When social media turns anti-social

Professor Mark Pearson says social media is still a new medium and can be easily misused and abused

A Griffith University academic is urging bloggers, tweeters and Facebook users to pause before they post or publish on social media.

Professor Mark Pearson (Journalism and Social Media) will discuss the ramifications of social media at a free public presentation, Social Media — Risks and Rewards, at the Ship Inn, Brisbane’s South Bank, on Tuesday, August 27, from 4.30pm-6.30pm.

“New cases of social media misuse arise almost every day,” Professor Pearson said. “It is still a relatively new medium, one that can easily be abused and misused through factors such as ignorance, complacency, spite andthe influence of alcohol or drugs.

“The best advice is to pause before you post or publish. Consider what you are saying, ponder the effect of any blog, tweet or post and be aware of the potential legal consequences of your actions.”

As schools, students and teachers prove particularly vulnerable to the misuse of social media, Professor Pearson said inappropriate activity via resources such as Twitter and Facebook would continue as the technology matured.

Major concerns for schools include cyber-bullying and trolling, hacking of school websites and staff social media accounts, defamation of principals, cases of online sexual predators and the suspension of students and dismissal of staff for inappropriate conduct.

But the news isn’t all bleak, with many positive stories emanating from successful learning experiences using social media, the effective use of blogging for serious opinion and discussion and students using social mediato support troubled friends.

In his 2012 book, Blogging & Tweeting Without Getting Sued, Professor Pearson wrote that every blog or tweet could be subject to the laws of more than 600 nations, provinces, states and territories in relationtofree speech, reputation and defamation, criminal behaviour, privacy, official secrets, national security, copyright and false advertising.

“Your work is subject to laws wherever it is downloaded. You are a publisher whenever you post something … subject to the same laws as the big media businesses,” he said.

While Professor Pearson’s presentation will focus on some of the legal dimensions of social media, as an advocate of free expression he hoped governments did not rush into strict new laws while the technology was still developing.

RSVP by August 20 to [email protected]