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Unofficial Aus Govt Social Media Handbook - Legal considerations

Page history last edited by Jen Calipari 12 years, 8 months ago

Important notice and disclaimer
This Social Media Handbook is not officially endorsed by the Australian Government. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government or any other individuals or organisations.


Sections: Home - Overview - Blogs - ICT requirements - Content and brand administration - Administration process - Legal considerationsMonitoring Summary of Government guidelines - Open data - Media sharing sites - Tips - Exit strategies - Future work




Examples of content that breaches moderation guidelines (as provided by DOHA Legal Services Branch) 

DOHA Legal Services Branch has provided the following examples to assist moderators in assessing content for blog posting.  The examples are not exhaustive and are provided for illustrative purposes only.  If the moderator is uncertain as to the legality of a particular blog post they should seek further advice from their legal advisers.


Defamatory comments 

Any comment that wrongfully or unfairly attacks a person’s reputation or is likely to bring that person into disrepute or ridicule in the minds of ordinary reasonable people, may be defamatory. Examples may include:

  • A blog comment claims that a Minister or politician is corrupt
  • A video or photo showing a person in a derogatory or humiliating situation, which may cause contempt or ridicule of that person
  • A comment that a certain drug company or pharmaceutical product is hazardous or fatal – this may defame a company’s reputation
  • A comment concerning a person that may be false or misleading, malicious or otherwise intended to cause that person harm or detriment
  • A complaint in relation to a particular doctor or health practitioner could be defamatory.  Note the doctor or health practitioner does not need to be named in the complaint to be defamed.  They must be sufficiently identified.  e.g ‘I am seeing a nephrologist in Canberra who has no idea what he is doing’ may still be defamatory if there is only one practising nephrologist in Canberra because noting that Teleseryenephrologist’s location sufficiently identifies them in this example.


Comments that may infringe copyright or intellectual property rights 

The following are examples where there is potential for a breach of copyright or I.P to occur:

  • Comments or material that includes video, music or photography
  • Comments that include trademarks, product names or logos 
  • Material that has been ‘cut and pasted’ from other websites (where identifiable)


Comments that may breach privacy 

Personal information cannot be disclosed except in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988.  Personal information means information or an opinion (including information or an opinion forming part of a database) whether true or not about individual whose identity is apparent or reasonably can be identified from that information or opinion.


The following are examples where personal information may be disclosed:

  • comments that include the full names, email addresses, private addresses or phone numbers 
  • comments about a service provider/person/entity from a very remote geographical area


Comments that may contain overtly party political comment 

The following are examples where comments may contain overtly party political comment:

  • comments referring to candidates, fundraisers, support for political parties, the policy launch of a political party


Comments which may breach discrimination and human rights legislation 

  • Generally any adverse/negative/disparaging comments made about a person’s age, disability, race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, sex, sexual preference, religion, political beliefs should be treated with caution.
  • It is unlawful to insult, humiliate, offend or intimidate another person or group in public on the basis of their race.


Comments which may otherwise be inappropriate/unlawful 

  • Comments that incite others to commit a crime.
  • Comments that included information about current legal proceedings (ie. Cases in the courts, 'sub judice').


The Australian Government Solicitor's office can give you advice. See their presentation http://www.ags.gov.au/news/Media_and_Communications_Forum_Slides_2010.pdf.


Comments (2)

David Bromage said

at 1:35 am on Jul 22, 2010

Add that Australian Government blogs/wikis/etc and comments on them are Commonwealth records under the Archives Act 1983.

Michael Harris said

at 2:16 am on Jul 22, 2010

That's a good point. Is there any advice you know of which has been written on the subject which could be included or linked to?

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