Social media laws and regulations: What you need to know for your business and personal accounts

Social media has become part of our every day life today. We use it to follow friends, family, businesses and influencers, make new connections, shop and get inspiration for our lives.

In fact, there are few aspects of our lives that aren’t influenced in some way by social media. And while that can have many positives, it also has its downsides.

It also means that as someone creating or sharing content on social media, or a business using it for brand awareness, marketing and sales, you have a responsibility to use it properly. That means not just following any legal regulations, but a moral responsibility to ensure you don’t cause any damage through your activity on social media platforms.

When using social media, you need to abide by the law, as well as regulations for the platforms themselves. So, for example, before buying 30 likes for your Instagram business or personal account, you must make sure that you don’t violate the bot and spam policy that is aimed to regulate the informational junk and fraud on the platform.

As a general rule, it’s important to remember that your behavior on social media – both as a content creator and a consumer of content – needs to uphold the same standards and be subject to the same consideration as your offline behavior.

With that in mind, here are some things you need to know about social media rules regulations and behavior, both for your personal and business accounts.

Getting consent to use someone’s image on social media

One of the most common breaches in social media is publishing someone’s photo or video without their consent. People who are going to appear in your social posts must be aware of it, at least verbally.

Posting public photos involving people who didn’t know that you were filming them is a violation of their privacy, and can in extreme cases lead to you facing them in court. Of course, many people won’t mind being filmed when they are in public places, but it is always better to make sure you won’t get into trouble later.

The best route is to get their permission to use their image or video in a legally binding form. If you don’t have this, try to record them agreeing to your filming verbally. 

Publishing user-generated content

The same rule applies to collecting and sharing content from other people, even if they were created specifically for you. To secure your right to post something that is created by another user, make sure you ask them directly for their permission.

This rule is incredibly important for shopping on social media. If you wish to use someone’s review for publishing and promotion of your business or personal branding profile, check they are happy for you to do so.

Check information before you post to avoid getting embroiled in a scandal

On social networks, you are free to share any information you find interesting and engaging for your customers. However, to make sure you don’t end up being accused of fraud or spreading false information, it is better to thoroughly check what you post on your business or personal account.

False information is easily uncovered today, and you don’t want to be accused of participating in creating or sharing it. Not only could you fall foul of the law or social media regulations, but you’ll risk annoying many people and even irreparably damaging your business reputation.

So, to avoid falling into this trap, if you have information to share, do your due diligence and post nothing until you sure it is verified. It’s also wise to stay away from scandal where possible and not allow yourself to get caught up in emotionally-driven campaigns that can cause you to cross a line in passion (even if you believe you’re doing the right thing at the time). Keep a cool and collected head and review posts before publishing.

Financial rules and selling on social media

The regulations of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FIRA) apply to social media. Any activity that involves finance on social platforms, has to be done carefully, to be safe from fraud. 

Here are some financial rules you need to be aware of:

  • The first rule that you must remember is that anything that involves your communication with buyers must be recorded. 
  • If you are selling via Instagram, Facebook, or any other network, then private messaging is covered by financial regulations.
  • You must act the same way online as you would do in real life, which means that all required information regarding a purchase needs to be conveyed to the buyer before they make a payment. 
  • The rules for product exchange and return are applied to online purchases as they are for offline commerce. 
  • The list of products that cannot be returned or exchanged is the same as for offline commerce too.
  • All financial procedures and details need to follow legal protocol and be properly recorded and available for the authorities.

How to protect your health when using social media

Due to the rise in popularity of influencer marketing, there is concern about the growing amount of fake drugs and medicines which are promoted on social media. Healthcare bodies often alert the authorities with the aim of regulating not only the spread of these drugs but the ads for them.

It’s important to be aware that many bloggers are not really using the products they are paid to promote, which means that they are assisting in advertising them without understanding how they work or what side effects they may cause.

If you receive an offer to promote vitamins, medicine, or drugs on social media, make sure you do your due diligence first. Check the component list, permissions, and legal documents that approve the quality and purpose of the product. 

And as a consumer of social media, never use it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. If you are worried about your health, see a proper, real life medical doctor and follow their advice.

It’s also worth mentioning the impact that social media platforms have on our mental health. Many influencers beautify and misrepresent their lives to cultivate an artificial reality for their followers aspire to. They can even completely change their appearance with beauty filters.

As a result of the unrealistic images presented on social media, many social media followers can suffer from increased anxiety and depression. It’s important to remember that you don’t really know the truth behind what is posted on Instagram.

So never compare your reality with someone else’s curated content on social media platforms. It’s fine to enjoy looking at beautiful lives, but never let the portrayal of apparent perfection detract from your own life, or cause you to feel any less about yourself, your looks or your own lived reality.

Who knows? For all the ‘imperfections’ of your life in comparison to the apparently amazing life of an influencer, you could be much happier and more content than them.

How to navigate copyright rules on social media

Borrowing someone’s content, even if you make changes to it, is a highly risky thing to do for your business or personal branding profile. It’s also important to protect your own online content from being stolen.

The main advice regarding copyright to ensure the latter is to make sure you apply watermarks to your published materials, and possess a legal disclosure agreement for usage of your content. Many authors sell their creations online, which makes it easier to use for fraud and copyright violations. Some creators neglect to add a watermark for the sake of the aesthetic look of their feed. 

So the second-best advice for artists and creators is that it is much better to use specialized platforms (Etsy, Creative Market, Shutterstock, etc.) for exhibition and sales, while using social media for promotional and communicational purposes only, and never reveal the complete product.

If you are about to use someone else’s content in your posts, reach out to the owner and ensure you gain their consent for publishing and making any changes to it. However, on social media, there are exclusions. If the creator reveals the information that allows you to use the content legally, you may not need to reach out to them for permission.

For example, one of the popular hashtags on Instagram is called “Draw This In Your Style”. This is a challenge among artists, where the author of the original image allows others to use their work as a reference and repost it in their feeds. However it’s important to remember that if you participate in this activity you still need to mention the author of the original work. 

Keeping your children safe on social media

One of the big problems with social networking is the regulation of children’s activity and content consumption on the platforms.

It is no secret that many people violate the rule about the minimum age to be registered on social media platforms. So one of the concerns that many parents have is the safety of their children when they spend time online.

However, there are some things can be regulated by parents without any special equipment and knowledge:

  • Do not let your child register an account if they are younger than the required age for registration.
  • Use the parental control options on the devices that your child uses. 
  • Use specific platforms, if possible. For example, YouTube Kids is a safer space than normal YouTube.
  • Do not post the photographs of your children where their location is obvious, and don’t tag the geolocation in the apps. Photos from vacations may be excluded from this rule – but it’s still not a good idea to publicly declare you are away from your home when you are on holiday as thieves can use this information to target your empty home.
  • Explain to your children the rules of safe behavior and communication online, and how they should react if they ever encounter any danger online, or are concerned.

The most significant thing you have to do when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of your child is to establish trust and support in your relationship. So if your child meets any problems, they won’t be afraid or shy to ask for your help.