Review: Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex (and Other Legal Advice for the Age of Social Media) by Emma Sadleir and Tamsyn de Beer

There are, literally, 43 million articles on the internet about how to safely and professionally use social media, and many more about ‘jokes’, pranks and gags gone wrong. To the tune of dismissal from jobs, court cases and even jail time.

This isn’t one of those.

This is also not a traditional book review of the abovementioned title, in which you’ll find a lot of very useful facts and information relating to:

  1. The legal concepts linked to social media
  2. The real meaning of free speech
  3. What ‘privacy’ actually entitles you to
  4. The Protection of State Information Bill
  5. Sex, dating, drunkenness, parody and death
  6. Employment and recruitment in the digital age
  7. Keeping your digitally savvy kids safe online

So, what is this review about? Well, it’s a summary of the stuff we found in this brilliant little book that we didn’t know before, and that you might not know. Let’s get started:

  1. Even if you didn’t write something yourself, once you share it in any way you step into the shoes of a publisher and can be held liable for that content.

  2. If you’re in South Africa, you tweet something defamatory about someone in India, and your USA-based followers read it, that tweet is potentially actionable in all three countries. Yikes. That’s a world of hurt right there.

  3. Free speech isn’t the right to say whatever you want. Not in SA, anyway. Section 16 of our Constitution – which is very different to the USA’s First Amendment – applies restrictions to what we can and can’t publicly say.

  4. You probably didn’t read the privacy policies when you signed up for Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, so you don’t know exactly how much of your private data they can use, and for what purpose. Also, these policies regularly change, and you need to examine those changes closely.

  5. You can’t help yourself to ‘free’ or freely available content online and then do whatever you want with it. Like images for your personal blog, for example. People can and do get prosecuted for this. Read the fine print. Every time.

  6. More and more companies conduct ‘social media audits’ of your online profile when you apply for a job there. So don’t be nasty or silly when you’re online.

  7. Equally, don’t be bullied into giving prospective or new employers access to your social media login details. This is not necessarily legal and your consent may not be freely or voluntarily given (‘cos the company has power over you).

  8. There is no such thing as anonymity anymore. Regularly Google yourself. Also, sign up for Google Alerts using your name as the keyword (use the ‘as it happens’ setting, not the weekly or digest option) and see what comes up.

Bottom line? The digital world is an exciting place. But it brings with it a host of legal, professional and reputational risks – none of which you can afford to run. Don’t bury your head in the virtual sand. It’s very hard to breathe in there.