Conference Tweeting – Legal issues to consider

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In an age where conferences attendees can be paid or have their attendance free if they Tweet the conference,  there are a few considerations when it comes to making what amounts to a public statement about or from a conference or event.  Social media can be a fantastic marketing tool, but you need to be aware of the legal implications. When one attendee to a recent conference announced to organizers that they intended to Tweet, they received a warning, specifically, to avoid disclosure of the names of any other conference participants in any tweets. The organizer explained that some participants prefer anonymity.  When in doubt, check the event organisers terms and conditions or ask the event media contact to be sure of your rights and any possible restrictions.

Since the introduction of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code), Twitter users need to be more aware of their actions.
This goes for their actions on any social media application, but has some interesting points now that Tweeting from meetings, conferences and events is now widespread.  Tweets can gather pace and have affects far beyond those few 140 charaters – witness the Twitter and YouTube affect during theArab Spring Revolution.

The CAP Code now applies to websites, Facebook and Twitter and says, amongst other things, that advertising should be;  legal, decent, honest and truthful,   respect the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business and not mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration or otherwise.

Absolutely don’t make any defamatory, racist or sexist statements.  At least two people have faced claims for libel or slander after making comments about another person on Twitter. Remember, that your Tweets can end up on third party websites.  A university student was jailed for 56 days for posting racially offensive comments on Twitter.

Importantly for participants of conferences, Tweets are considered public property so don’t disclose confidential information and do not tweet anything likely to be protected by copyright or any other intellectual property right. Tweets can end up being published in other media, including newspapers, and may be credited to you. So don’t write anything in a tweet which you would not want to read in a newspaper with your name attributed – even replies to individual tweets or re-tweets are still public statements.
As a business employee, be careful your views are seen as yours and not those of the company you work for.  The Press Complaints Commission found in one case regarding an employee, that tweets are public property this was not an invasion of a persons privacy if used elsewhere.

The last most surprising warning comes where – court documents can be served on you via your twitter account.  In a case where a twitter poster was impersonating someone else, there was no easy way of identifying the impersonator, so the court allowed court papers to be served on the Twitter account. and the UK High Court has also allowed court proceedings to be served via Facebook where the defendant’s postal address was uncertain.

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