Repent at leisure

BECTU has developed a Digital/Social Media Users’ Code of Practice.

Members and officials began with the legal advice of our solicitors – which resulted in a really long version – and brought it to the BECTU Communications Committee which worked on revising it into a more sensible two pages. The NEC then discussed it gave it a final tweak.

It is now ready to be circulated to all our reps and is now available on the BECTU website.

The opening paragraphs of the Code of Practice state some home truths: digital/social media is a great way to communicate with members, to facilitate communication among members and to reach out to non-members.

Especially our freelance and short-term contract workers find it part of their professional kit to show off their skills and contact potential employers.

Many of us like the social aspect, as more and more often we work at least partially from home.

“We need to use social/digital media to get our stories out”

But conversations on the net are not like conversations that take place in your home, down the pub or in the coffee shop.

Discussions, arguments, jokes or blow-ups here can last for ever and can be searched for and found years later. (And given what Edward Snowden revealed about the US and the UK metadata gathering programmes might find you on government lists now.)

They can sit like a bad meal in your stomach refusing to be digested and finding their own way back. Or they can be the bright ideas that find another context and lead others to the debates about what it means to work in the creative industries.

So whether it is for your personal, professional or union business, following a code of practice that shows respect, patience and care for our fellows is a professional way to engage in digital/social media.

And remember that no service or site accessed via the net is really private or confidential.

There is always more to learn on these issues and an article in The Guardian pointed me to an interesting documentary film: Terms and Conditions May Apply by Cullan Hoback.

I downloaded a copy from ITunes (first time for a film – I’m more an ITunes music, Amazon book person and TV/cinema watcher). Like many of us, I find it really hard not to partake of the services offered by these mega companies.

I have a Facebook page (strictly for 30 close friends and not professional at all), a Linkedin page (hardly ever accessed) and am on Twitter (five tweets in 10 months, more used for information gathering).

The film reveals that if we were to read every Terms and Conditions Agreement we sign up to we could be spending one working month a year justn keeping track of them. And they can give substantial information away.

A number of interviewees in the film speak about US and UK authorities contacting them, sometimes detaining them, all from Twitter tweets or Facebook postings. One programme they mentioned (TomTom) gave data of speeding cars to the Dutch police. Tickets followed.

So if we are going to control the information going out we are going to need some robust legislation at home. And we are going to need to educate ourselves about what is happening in this vast internet.

We need to use social/digital media to get our stories out.

They can be ways to build our careers and our union, to save our theatres, to campaign for our causes, find our jobs, talk to our friends. There is good advice in the code of practice.

But remember: “Hey, let’s be careful out there!”

Categories: BECTU, Internet

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Picture of Christine Bond