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November 1, 2011

Nearly two thirds of UK social media users not aware of legal rights: report

Over half of them do not consider if their tweet could be in breach of the law

By CBR Staff Writer

Nearly two thirds (63%) of online users in the UK claim to have little or no awareness of their legal rights and responsibilities when posting comment on social media websites, according to new report by law firm DLA Piper.

The report found that despite recent high profile cases on the use and abuse of social media, over half of Twitter users (52%) do not consider if their tweet could be in breach of the law before they send it.

The research, carried out online by YouGov, said whilst there has been an increase in awareness levels since 2008, the number of people still unclear on the law remains staggeringly high though social media has rapidly grown over the last three years.

The research found that the number of respondents that have posted a comment on a social media outlet has grown since 2008, from 54% to 67% in 2011, while an increase was seen in the number of people blogging, from 7% in 2008 to 11% today.

According to the report, Facebook is the most popular social media outlet with 61% of users having posted a comment on the site, while Twitter comes in second, with 20% of people having tweeted.

The report also found that only 6% of respondents stated that they have had a comment taken down, compared to 14% in 2008, indicating a possible decline in the level of moderation of social media outlets.

On being asked if they thought that users should be held to the same standards as journalists on a number of different social media outlets, just over a third of respondents (37%) agreed, with significantly fewer 18-24 year olds, just 20%, holding this opinion.

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Most people do believe that dedicated laws and clearer guidance need to be introduced, with 69% of people agreed that there is a need for special legal guidelines for users of social media.

DLA Piper’s Intellectual Property & Technology Group digital media law partner and author of the report Duncan Calow said social media has evolved dramatically over the last three years; however their research indicates that users’ awareness of the law has not.

"Social media is ultimately about individuals and we can see that younger generations especially, display a more laissez-faire attitude towards the policing of social media. However, recent events such as the ‘troll’ prosecutions, this summer’s riots and celebrity Twitter scandals may have begun to challenge this perception that the online environment is – or indeed should be – free of regulation," he said.

"Those events, and this survey, suggest that there is a need for change, however the question is how far this should come in the shape of specific regulation and legislation, and how far it needs a change of attitude and greater emphasis on responsibility and self-control online," Calow added. "In essence is it the "social", or the "media", in "social media" that we need to fix?"

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