I’ve recently been to two social media events, one in London full of the great and beautiful of social media and one in the more regional Bournemouth. Both included sessions by legal firms giving talks on the legal issues of social media. Neither had many answers. Social media has many pitfalls, for brands, for employees or just the general public. This is the first of three posts to explore where we stand with social media. This first covers criminal law and the Crown Prosecution’s perspective on social media (in the UK). Next time we’ll look at what the Advertising Standards Authority says for brands and then a look at social media policy’s for brands.
How The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) Views Social Media (Initial assessment)
“12. Communications sent via social media are capable of amounting offences and prosecutors should make an initial assessment of the content of the communication and the course of conduct in question so as to distinguish between:
(1) Communications which may constitute credible threats of violence to the person or damage to property.
(2) Communications which specifically target an individual or individuals and which may constitute harassment or stalking within the meaning of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 or which may constitute other offences, such as blackmail.
(3) Communications which may amount to a breach of a court order.
This can include offences under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 or section 5 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. All such cases should be referred to the Attorney General, and via the Principal Legal Advisor’s team where necessary.
(4) Communications which do not fall into any of the categories above and fall to be considered separately (see below): i.e. those which may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.
13. As a general approach, cases falling within paragraphs 12 (1), (2) or (3) should be prosecuted robustly where they satisfy the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Whereas cases which fall within paragraph 12(4) will be subject to a high threshold and in many cases a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest.
14. Having identified which of the categories set out in paragraph 12 the communication and the course of conduct in question falls into, prosecutors should follow the approach set out under the relevant heading.”
If social media is your job then I can’t recommend enough that you read the whole document here.