A guest article by Alia Haley. You too can be part of this great knowledge sharing community. Take a look at our guest blogging guidelines.
Social media has become the de facto medium to air and receive opinion-both the public and polity. To facilitate its use and prevent abuse effective policies are required. Some of these are already being formulated. One such bouquet of policies is being readied by the US government.
Social media, commonly associated with Web2.0 technology, allows for content to be generated by individuals or communities for interaction and perhaps collaboration. Policies are expected to be framed by companies –public and private governing the use of community platforms within their organizations. In particular focus are the companies providing social media services spanning various geographies. But formulation of such policies or their procedures is easier said than done. A lot of parameters need to be taken into account failing which chaos and misuse might prevail. Ultimately it will be left to the judicial systems to define and operate such policy. The executive and the public may have to rush to the judiciary for resolution of disputes. Why? Because some of the policy may just touch the basic rights enshrined in constitution for individual citizen rights-like privacy, freedom of expression, right to dissent (though peacefully) etc.
From the side of enforcers of law, that is, the police have to make sure that policy provides clarity and accountability. This policy needs to be precisely worded and mention the functions and concerns of law enforcers. It also needs to be tailored to regional requirements.
Law enforcement agencies and social media experts have arrived at a consensus on the points to be considered while formulation such a policy. These points are elucidated below.
What should the policy cover?
Determine the range of this policy. Determine who, which and in what form can be covered. Accuracy on the reach of this policy is vital for its implementation.
How should it apply to official and personal use?
The policy should list the sites authorized to be accessed by employees/employers during work hours. Further some features of allowable websites may be disabled (Ex: chat service). Further, personal content posted by staff even while not on duty needs to be regulated. This is because any potentially valuable message may innocently slip out in social media. This may be used by anti-social elements, attorney defending criminals or business rivals. This could lead to issues for the organization and the individual concerned including loss of credibility, integrity and even employee job status.
What is its role vis a vis existing policies?
There are existing policies that do handle issues related to social media pretty well. This policy could strengthen them further. At the same time there are other policies beset with loopholes. These have been successfully exploited to nullify any strong execution of the policy. The new policy needs to address this concern.
Furthermore, requesting or retaining individual data and or monitoring needs to conform to laws already enacted by various law making agencies. So a balance needs to be maintained as well.
An effective policy that seeks to keep all sections of the public, employees, employers and law enforcers on an even keel is required. This policy should not give leeway to one and penalize the other. It should also be broad based to help its implementation in different places and circumstances. Finally it should also be futuristic to take into account the changes in this dynamic world of social media.