Legal Risks when using Social Media

Social media offers the opportunity for people to gather in online communities of shared interest and create, share or consume content. With the enhanced features provided by Web 2.0 and social media tools in general, breaking laws on the internet has become easier than before. Social Media tools are now essential tools we use to communicate amongst one another every day. Previously in this blog, the benefits and risks of social media were elaborated on. With this said, organizations and businesses must be aware of the benefits and risks that come with utilizing social media tools. Such risks include legal risks that are associated with the incorrect use of the tools by people that are either uneducated about the policies or ignorant. For example, in the workplace, when employees use social media and expose themselves in a bad mannered way, they may give their employers a bad image.  Other ways that legal risks are implicated are through trademark infringement, privacy, copyright, loss of confidential information, defamation, and nevertheless risk of reputation. Therefore it is significant to establish a social media policy in order to educate employees and guide them on how they can use social media tools with proper manner in the workplace.

The example that will be used today is Telstra. Telstra has a policy called Telstra’s 3 Rs of Social Media Engagement which applies to all employees of Telstra and anyone notified of the policy. The policy applies to all Telstra owned Australian subsidiaries. According to Telstra, their  3 Rs Policy of  Social Media Engagement are:

  • Representation
  • Responsibility
  • Respect

These 3 Rs apply when using social media tools such as Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, and Friendster. Additionally, they apply to micro-blogging sites, video and photo sharing sites, blogs, forums, and online encyclopaedias. Telstra has made a clear document to reveal its policy to ensure their employees abide by it.



Social Media Policy must provide information that is relevant and can be accepted but also list a clear code of conduct while highlighting penalties or punishment if the policies are not abided. It is essential for organizations to enforce these policies in order to educate their employees and reveal the consequences that may arise if the employees fail to comply. Moreover, organizations and businesses may choose to restrict some social media tools and generally strengthen their security methods to reduce the risks of security breach.


Telstra 3 Rs



4 thoughts on “Legal Risks when using Social Media

Add yours

  1. Does the policy cover the punishments of not complying with the policies? I’m not sure about the legal state of expulsion from the work force in Australia for failing to follow social media policy so I would be interested to see how they word it. Your thoughts?


    1. The policy does cover the punishments that may follow. In particular, their policy does highlight the threat of terminating an employees contract depending on the extent of their misconduct. My thoughts are also aligned with the fact that depending on the extent of the misconduct created by employees, the punishment can then be handed.

  2. Having a social media strategy is important, I guess for telstra more than other companies. Social Media is great, but when a companies reputation is on the line, you need strict rules for all employees to follow. Good article by the way !

    1. Cheers for that Christian. I was a bit familiar with Telstra so I felt I definitely had to use them as an example. You are very right on that. Cheers again!

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