Lawyer urges our Chester networking group to think before they tweet!

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A Chester solicitors' firm which specialises in social media cases paid a visit to our Chester Women’s Network yesterday to urge individuals to think before they tweet.

Leanne Wheeler, a Senior Solicitor at Manleys Solicitors which has offices in Chester and London, presented in front of more than 20 business women about the legal dangers of posting online.

SAFE SURFING: Leanne Wheeler, Senior Solicitor at Manleys Solicitors in Chester, spoke at the Chester Women’s Network about libel law as it applies to social media. Pictured from left to right are Leanne, Beth Clerkin, Founder of Your Money Penny, Lisa Rowe, Business Development and Programme Manager at the University of Chester and Kate Smith, Director of Watkins Smith (NW) Ltd.

The hour long presentation took place at the Chester Fields Pub and Restaurant at Chester Road, Chester, where businesses were also given the opportunity to network amongst themselves.

Twitter has soared in popularity over recent years providing an essential tool for businesses to engage with each other and grow connections.

Without exercising common sense, however, people have found themselves on the wrong side of the law with Manleys Solicitors witnessing an increase in cases involving blogging, twitter and other social media sites.

Manleys advises individuals and businesses as well as celebrities and large sporting organisations about all aspects of media law and litigation.

The Chester Women’s Network was launched in January by Ellis & Co in partnership with NatWest.

Leanne said: “Commenting on Twitter and Facebook is not the same as having a good gossip with your friends.

“People think it’s just like talking down the pub or gossiping at your local play ground, it’s not, this is real life and it’s the real world – what you say online can dramatically change your life for the worse if you find yourself being arrested for menacing tweets or if you are sued for libel. 

“It’s not just celebrities that need to know the dangers of social media. It could be you!”

Leanne highlighted the following Twitter tips during the seminar:

  • Protect Data- don’t reveal personal data about another person without consent and do not name victims of rape and sexual assault as this is likely to be contempt and is a criminal offence.
  • Do not breach your work’s Social Media Policy. Leanne also reiterated the importance of companies creating their own social media and IT policies, which would also protect the company’s intellectual property rights.
  • Think very carefully before ridiculing others, if you go too far you could face a libel claim.
  • Don’t stalk others on Twitter- two or more tweets could be considered harassment.
  • Be careful when promoting your products / services to ensure you don’t breach advertising and marketing regulations.
  • Be yourself- do not open a fake twitter account- misleading or an untrue representation as to a person’s identity on twitter could amount to fraud. Leanne highlighted how anonymity does not exist online, even if you create a different identity.
  • Pause before venting anger- A tweet could amount to assault if a person to whom it was directed believes that physical harm is imminent.
  • Do not whine or complain as you could easily fall into the defamation trap. Leanne stressed the importance of stating opinions rather than making bold statements of fact.
  • Don’t copy – laws of copyright make it illegal to reproduce work of another person without consent.
  • Don’t use a competing brand as a hash tag this will minimise the risk of brand confusions and trademark infringement.

Claire Tinston, Marketing Manager at Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, said: “Leanne’s presentation gave us all a superb insight into media law and the legal pitfalls associated with social media.

“Privacy settings on social media are changing all the time and there are always new rules governing what might be deemed inappropriate to say online and so it’s more important than ever to be vigilante and to stop and think before sending out a reckless tweet.”

NatWest’s Relationship Manager Johanna Holehouse added: “We were pleased to welcome so many new comers to this week’s network and we would be delighted to hear from any business woman in the area who would like to get involved or even volunteer to take part in one of our speaker slots in future.”