Industry News

Social Media Guidance

03 November 2016

The Government has issued ‘Action Against Hate’* which sets out its programme of actions to tackle hate crime in the UK until May 2020.  A hate crime is defined as ‘any crime that is motivated by hostility on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity’.  It follows an increase in the number of reported incidents of hostility towards EU nationals and other ethnic communities since the Brexit Referendum.  

As part of the Government programme, a public consultation on the CPS Public Policy Statements on Hate Crime was launched on 10 October and will remain open for 13 weeks.  

Guidance has also recently been published by the Crown Prosecution Service on the range of offences for which social media users could face prosecution.  The updated guidance is to help prosecutors to identify and effectively prosecute hate crimes on social media.  

Offences include:

  • virtual mobbing - participation in online harassment campaigns, which is potentially encouraging an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007;
  • doxxing - making personal information available or creating a derogatory hashtag to encourage harassment of victims;
  • baiting - humiliating by labelling as sexually promiscuous;
  • photoshopping images; and 
  • sexting.

There are also new sections on VaWG (violence against women and girls), hate crime and vulnerable victims.

The CPS's clarification of offences for content posted on social media is a good opportunity to remind staff of their obligations set out in your Social Media policy.  In particular, staff should be reminded that the policy extends to use of all social media, even if out of hours, posted on a personal basis or using personal electronic devices.  If staff choose to mention that they are employees of the firm, they should specifically state that their views are personal and they should certainly not comment about any sensitive business-related topics.  Failure to comply with the firm’s social media policy can also breach other of the firm’s policies and is likely to be an internal disciplinary matter.  

Non-compliance may also have more serious consequences, as it could expose the practice to sanction for breach of a legal/statutory obligation (e.g. as the Equality Act 2010 or the Data Protection Act 1998) or for breach of the regulatory obligations in the SRA Handbook, such as compromising independence or not behaving in a way in which the trust of the public is maintained in you or the provision of legal services.

Ian Braithwaite
Client Relationship Manager

T: 0845 056 3949
M: 0743 727 4046

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