In the world of social media many of the rules that govern the media, also apply to you, writes Daily Voice editor Taariq Halim.
Cape Town – Social media can be a dangerous thing, and should be treated with caution.
People need to realise that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram 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.
“Sharing” is publishing. Once you click “post” it’s in the public domain.
If you are using Facebook, you are essentially a publisher, a journalist or editor.
And many of the rules that govern the media, also apply to you.
Lots of people have clicked and burnt their fingers, thinking they could get away with posting racist or defamatory statements on social media.
Ask Penny Sparrow, who called black beach-goers 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 irresponsible remarks can do untold damage to your reputation and career.
It’s no joke.
There are a hundred and one no-no’s when it comes to social media.
Every person who uses social media ought to have some basic knowledge of journalism and the South African press code.
But since Facebook doesn’t offer any kind of training, here are a few helpful 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Do not publish racist or hate speech.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 bliksem him”. But it also 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.
Do not defame. If you’ve got a personal or professional gripe with someone, don’t think you can trash them on Facebook.
For instance, calling a married man a cheater, 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 defame a business, they could claim for loss of earnings.
Do not distribute child pornography. This issue came up recently, after a teenage bully from Cape Town 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) involved in crime.
Do not identify rape victims without their permission.
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 hero police officer 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 recently.
It’s a minefield online, isn’t it?
Safe surfing, people.
– Daily Voice