A social media account is an excellent way for your charity or not for profit (NFP) to reach a larger audience and get your message out there. However, as an organisation, using social media properly and lawfully is important, You need to make sure you manage your social media presence well. This article provides an overview of some of the issues for charities and NFPs using social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Delegation

First, as an organisation, you will have people who are responsible for conducting different activities. Therefore, from a risk management perspective, it is important to identify who will be responsible for managing your social media accounts, including:

  • who will be the person in charge of the accounts;
  • whether an employee will be managing the accounts as part of their role; and
  • who will make the final call on decisions concerning the accounts.

Issues to Think About When You Sign Up

Once you know who is managing the account, you then need to think about some preliminary issues before signing up. Often, the terms and conditions you sign up to for these accounts cannot be negotiated, but you still need to be familiar with your obligations and potential liabilities under them. In particular, you should pay attention to:

  • prohibited conduct under the social media terms and conditions;
  • whether you can block the use of profanities on your page; and
  • what you can customise in your privacy settings.

Copyright

Charities and NFPs using social media may want to use creative media from other people, including inspirational quotes, photographs or artworks. If you are going to use creative works, you need to comply with copyright law. Broadly, you need to make sure that if you are using someone else’s creative work, that:

  • you have contacted the creator and asked them for permission to use the work in the manner that you intend; and
  • you acknowledge the copyright owner of the work.

Privacy

Generally, Australian Privacy Principles (APP) apply to charities and NFPs, as they may be considered ‘APP entities’. An APP entity has to comply with the APPs. Generally, to comply with the APPs, you may have to draft a privacy policy for your charity. This privacy policy details how you treat any ‘sensitive’ or ‘personal’ information you use, collect or store, including through your social media account or social media activities.

Defamation

If you publish information about any third party on your social media account, you need to aware of defamation laws. Defamation applies when something you publish about a person causes other reasonable members of society to think less of that person.

Furthermore, if you publish information about another business, your organisation may need to be aware of the tort of injurious falsehood. Injurious falsehood occurs if you or your business say something which causes actual damage to another business’ reputation or commercial success.

Writing a Social Media Policy

Finally, charities and NFPs using social media should develop a policy for staff using those accounts. The policy may cover issues like:

  • when statements may be considered defamatory;
  • acceptable activity on your organisation’s accounts;
  • guidelines for drafting posts on behalf of your organisation;
  • how to deal with trolls;
  • guidelines for contacting other social media users;
  • authorised and unauthorised behaviour by other users on your account; and
  • guidelines for using other people’s material, including contacting authors for permission to use copyrighted material.

You may also consider drafting a social media policy for followers, or people who engage with your accounts online. In particular, a social media policy is useful in setting out the kind of conduct or statements that are prohibited on your platforms, and your rights to edit or delete commentary that breaches the policy.  

Key Takeaways

Charities and NFPs using social media are taking advantage of an effective tool to increase your organisation’s audience. However, there are a number of legal issues of which you should be aware before you jump online. Ultimately, you should:

  • put a committee or staff member in charge of your social media accounts;
  • carefully check the terms and conditions of the social media platform and have appropriate security settings;
  • comply with the APPs;
  • draft and implement a social media policy;
  • get permission to use copyrighted material; and
  • be aware of defamation laws when publishing material about third parties.

If you need assistance with drafting a social media policy, privacy policy or navigating copyright laws, contact LegalVision’s charity lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Sam Auty
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