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Essay: Are laws needed for social media?

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  • Subject area(s): Law essays
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  • Published: 1 March 2022*
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  • Tags: Social media essays

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Social media is an online, virtual platform in which the members of society communicate with each other and share their daily life’s and includes any platform where social interaction is made . It broadens and redefines friendships and relations throughout the world and makes communicating faster, quicker and easier while being able to stay anonymous.

However, this online platform can be abused by the same members of society which can cause a belligerent environment. Laws are rules that give the society rights and duties to fulfil, it shows what can be done and what cannot be done.

The question arising combining these two is whether laws need to be applied to Social Media or new laws need to be made for Social Media. Why there is a need for laws for social media, are there already laws regulating Social Media and how have they been used in issues or cases?

Why would laws be needed for social media?

Internet access broadened with applications that are useable everywhere by mobile phone and social media law and regulations have been evolving with rapid global adoption . There is a fair amount of reasons why laws are needed for the social media such as promoting fake news, this has been especially an issue involving news about terrorism and politics, hate speech or extremism, if there will not be any rules on how much there can be expressed on social media the promotions on politics can turn to being terroristic and can persuade hate towards a certain public. There are all kinds of different issues revolving around social media which is why it needs to be regulated the same way the daily life of the society has to be regulated to maintain a peaceful and positive community . Social media interaction can be required during a case for example, tweets create a legal record of communication and behaviour these tweets are receiving increasing attention from lawyers in cases as defamation .

With internet access broadening, another problem arising is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a form of cyber harassment on online platforms, most of these users write comments or post blogs offending other users. This has led to cases where the user that gets cyberbullied ends in depression and then takes his or her own life. This has been an issue especially within the adolescent’s ages, where teens still try to find who they are and what they want to be .

In addition, offending words have been an issue throughout the use of social media. Some offensive words that include religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation are being deleted immediately by the online platforms themselves, but this does not cover all offending words . It is difficult to assess what is offending and what not as everyone has a different mind and opinion. Often other solutions will be given to stop interacting with comments if it has not been assessed as offending towards the community, blocking the user is an easy and fast way if the user feels offended by the other user.

Lastly, there have been some issues revolving around privacy. Celebrity’s or online influencers share their whole life through social media to let their followers know what they like, what they do and how their lifestyle looks like. However, some followers or haters tent to invade their privacy by searching, stalking and sharing the address of their houses, by finding out schedules these celebs or influencers have and stalking them to the locations to take pictures or videos. It is still hard to tell whether the right to privacy of celebrity’s and influencers should be limited as they amount to the public interest . This does not change the fact of being stalked and harassed but courts can rule that the story afterwards is in the interest of the public. Cases including privacy issues have been increasing over the past five years, with at least one court case a week in front of the UK judges from which at least one out of the five are celebrity’s, politicians or public figures . For example, when Kate, the duchess of Cambridge, was photographed by paparazzi topless while being on a holiday, the French court ruled in their favour stating that it is not enough to wonder what the Royalty do to justify their invasion of privacy .

There have been various opinions about how these cases are being used against paparazzi and news reporters as some find that public figures this way control what will be shared about them and whatnot, whereas others find that it is invading their privacy.

There are more issues within the Social Media and its usage however, it can be concluded that in there would be a need for laws for Social Media to keep the community in peace.

Are there already laws that give the basis of how users should act on Social Media? Or is everyone free to do whatever? The general rule is that what is illegal offline is illegal online. The Crown Prosecution Service set out when certain types of potential criminal communications will be prosecuted, these have been set out in its special guidelines for cases involving communication through social media.

Furthermore, revenge pornography, sharing private sexual materials of another to take revenge to cause distress is something that is made very easy with the broadened internet access. Recently, revenge pornography has been added to the Criminal Justice and Courts act 2015 section 3an making it an official criminal offence.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is an act to restate the law of copyright with amendments, to make fresh provisions as to the rights of performers and others in performances and to confer a design right in original designs.

Copyright influences all Social Media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are Copyright. Copyright protects your work and prevents others from using it without your permission .

