The last few festive seasons have also seen social media commentators churn out their top Twitter and Facebook fails from the past 12 months, giving those not involved a light-hearted look back at some of most talked-about online PR disasters.
But while an embarrassing social media clanger is damaging to your brand’s reputation, there are even more serious repercussions out there for those ignorant of the fact that media law applies to social platform content.
Yesterday, the attorney general Dominic Grieve QC announced that he would begin publishing advisory notices in an effort to curb the number of prejudicial comments made by irresponsible or ignorant use of social media.
The Contempt of Court Act 1981 prohibits conduct that interferes with the course of justice, including the publication of information, both in print or online, that may hamper legal proceedings, sway the views of jurors or infringe on a court order.
As the use of social media rises, so too have instances of contempt of court stemming from online comment, such as the storm around super-injunctions to the likes of Sally Bercow and Peaches Geldof revealing the identity of people granted anonymity in court.
The latter explained her actions in a subsequent apology, stating she thought the names of two mothers whose children were abused by Ian Watkins were public knowledge. But failing to know or understand the law surrounding published content on a court case, whether in print or online, is no defence.
The advisory notices, which give cautionary advice in relation to current news stories, have previously been provided to media sources to guide safe editorial content.
Qualified, experienced journalists are fully trained in media law, and reporting on live court proceedings is something every junior adheres to when learning the ropes in the newsroom – an experience the wider public simply does not and will never have.
Now the previously not-for-publication guidelines will be made available to the public via the attorney general website and Twitter page, with ten notices having been issued already in 2013 – a dramatic increase from the average of five per year.
Mr Grieve said: “In days gone by, it was only the mainstream media that had the opportunity to bring information relating to a court case to such a large group of people that it could put a court case at risk. That is no longer the case, and is why I have decided to publish the advisories that I have previously only issued to the media.
“This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media; quite the opposite in fact, it’s designed to help facilitate commentary in a lawful way. I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online.”
The measures illustrate how vitally important it is for everyone, from social media novices to social media account executives, to fully understand the potential pitfalls of the Twitter landscape.
Only by taking expert advice and remaining up to date with the latest best practice guidelines can you avoid reaching the top of 2014’s run-down of social media blunders.