Category Archives: Law and UGC

User generated content, social media and the law.

Since 2006 and the explosion of UGC on sites like YouTube, content uploaded by users has become invaluable for journalists.

A great example of the importance of UGC for main-stream media was the immediate aftermath of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport bombing earlier this year. Major news networks like Sky and BBC used the footage in their main programme coverage.



The Guardian’s Comment Is Free (CIF) offers a platform for journalists and guest posters to publish content and invite comment and discussion on particular issues.

However, the nature of the news and views site has meant it can be open to the possibility of libelous or defamatory comments being left. For example the comments made on Kieran Yates’s post which recommends a rap song with anti-semitic lyrics.

As journalists, we need to remember that the same legal rules apply to online content as with print and broadcast material. Here are some key things to consider regarding the internet and the law in the UK for those providing services based on UGC:

copyright issues in relation to UGC and any legislative exemptions which may be available

rights clearances

•the ‘mere conduit’ and ‘hosting’ defences

•legal issues relating to offensive/defamatory/illegal content, minors and the likelihood of action by authorities.

Ashley Hurst is a senior association in the Media Litigation Group at Olswang law film and specialises in internet disputes. He told us how social media sits with the law:



For more information on UGC and the law check out this free eBook.


By Lucy Hewitt

Army Recruitment app adds new dimension to UGC

On Monday, the US army launched a new iPhone App to recruite soldiers.

The app is free and takes content from the website Army Strong Stories and allows people to access more than 600 soldier bloggers’ content as well as allowing users to share their own “Army Strong” stories, photos and videos.

A spokeperson from the U.S. Army Accessions Command called the app and a mobile website that also launched on Monday “a natural extension of the Army’s ongoing commitment to engage potential recruits via social media channels.”

When the blog first started in 2008, it was a blog platform only allowing soldiers to tell their stories. Now, anyone with an army story is invited to tell it. I wonder if this may cause any difficulty if people start accusing others of misbehaving and particularly when the army provokes a lot of emotion for many people.

Not only that, but isn’t it a security risk if soldiers start saying things they aren’t meant to…Or perhaps it is a very good thing and will replace psychological therapy by allowing people to talk to each other and share memories rather than an exploitation tool.

Army Accessions Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley told the Belvoir Eagle, “Soldiers should join Army Strong Stories for a number of reasons. … Online and in the media, the negative stories are always given a platform. Soldiers, every one of us, have some of the best stories to tell.”

I agree that it is a great place for soldiers to tell their stories and therefore give a rounded view of life in the army, but what if they say something bad? Are their blogs vetted?

And the idea of recruiting people through it makes it seem like their recruits are in decline. This says quite a lot about the wars that the US are currently fighting. I’d love to hear what anyone who uses it has to say.
By Linzi Kinghorn

Your online reputation: Think before you Tweet

Today the PCC ruled that Twitter should be considered public and so material found on the micro-blogging site can be published freely and used elsewhere.

This happened after a complaint by Department of Transport official Sarah Baskerville. She was upset by newspapers using her tweets to suggest she wasn’t doing her job properly and was wasting tax-payers money. She said it was an invasion of privacy.

Ms Baskerville argued that this information was private and only meant for her 700 followers. Hmm. Private to 700 pairs of eyes reading her updates? Not to mention retweets out to wider networks. Doesn’t sound very private to me.

This is another case where those using Twitter forget the purpose of the social media tool and/or aren’t using it properly.

A social media account should be used as a brand management tool. Be that your own personal brand or of a larger organisation. For a professional account, tweets should always be relevant to the company or general industry you operate in. For personal feeds they should show you in your best light. Both types are a chance for the public to see some personality behind the smoke-screen of a website or CV.

Think about what impression you want to have on potential online followers/friends/connections. What other interests you wish to promote and the persona you wish to create and think about these in every tweet.

Cos potentially the whole world can see what you’re saying, which is kinda the point in social media Ms Baskerville. Duh.

For more information on how to use Twitter properly, check out The Twitter Guidebook from Mashable.

Section headings are:


  • Twitter 101 – The Basics
  • Building Your Twitter Community
  • Twitter for Business
  • Top Twitter Follows
  • Sharing on Twitter
  • Managing Your Twitter Stream


By Lucy Hewitt