Social media and ‘know-it-all’ vigilantes

What is it about social media and vigilantes? They think they can say and do what they please behind a computer screen, irrespective of the consequences or impact upon others.

Free speech comes at a price, even over the Internet and social media. Speak out in the wrong way and the laws of defamation, plus other torts such as breach of confidentiality, privacy and data protection can seriously land anyone in court. Including you.

This week I was horrified to read a post on Facebook from a young mother.

Obviously distraught, she was ranting and raving over a group of bullies who had attacked her 8-year old son physically whilst at school.

But, how she then reacted was unforgivable. In her anger, she decided to post photographs of her son's injuries to a Facebook local community group with 18,000 members. Plus, the photographs of the alleged bullies involved, all minors under 10 years old.

Then the shame. Other Facebook group members publicly endorsed her actions. They criticised the school and police for not taking the bullying seriously. Not one of them challenged her about exposing other minors to potential harm.

All know-it-all vigilantes. Adults that should have known better. Well intended in their sympathies for the mother. But, appallingly naive and misled on the child protection implications of identifying youngsters online, bullies or not!

GDPR and Parental Consent

Just this week I've been working with the smart guys at Perpetuum Training and the Practice Managers Association on GDPR - the General Data Protection Regulation. The GDPR puts additional obligations on companies to obtain the express consent of parents when processing a child's personal data. A child defined under the new law is anyone 13 years old and under.

Whilst one distraught mother isn't the same as an organisation, the sentiments remain the same. Act as accuser, judge and jury on social media at your peril. You deserve all you get when the reality and enormity of what you do hits home.

I messaged the mother privately on Facebook and explained my concerns. I also alerted the legal team at Facebook. They have a duty to make sure all users abide by the company's community standards. We all agree to abide by these standards when we sign up to the Facebook.

As for the mother? She took down the offending material immediately. But, the damage had already been done!