A recent media statement issued by local IT training organisation AstroTech has encouraged employees to be more careful about how they conduct themselves on social media platforms such as Facebook.
A local case study shows that one Duane Brady was the first South African to lose his job for posting defamatory messages about his employer on Facebook. Brady was recently arrested after his comments were reported to the police. He was later charged with crimen injuria and common assault. Crimen injuria is a criminal offence committed when a person deliberately injures another’s dignity.
“Social networking gives a false sense of camaraderie and family,” said Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech “Many feel that their 1 000 new best friends on Facebook are a safe community and so they type information or post pics that are often ill-advised.”
According to leading South African IT lawyer Warren Weertman if an individual is in an employer/employee relationship they “have to remember to always act in the employer’s best interest [online]; that is a common law compulsion.”
Weertman also encouraged employees to take into account the Regulation of Communications Act which allows employers to intercept and monitor employee communications within the workplace. This includes blog, emails, telephone calls, internet activity and faxes.
“Copyright laws also apply. Employees should not disclose company information it can be subject to the Copyright Act. And disclosing other company information could be a breach of an employee’s fiduciary duty,” added Weertman.
“If you post: ‘my boss is an idiot’ or write something criticising the policies of the company you work for, you are bringing them into disrepute and that is unlawful,” said Weertman.
In short this means that legally speaking South African employees may not divulge company sensitive information, access Facebook except during a lunch hour and must have manager written authorisation to blog if it relates to work.
Social networking in SA – discussion