When tweets become twibels … Tayside employers must face up to the social media challenge

The recent Jack Monroe v Katie Hopkins libel action highlighted once again the legal minefield surrounding the use of social media.

The English courts awarded food blogger Jack Monroe £24,000 damages, plus legal costs, after controversial columnist Katie Hopkins fired off two tweets suggesting Ms Monroe approved of defacing a war memorial.

Although the law is different in Scotland, there are important lessons to be learned for businesses north of the border.

Alan Matthew, partner at Tayside-based solicitors Miller Hendry, said: “Correctly used, social media can bring enormous business benefits – enhancing your brand, boosting your profile and even winning new customers. But irresponsible use can have far-reaching consequences, ruining careers and even lives.

“Controlling social media content is a huge issue for business. It’s a fast-moving arena and often posts, tweets, retweets and comments are the subject of instant decision-making. When careful reflection isn’t part of the equation, it’s not surprising that it can lead to problems. It is important that social media policies are kept under constant review and that everyone understands the boundaries they are operating within, through both the company’s marketing strategy and their terms of employment.

“Staff could also learn from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service’s social media prosecution policy which is available online. It makes for useful reading, even for those who think themselves experts.”

Mr Matthew also advises companies to have a good crisis management plan in place, adding: “If the worst happens and a mistake is made, then everyone knows what to do if something inappropriate has been posted. Taking swift action with a public retraction is a good start and will demonstrate a willingness to tackle the problem.”

For further advice or information on employment law or other legal issues, visit www.millerhendry.co.uk