Seven expensive words on Twitter

By DAVID BOYES
 

bercCLUMSY Tweeting by a prominent member of society in the United Kingdom has resulted in a legal decision against her, a heavy financial penalty and a warning to everyone that social interaction can sometimes come at an extremely high price.

The decision by the High Court in London that a message put out by Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, was libellous merely reinforces my longstanding view that the days of the internet and social platforms being regarded as “non-mainstream” are well and truly gone.

And, along with other legal verdicts on both sides of the Atlantic, it should set alarm bells ringing among individuals and companies who use Twitter, Facebook, et al, or are considering entering the social media space for the first time.

It is my contention that as soon as any individual or organisation sets up a website or social presence, they have entered the publishing or broadcasting business.

As such, they need to know the rules of “the game”.  This is at the nub of the trouble that Bercow and others – prominent and not so prominent – have run into.

Individuals, companies and employees who have no experience of the laws of libel, defamation, copyright infringement and contempt of court cannot, as a rule, even begin to grapple with the dos and don’ts of public communication.

Without expert assistance, they may be heading for a fall, the scale of which would probably only feature in their nightmares.

Until recently, I’ve felt as though I have been shouting into a cave, as I have attempted to persuade prospective clients of my company to be cautious about what they communicate or allow to be communicated in their name (by employees or outside agencies).

My concern comes from a lifetime in newspaper journalism which ingrained in me a professional commitment to check and double-check information in advance of publication in order to avoid exposing the publishers to legal dangers, either criminal or civil.

But now some rather expensive chickens are starting to home to roost.

The upshot of the Sally Bercow ruling – which centred on just seven words and some punctuation – means she will have to pay a substantial sum of money to Conservative Party politician Lord McAlpine, who she wrongly linked to the sexual abuse of children at a care home.

The original allegation of misconduct had been made in a TV news programme by the BBC, who later paid McAlpine £180,000 ($280,000) in damages.

Amid widespread and fevered speculation about the identity of the abuser, Bercow, who had denied libel, waded into the Twittersphere and asked: “Why is Lord McAlpine trending. *innocent face*.”

That was enough to land her in court – and leave her looking at a large bill after the court ruling.

‘A warning to all social media users’

She had previously made two offers of out-of-court compensation to McAlpine that were rejected by him. So it’s clear that the undisclosed, agreed damages were higher than she had hoped.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Bercow said she had learned her lesson “the hard way”, adding that the ruling should be seen as “a warning to all social media users” because comments could sometimes be “held to be seriously defamatory, even when you do not intend them to be defamatory and do not make any express accusation”.

In court, her legal team had argued that the phrase “innocent face” was merely an indication that the tweet should be read in a deadpan manner, comparable to stage directions or notation on a musical score.

But Lord McAlpine’s lawyer stingingly responded that only “a moron in a hurry” or an “anchorite in a sealed cave” would have been unfamiliar with the context in which the tweet was published.

Individuals can only learn from this event as best they can. However, corporate organisations using social interaction – whether that’s by way of a blog, a Twitter account or through Facebook or LinkedIn – may need to draw on expert advice to ensure that they communicate “cleanly”.

Social media is now falling under the gaze of governments, legislative bodies, regulators … and lawyers.

Its advent has been akin to that of the Industrial Revolution or rotary press. But, in the UK at least, the law has finally caught up.

Messages and updates (in words, photographs, drawings or film) on Twitter, Facebook and all the other popular platforms are regarded as published material.

Interestingly, in the McAlpine case, his lawyers urged people other than Bercow who named him on Twitter to come forward so they “can reach a settlement” – i.e pay him compensation.

Ominously, the lawyers added: “We know who you are.” They also revealed that “specialist firms” had recorded each offending post and the authors would be tracked down if necessary.

The McAlpine case involved civil law but analogous scenarios have played out in criminal courts too.

A professional football (soccer) player in Wales was convicted in court of rape but nine people named the victim on Twitter, which is illegal. They pleaded guilty to publishing material likely to lead members of the public to identify the complainant in a rape case and were ordered to pay damages to the woman.

And two men who on Facebook posted apparently up-to-date photographs of the two killers of a two-year-old boy, in violation of an injunction protecting their identities, were given suspended prison sentences.

The murderers, who were 10 years old at the time of the crime, were given new “lives” to protect them from possibly vigilante harm after the completion of their custodial sentences.

The Facebook users acted in contravention of a global ban on the publication of anything revealing the identities of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were released in 2001.

The injunction prohibits the publication of any images or information claiming to identify or locate the pair – even if it is not actually them. The order also covers material published on the internet.

‘The spoken word has become
the published word’

Clive Coleman, the BBC’s legal correspondent, has said of the current social media scene: “Conversations that once would have only taken place in the street or the pub have moved online. The spoken word has become the published word.