When youtubers use music in their video’s they have to mention in the information box who the song belongs to, this is because the CDPA protects persons who create original ideas or designs, this includes videos taken by others being shared and pictures being used by others, there will be a mention regarding the original owner of the video or an username for the picture.

Every platform has its own rules which are stated under their policies or guidelines which they disclose to their users and ask to read and accept them when setting up an account. Usually online platforms do this to protect its users and make them aware of the rules within their community, if a user goes against these rules the user can be blocked and deleted. For example, Instagram has their community guidelines where their rules are set out including where they raise the copyright issue stating ‘Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share ‘ . The guidelines include that they follow the law and therefore do not support any kind of racism, discrimination or any behavior going against the law.

Nevertheless, deleting offending comments or pictures is something that is still hard to do as users on online platforms are anonymous, one can pretend to be someone whereas they are someone else and therefore it is hard to say to what extend some rules are being applied and are useful.

However, there are certain ways in how online trolls are being regulated, there is the Malicious Communications Act 1988 which sets out the provisions for the punishment of those who send or deliver letters or other articles intending to cause distress or anxiety. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 protecting users that are being stalked on- and offline, specifically as stated in the act itself: ‘An Act to make provision for protecting persons from harassment and similar conduct’. Together with the Communications Act 2003 which sets out provisions on the regulation of electric communication networks and services and their use, under section 127 it sets out when a person is guilty of improper use of the online network.

When videos or pictures have sensitive contents, they tend to have a warning by the platform itself (not in the video). This gives users the option to see what they want and protects them from harsh content. It gives a peace on the online community which is being used by different ages and different minds.

In addition to that, age has also been a concern for Social Media. To set up accounts on certain social media platforms the age restriction is a minimum of thirteen years old or you need parental approval. The reason behind this is because not all social environments are healthy for children and adolescents .

Lastly, the Defamation Act of 2013, this act is to protect one being falsely accused and having serious harm from it towards their image and future. There are many rules towards defamation, there has to be serious harm towards the reputation of the claimant or if it is towards a body of profit it has to cause or is likely to cause serious financial loss . In the society now, members share their opinions about politics, economics and celebrities through social media platforms, these opinions differ from good to bad. The Defamation Act 2013 that is being used in the United Kingdom protects users from being falsely accused which can lead to having serious losses in the future. This is especially the case within society’s that are stricter for example in Korea where such an act would be useful as artists are being accused of using drugs and end up quitting their job, even if such an accusation is not true . The importance of, for public body’s or well know public images, having a defamation act is therefore great it allows to proof that one is falsely accused by going through the provisions within the act.

This concludes that Social Media indeed already has certain laws regarding to how it should be used. There are numbers of more laws which apply to social media such as the Data Protection Act 2018, however only a certain number of laws are discussed above. Besides having actual laws, most platforms have their general and unique rules and state that users need to comply with the laws. To what extend are these rules or acts useful is a difficult question which will be dealt by in the next topic.

There have been certain cases and issues about the laws that are currently in force for Social Media, some of these are listed below.

A recent issue that has been occurring about copyright has been the directive of article 11 and 13 within the European Union they focus on limiting copyrighted contents publication through online platforms. There have been miscellaneous opinions about Article 13 stating that online platforms should filter or remove copyrighted contents, including pictures that are being used by all users as ‘memes’ .

19 states of the European Union have voted for the directive, but this did not close the issue, the Polish Prime Minister announced a court case against the directive will be held expressing on twitter that this Article will go against the Freedom of Expression. Individual member states will have two years to apply the new rules within their national laws if the case does not change anything.

R v Paul Chambers has been a famous case including the Communications Act, where Chambers tweeted that he was going to blow up the airport and this was considered ‘menacing’. Chambers had to pay a certain amount of money and was fired from his job after this incident, which already gives an example at how Social Media influences the daily life. However, after certain appeals and judges looking at the case, the Communication act was broadened by concluding “a message which does not create fear or apprehension in those to whom it is communicated, or who may reasonably be expected to see it, falls outside this provision “.


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