We are all aware of the positive and negative uses of social media. Current Inquiries in to non-recent abuse are using social media as a way of making their work known to a wider audience. In fact, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse twitter page (@IICSA_media) has over 1200 followers and the hashtag #CSAInquiry is used widely by those commenting on the Inquiry.
However social media use has also resulted in online bullying and trolling with reports of young people driven to take their own lives due to comments and campaigns on such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Sexting and revenge porn posts, trolling, online blackmail and anonymous abusive posts are a new phenomenon not even contemplated a few years ago. Light hearted comments between friends, always intended to be private, can be hurtful to others who see them inadvertently.
Employers and organisations need to be aware of their policies on the use of social media. While it is unlikely that a ban on the use of social media even outside of a work scenario would be reasonable (or enforceable), the comments and posts of staff are often a matter of concern. Even a seemingly neutral message of support to a suspended colleague, a comment on a recent media article, blog pieces or comment about a celebrity can be seen by unintended audiences with unintended consequences. Victims of abuse can feel re-victimised. Those who have had the courage to come forward can be demoralised. Those who are defending themselves against allegations can feel undermined.
The article or comment could amount to an act of abuse itself. All individuals and organisations need to think about their online presence, their online reputations and the effect their online voice has on the wider community. Organisations should ensure their staff are informed and aware of the consequences of their online actions.
Taking that into a liability forum, organisations need to consider if they are insured against the effects of online posts by staff outside “office hours” or on their own personal webspaces. Staff need to be educated on the need to take care over what they post online. The ability for scammers to use information gleaned online should also be considered carefully before anything is posted to a potentially public forum.
Written by Fintan Canavan, partner