Has your School been ‘Tagged’?

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3 Key Questions School Social Media Administrators need to ask before responding to online adverse posts?

It is not uncommon for Schools to have a social media profile to let parents, friends, committees and alumni know about school events, capture moments of school celebrations creating another mode of communication to disseminate information relating to school activities.

However, the presence of a social media account also allows students, parents and external persons associated to a school to ‘tag’ School social media accounts. Fortunately, there is an ability to set privacy settings to control posts and tags to School social media accounts and allows tailored control of these accounts by School social media administrators. However, this only solves part of the problem.

When School social media accounts are involved or tagged in social media posts, it is often construed that the publication has some connection or is affiliated to the School.  Often school social media administrators will ignore a post/tag, as people have learned that taking issue with a publication may well afford it more visibility than when it is simply left alone. Unfortunately, there are some publications where leaving it alone may exacerbate the issue, and further action is therefore required.

A robust social media policy is needed for administrators (or controllers) of school social media profiles.  These policies allow school administrators to control its social media presence and importantly, reduce risk.

We provide 3 key questions School administrator/s of a school social media account need to consider before responding to a post/‘tag’ on social media:

  1. Is the post/tag enough to cause an everyday person to think less of the School?

Defamation is a real concern for schools that have been tagged to posts that are defamatory in nature, mainly as there is a risk of these posts being perceived to be the views of the tagged School.  Therefore, any responses to defamatory posts must be carefully crafted to place distance between the post/tag and a school and to ensure that the views of a school are made clear, even online.  Gone are the days of schools remaining inactive and/or silent on defamatory posts that have the potential to damage the credibility of a schools reputation.

If the post or tag is to something that is non-contentious, attempts should be made to negotiate the school tag being removed.

  1. Is there a risk of this post remaining publicly visible?

Is the tag/post likely to be taken seriously and does it have an effect of offending persons, like committees and/or groups or future parents to the school?

If the post has the possibility of being taken seriously (like a post by a former staff or disgruntled parent), depending on the content of the post/tag, efforts should be made to obtain its removal. We do recommend that legal advice be sought immediately regarding the post and possible reputational damage it could have to the School. Inaction or a lack of response by a school could lead to a public perception that there is some merit to the post/tag.

  1. What if a negative post/tag goes viral?

In a media world that allows post/tags to be re-tweeted and re-posted, negative news has a propensity to travel faster and wider, regardless of whether there is merit to a post. A key point to remember on viral posts relating to Schools is to have one considered response and then cease post engagement.  Viral threads invite a number of responses to a post, we do not recommend multiple-posting of responses engaging commentators. One response post should be made, carefully crafted and directed to the author of the post. Consideration should be made on tone of response. They should ideally recognise the issue and convey empathy where necessary, without admitting liability or providing an invitation to visit the conversation further. A worst case scenario for an online response is a continuous expressed defence of your position in multi-posts, which is likely to add ‘fuel to the flame’.

We recommend good social media policies for School administrators explaining why a policy is important, detail expectations, detail consequences of a breach and detail responses to adverse comments online.

We also recommend Schools conduct training sessions on social media policies to increase awareness and educate staff.  Online negative publication about a School cannot be avoided but having a plan for a response is a best way to diffuse adverse publication.

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For more information regarding Responding to Adverse Online Publication

Please contact our Business Development Team or call us on (07) 3252 0011 to book an appointment with one of our specialist Education Lawyers today.

Author: Matthew Shearing Edited: Heilala Tabete