“No Idea It Was Illegal” Tina Malone Case a Reminder to All Internet Users
The internet and online world has radically changed the way we communicate and share information. We now have access to a staggering amount of information in an instant – you can simply open a web browser and find a thousand different websites bursting with news stories, facts and figures. Furthermore, it is also incredibly easy to share information with others through social media, messaging apps and email. Although this influx of information can be highly beneficial, it also has many potential negative consequences.
One particular area of concern is regarding posting information about another person(s). When sharing information relating to another person online you must take extreme caution. There have been numerous examples where people have caused trouble due to what they have posted on social media.
Perhaps the most recent high profile example is how actress Tina Malone revealed the identity of convicted murderer Jon Venables – this was a breach of an anonymity order and could have resulted in a prison sentence. There are many other examples and it is reported that cases of online defamation have increased by a huge percentage in the last few years. It is important that you understand the ethics and potential hazards of sharing information online, therefore, we have provided a series of pointers to enlighten you on this subject:
Privacy is Not Likely On The Internet
The internet is awash with potential security threats. There is a vast amount of hackers and cybercriminals who look to steal your information and use it for nefarious means. You may think that the information you are sharing is secure, but you have no guarantee that it will remain out of harms reach. Emails can be intercepted, web browsers can be monitored, and even your chat apps can be hacked. When sharing information online, be wary of the potential security threats and ensure you use data encryption where possible.
You never know who is reading what you post
We often forget that information can be viewed and shared in a matter of seconds on the internet. If you create a social media post for example unless you set the privacy status to private, anyone can view what you have written. In less than 10 minutes your post could have been viewed and shared thousands of times with anyone around the world. Chances are that somewhere, someone could take offence at what you say even if what you have written is completely harmless. When making social media posts, consider setting a limited privacy so that you know exactly who can view what you have shared.
Personal text can be open to misinterpretation
Another common mistake people make when sharing information online is that they assume everyone else will understand what they mean. Just because you understand the tone and purpose of what you have written, it does not mean that everyone else will! What you consider to be humorous for example, someone else could consider offensive. Read what you have written and consider if it could be misconstrued – if you think it could, don’t post it!
Information Could Land Others in Trouble
This pointer holds particularly true when sharing photos or personal stories. When creating a post online including other people, consider how that post could affect them. Let’s say for example that you share a photo of a night out you enjoyed with your friends – you may like that photo, but you do not know if your friends want it sharing, or what consequences sharing said photo could have. Before sharing photos and information concerning other people, always try to obtain permission first, or consider any potential negative consequences.
You could be unwittingly breaking the law
As with the Tina Malone/Jon Venables case, sharing information online could potentially break the law. Tina made a post on Twitter and without knowing, broke an anonymity order that was in place to protect the identity of Venables. When sharing sensitive information online you could potentially be charged with defamation, slander or even violate court orders. These cases are rare, but extreme caution must be taken when writing anything online in relation to the legal system and criminal cases.
Your content will be publically visible for a long period of time
Traditional forms of media and information sharing could be classed as disposable – when we have finished reading them, they are generally thrown away. This does not hold true for online content. Online content remains online and visible until it is deleted or archived. For example – if you make a post on Facebook, that post will remain visible indefinitely unless your account is deleted or the post itself is deleted. This level of persistence means that something you wrote 5 years ago could still be visible today. Because of this fact, it is extremely important to think about what you write and share as you never know when it could return to haunt you!
As you can see, sharing information online is not as simple as you may have first thought. It is advisable to exercise caution and a little self-restraint when creating social media posts and emails. There is simply no guarantee that what you have shared is safe, or that it won’t cause problems. Think about what you are sharing – how could it be interpreted? Is it affecting anyone’s privacy? Is it breaking any laws? Don’t simply post your thoughts and feelings for the whole world to see without any prior consideration – the consequences could be severe.