“In short, we are all publishers now. Anything tapped into a PC or phone can rapidly go viral and cause real damage to the administration of justice.

“The internet may have seemed, at its birth, like a new unregulated frontier beyond the reach of the law. It isn’t, and anyone posting material in relation to matters concerning the justice system should be aware that between mind and keyboard lies the law.”

Already in the United States, there have been legal deals in the wake of malicious or errant social media messaging,Courtney Love most notably that involving rock star Courtney Love who, in 2011, had to pay $430,000 to settle a lawsuit brought against her by fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir, who claims she was defamed in a series of messages posted on Twitter.

In all the cases detailed here, the size of the audience who viewed the messages exacerbated the misdeed.
“Publish and be damned,” was the cry of the Duke of Wellington in 1824.

That sentiment resonates to this day, and it applies to all us publishers, large and small.

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

How to post a PDF to Facebook

By DAVID BOYES

Facebook logo, blue background, white "F"HAVE you ever tried – and failed– to upload a PDF file to share on Facebook, either on your profile or business page?

If, like me, you have , fear not. There is a solution. Or rather, there are a number of solutions.

The reason PDFs cannot be posted to Facebook is because of their  format (Portable Document Format), which is not supported by the social sharing site.

Ordinarily, the  document should uploaded to a different online location, such as a website, from where the link can be shared.

But what if you don’t have a website? Well, if you have the right software, you can convert it to a JPEG or PNG – which are compatible with Facebook – and then share that with your friends or fans. But that can be fiddly and the results are sometimes less than professional in appearance.

A quick search on the web will offer up numerous other alternative ways to overcome this this annoying little problem, but the simplest solution I have found is to sign up to Scribd.

Scribd is a digital documents library that allows users to publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents in various languages.

It’s easy to subscribe to Scribd and easy to share from from your account. Just copy the link from your document, paste it into your Facebook post (this will create a thumbnail too) and share. Easy!

The video below will show you how to post a PDF document to your Facebook page/wall so you can share it with your friends, even if you do not have a website.

Read the WordMediaCo blog for other social media tips and tricks.

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

How to create a Facebook Page and why

By DAVID BOYES

FACEBOOK business pages can be a useful tool to aid corporate profile-building but many organisations remain confused about how to create a Business Page and why.

Many companies are making the mistake of promoting themselves through Facebook profiles (personal accounts), either deliberately or by mistake.

In the former case, they are aware of Business Pages but have opted not to establish one for any number of reasons. In the latter case, they just don’t know Business Pages exist and that they are fundamentally different from personal profiles.

Facebook logo, blue background, white "F"Whatever the reason, there is a danger that a company’s Facebook activity could come to an abrupt halt if they fail to follow the rules of this particular social media game.

It has been widely reported that Facebook have started scrutinising accounts and are deactivating businesses that are not adhering to protocol.

In this blog post, we will look at the principles of Facebook Business, or Fan, Pages and how they can be used to best effect.

[Read more...]
©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Create a website that works – eight key ingredients

Hand draws with chalk on chalkboard, website layout, design, words stating "slider", "text", create a website tha works: eight key ingredients

The best-laid plans: make sure you have a clear idea before embarking on the design process
 
By DAVID BOYES

HOW to create a business website that WORKS is a tough trick to pull off.

The problem is that many organisations make a mess of website content and they become blinded by over-fussy functionality.

Whether it’s an all-singing, all-dancing e-commerce mega-production or a simple brochure design, [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Get some emoji mojo on iOS

By DAVID BOYES

A NUMBER of my friends want to get some emoji mojo but they have experienced problems activating the feature on their iPhones.

So I’ve hastily put together a short, but perfectly formed, blog post to show you how to activate and use these colourful little characters within messages on your iOS device.

To those who have been living in a cave for the past few years, emojis are fun little pictures, [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co

Seven Twitter tips for business

Man with megaphone standing on chair in street shouting. Twitter. Social media. Business. Blog.

Big noise: Twitter can amplify the impact of blog posts better than Facebook or LinkedIn

By DAVID BOYES

TWITTER has the power to supercharge corporate message delivery in ways that other social media platforms just cannot match.

Yet many businesses use it only sparingly or not at all – a behavioural trait I put down to three factors: prejudice, a preoccupation with the over-hyped pulling power of its “big brother” Facebook and a desire to “lean into” LinkedIn’s “credibility” limelight.

Anti-Twitter sentiment frequently runs deeper than just the widespread dislike of the 140-character restriction on message size. Twitter is regularly criticised for being “boring”, “irrelevant”, “banal” or “not for business”.

Granted, Facebook is the “big beast” of social media, with more than a billion [Read more...]

©WordMediaCo Ltd. If you wish to reproduce or translate this article, you may do so, provided you add the following credit: This article was written by David Boyes. He is a media consultant and trainer who empowers businesses to use social media more strategically. For more information visit: http://www.wordmedia.co