look. The USA is cracking down hard on trolls, as is the UK. There is also the changing of policies surrounding the use of social media in business.

Only time will tell whether the new laws will make any difference to those using social media. Many people will find a way to get past a law if they really want to, which is why it must be up to the social networks too.

For more information on social media law visit the Norwich branch of Birketts.



Sally Reynolds of Birketts law helps out the Norwich solicitor company to give advice on different aspects of law.

Previous post:

Next post: