Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Social Media Policy

The Diocese of Lichfield have just issued the following Social Media Policy, which contains some very good, sensible advice which makes sense for everyone to follow:

What is social media?
Social Media, in this policy, refers to all online communication in a public space, from blogging to Twitter and Facebook. Engagement through a computer or smartphone screen should not change our understanding of confidentiality, responsibility, good manners and Christian witness.

Public Domain
The law views anything shared online as being in the public domain. Sharing thoughts and reflections with friends using social media or email might feel personal and private; but if more than one person can access what we have written, it is highly likely that the law would class it as "published". It is subject to the law touching libel, copyright, freedom of information and data protection. If we wouldn't say something in the local newspapers we shouldn't say it online.

Anything said on the Web can be assumed to be permanent. Even if we delete a comment made on a website, it could still have already been seen by other people, re-published, or had a screenshot picture taken. It is easy to say something in the heat of the moment that we regret later, but it could remain permanently online for all to see.

It is absolutely not safe to assume anything electronic is secure.  Privacy settings on social media tools might mean comments going only to accepted "friends" or "followers" but there is no guarantee that they will not pass (repost) them outside trusted circles.

Social media can pose a risk to confidentiality and be intrusive. Social media does not change our fundamental understanding about confidentiality in the life of the Church. When telling a story about a situation which involves someone else, it is always useful to pose the question "Is this MY story to tell?" 

Furthermore, we should ask if the story is likely to cause distress, inconvenience, upset or embarrassment to others if they discovered it had been shared in this way. If in any doubt at all, it should not be shared online.

If we are clergy, youth leaders or church employees, anything we do or say in the public domain will be interpreted by the public as representative of attitudes and behaviour in the Church. Controversial, hasty or insensitive comments can quickly attract the attention of the media. In the web environment, the person pressing the keys is ultimately responsible for their own online activities, but they can tar a lot of others with their own brush in the eyes of the media. News providers are always on the watch for gritty church-related stories via social media.

Keep a clear separation between personal and corporate accounts. If you tweet as yourself, mark the account clearly as “my own views” so there is no suggestion your opinions represent a wider church or organisation. If you tweet from an account representing a church or organisation, then make sure you avoid expressing personal opinions. Any account which carries the logo, address or website of a church or organisation should be seen as a corporate account and only speak for that organisation.

Take care with external links. When you link to material, check out the website you are linking to – is its overall focus one you are happy to publicise and promote?

Real-time Relationships
Interactions in the virtual world need to be transparent. Healthy boundaries and practices must be adhered to just as they should be in the physical world. In the virtual world, “friend” or “follower” can mean anyone with whom you are willing to communicate through that medium. In the physical world, friend can mean much more in terms of intimacy, self-disclosure, mutuality and expectations for relationship. 

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