Social media can be a dangerous thing, and should be treated with caution.

People need to realise that Twitter and Facebook are not just fun and games.

They have become popular media platforms – like newspapers, radio, TV and websites – and are used by millions of people.

“Posting” or “sharing” is the same as publishing. It’s public domain.

If you are using Facebook on your smartphone, you are essentially a publisher, a journalist or editor.

And many of the rules that govern the media, also apply to you.

Lots of mense have seen their gat, thinking they can post racist or defamatory statements on social media.

Ask Penny Sparrow, who called black people monkeys, or Liam Christian Ferreira who made a call to “burn the mosques”.

They may have thought they were just having a private laugh on their cellphones.

But their irresponsible remarks have done untold damage to their reputations and even their careers.

There are a hundred and one no-no’s when it comes to social media.

Munier reckons every person who uses social media should have some basic knowledge of journalism.

But since Facebook doesn’t offer any kind of training, here are a few useful guidelines:

Do not publish racist or hate speech. The one danger here is that your online “friends” can share your posts, someone might take offence and the next thing you know, you’ve been exposed as a racist.

It could go a step further where you are reported to the Human Rights Commission, or even end up in the Equality Court on charges of crimen injuria. If found guilty, you could be handed a hefty fine or jail time.

Do not incite violence. This relates to comments like “let’s all go to Mr X and moer him”. But it even applies to songs. Remember when Julius Malema was found guilty of hate speech in 2010 for singing “shoot the Boer”? Juju was ordered to apologise and fined R50 000. Seriaas.

Do not defame. If you’ve got a personal or professional gripe with someone, don’t think you can trash them on Facebook.

For example, calling a married man a joller, calling a neighbour a drug dealer, or your boss a racist – without proof – is asking for trouble.

You could be sued for defamation of character.

If you diss a business, they could claim for loss of earnings.

Do not distribute child pornography. This issue came up this week, after a teenage bully shared a video on Facebook of her underage friends having sex.

The police warned that anyone “sharing” the video could be prosecuted for distribution of child porn.

Do not reveal the names and faces of minors (under-18s) involving crime, and rape victims; you are also not allowed to identify a criminal suspect until they have been charged in court; and think twice before announcing someone’s death before the deceased’s family has been informed. There’s nothing worse than finding out your loved one is dead on someone else’s timeline.

Beware of “fake news”. There’s lots of BS out there.

Just last week, the Daily Voice came across a picture on Facebook of a cop holding a baby who had apparently been abandoned at a Nyanga taxi rank. Upon investigation, it turned out nobody at SAPS or the taxi rank knew anything about it.

Do yourself a favour: check to see if there are any reputable sources of information in the story, or if it’s a webpage you’ve heard of before. If it turns out to be fake, do not share!

Be extra careful when doing business or donating money on social media. There are hundreds of cons, like the “poor mom and hungry kids” scam that was exposed in the Daily Voice this week.

And finally, keep an eye on your kids’ online activities. There’s plenty of sharks, sickos and stalkers out there.

Yoh, it’s a minefield online, isn’t it?

Anyway, take care mense and safe surfing.

Categories: Education News