Welcoming guests to Emma Sadleir and Tamsyn de Beer’s launch on Wednesday, Love Books owner Kate Rogan said Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex is the book she’s been waiting for.
As the mother of “digital natives” (as the glossary describes people who grow up with social media) Rogan acknowledged the difficulties of explaining to them the consequences of overstepping the boundaries on social media. She mentioned the example of Paul Chambers, whose story appears in Chapter 2: “If it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen”. He tweeted his frustration with travel delays from an airport in 2010, ending by saying he would “blow the airport sky high”. Two years of lawsuits followed. Rogan described the book as sassy, witty and an enjoyable read, despite the seriousness of the subject matter.
Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex was written by Sadleir and De Beer, two South African lawyers and friends, both of whom have Master of Law degrees from the London School of Economics, specialising in media law. They now do educational work with companies, schools and universities on the responsible use of social media. They consult on defamation, privacy, data protection, revenge porn and online reputation management.
Sadleir noted how dramatically the way we communicate has changed in the last few years. When she was at school (not so long ago) the only way to be heard was to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper: “Nowadays everyone with access to the internet has instant global power”. But people need to understand the laws and the delicate balancing act between freedom of expression versus the right to privacy and dignity, Sadleir said.
De Beer explained that the book contained four key sections. The first deals with the law, privacy and intellectual property. The second is a common sense section, from which they chose the title for the book. One of the examples used here is that of a young woman whose then partner filmed them having sex without her knowledge. Five months later, after they had parted, this sex video appeared on porn-sharing web sites and mentioned her name and the company where she worked. Her only recourse was to change her name. This section also has chapters dealing with online dating and what happens to your information when you die.
The third section concerns social media in the business world and the workplace. Sadleir mentioned the case of a first-year candidate attorney who loaded a photo of her desk on Facebook, showing the pile of work she had. Unfortunately the names of two of the firm’s top clients were visible on the top of the pile. British Airways emerged as an example of a company who sends CVs of all job applicants to a company who specialises in digital clearances. There are serious consequences to breaching your company’s good faith, which extends to its clients and your colleagues as well. Sadleir cited the case of a woman who was involved in a road accident and loaded three photos on Facebook with the caption, “F*****g K****r Taxi …”. She happened to work for a prominent company and was fired by 10 AM. Another casualty was the woman who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Only kidding, I’m white.” She was met by a hostile “lynch mob” at Cape Town International Airport.
The fourth section deals with children. Parents are often too quick to give their children powerful communication devices without the tools to keep them safe. De Beer mentioned the dangers of cyber-bullying and how anonymity allows a greater degree of malice, which is permanent and inescapable. It is also much more public and has led to children committing suicide. This section also mentions “sexting”, where children as young as nine are sending nude pictures to each other. The law regards this as pornography and a 17-year-old was recently convicted for doing this. The reputational harm this causes cannot be undone, the authors pointed out.
There are new laws coming into effect, such as the Protection from Harassment Act, which can provide some online protection, and sites like justdelete.me give step-by-step instructions about how to delete online content. However, the authors advise that anything posted online should be treated “like a tattoo”. There is no “untweet” button. There is the potential for anything to go viral. In the digital age, everyone is a celebrity and every potential employer is Googling you. “Apply the billboard test”, Sadleir said. “If you don’t want everything you post online to be seen on a billboard on the side of the highway, don’t post it.” As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says, “Privacy is no longer a social norm.”
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