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9. Legal issues 

This section at a glance: 

  • we suggest that HEIs are already in a good position to address the basic legal issues that arise from the use of social media; 
  • we look at some examples where unfamiliar issues may arise and suggest good practice approaches.
At first sight the range of legal issues that need to be considered when using social media is quite daunting. In practice however there is nothing significantly new about any of this: all of the relevant legislation has been in place for some time and HEIs already have well established procedures for ensuring compliance in other areas of their activity. The basic need is therefore to undertake a review of your policies and guidance to ensure that they take account of the use of social media and include relevant examples to help clarify the issues for staff and students. Simply having policies and guidelines is not enough, however – in order for them to be effective you must communicate them well to all of your users.

Useful sources of guidance include: 


  • The UCISA (2014a) Model regulations for the use of institutional IT facilities and systems . This is a toolkit which can be adapted for use in any institution and which has been updated to reflect the increased use of social media. If you have a set of regulations based on this model, a procedure for investigating and dealing with possible breaches and staff and student disciplinary procedures to handle actual breaches, you will be well on your way to meeting all of your legal obligations; 
  • The Jisc Legal advisory service – their Facing up to Facebook guide gives a good overview of social media issues generally; 
  • Web2Rights which offers a series of flowcharts to help you decide what issues are relevant to your activities along with guidance materials and templates that can be adapted for your own use.

Given that you cannot possibly foresee all of the ways in which data can be linked and mashed up via a variety of social media tools it is good practice to ensure that your institutional website, which signposts your official social media channels, contains a disclaimer relating to others linking to your material. 

For institutions:

Disclaimer Template

Links within our site may lead to other sites. These are provided for convenience only. We do not sponsor, endorse or otherwise approve of any information or statements appearing in those sites. [name of owner] is not responsible for the availability of, or the content located on or through, any such external site.

While every effort and care is taken in preparing the content of this site, [Name of owner] disclaims all warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information in any of the content. It also (to the extent permitted by law) shall not be liable for any losses or damages arising from the use of, or reliance on, the information on our website. It is also not liable for any losses or damages arising from the use of, or reliance on sites linked to this site, or the internet generally.

Source: ©HEFCE, 2009. This paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales Licence Version 1.0

The contents of this paper are for information purposes and guidance only. They do not constitute legal advice






For a shorter, less formal example from an institutional site, see the University of Essex.

For personal users:

Personal users should also consider adding brief disclaimers and signposts within their own sites and social media platforms. For example your Twitter profile might indicate that you are tweeting in a personal capacity, or the about section of your blog might indicate that you are seeking only to represent your own views.

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