Media organisations such as ourselves often pick up on local online conversations and share them to illustrate public opinion or spark discussions.
This can range from a frustrated rant against another person to a concerned post about littering in the neighborhood.
The problem arises when people make social media postings without anticipating it to “go viral”, shared and discussed much further than the original poster’s own circle of friends.
Suddenly, they find that local media publications have picked up on their posts, and belatedly realized that maybe they didn’t want that information presented to the general public after all.
Which raises the question: Can the media republish your social media posts without your permission?
In a nutshell: Yes.
Each social media network operates on the fair use policy.
While the original content you create is technically copyrighted to you, the fair use policy allows other to use your copyrighted work without permission in certain circumstances.
These examples commonly include: criticism, commentary, teaching, research, announcements, and news reporting.
More often than not, news portals do not claim the content as their own, and are instead reporting the issue with credit back to the original poster, which makes it fair use.
And because everything on social media is pretty much public, even if you have privacy settings turned on, the media is under no obligation to “ask your permission” to report your content.
TRP, as a general rule, tries to reach out to the original poster for permission before publishing our stories, but it is not an obligation and other media companies may not follow that practice.
This is true even if your posts are set to “friends only” or if it was posted in a private group chat.
The fact of the matter is that social media is not considered a private network.
Caution must be exercised when you post anything on social media. Even Whatsapp’s terms and conditions highlight this by placing the responsibility of shared content on its users.
So what does this mean for you?
Essentially, everyone just needs to exercise caution regarding what they post. Think twice before you hit publish.
Would you be okay if your relatives saw the post? What about your coworkers? Your boss? Or even some other Malaysian living in another city?
Remember: Social media is fun, but it’s also a responsibility, and nothing is ever private forever.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.