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Acceptable use of Social Media Policy

Who should read this?

  • All staff using social media either as part of their role at Manchester Metropolitan University or for personal use where this impacts on the University

What does the Acceptable use of Social Media Policy document cover?

The policy covers the publication of, and commentary on, social media by employees, which relates to Manchester Metropolitan University, its employees and wider community.

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Acceptable use of Social Media Policy

Who should read this?

  • All staff using social media either as part of their role at Manchester Metropolitan University or for personal use where this impacts on the University

What does the Acceptable use of Social Media Policy document cover?

The policy covers the publication of, and commentary on, social media by employees, which relates to Manchester Metropolitan University, its employees and wider community.

Read the Acceptable use of Social Media Policy in full:

Introduction

This document is designed for employees who use social media either as part of their role at Manchester Metropolitan University or for personal use where this impacts on the University. The document provides direction on the appropriate use of social media. 

Social Media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks1. Furthermore, social media depend on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. 

Social-media technologies take on many different forms including magazines, Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, social networks, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. Technologies include blogging, picture sharing, vlogs, wall posting, music-sharing, crowdsourcing, instant messaging and voice over IP, to name a few. Social network aggregation can integrate many of the platforms in use.

1 Ahlqvist, Toni; Bäck, A., Halonen, M., Heinonen, S (2008). "Social media road maps exploring the futures triggered by social media". VTT Tiedotteita - Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (2454): 13. Retrieved 9 December 2012.

Policy statement

The University understands that the majority of staff will be using social media (whether MMU social media, affiliated media or other social media) in one form or another. This policy describes how to use the technology appropriately and provides guidance to enable staff to protect themselves and the University from social media misuse.

Employees should note that they have a legal responsibility to represent the University accurately and fairly in any public online space, are expected to uphold the values of the University, and not bring the University into disrepute.

The policy applies regardless of whether the social media is accessed using the University’s IT facilities and equipment, or equipment belonging to members of staff or any other third party.

New members of staff will be made aware of the policy as part of their induction.

The Policy is non-contractual and its terms may be varied at any time.

Purpose of the policy

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • Provide MMU employees with direction and information about the appropriate use of social media in a work context.
  • Clarify the University’s approach to, and provide direction on appropriate conduct with regard to the personal use of social media by members of staff, where there are references to or a potential impact upon the University.
  • Protect the University, its employees and wider community from social media misuse.
  • Create consistency and coherence across MMU social media activities.

Scope of the policy

The Policy applies to all University staff and honorary appointments, including sessional staff, student staff, casual and temporary staff. It also applies to agency workers and volunteers. Third parties who have access to the University’s IT facilities and equipment are also required to comply with the policy. 

The policy covers the publication of and commentary on social media by employees, which relates to Manchester Metropolitan University, its employees and wider community. Within this context, social media is any facility for online publication and commentary, including (but not exclusively), blogs, wikis, fora and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. A more comprehensive glossary of social media platforms and terms can be found in the Social Media Toolkit. This policy is in addition to and complements, policies regarding the use of technology, computers, email and the internet. Please refer to the Data Protection Policy and the Acceptable Use Policy.

The University recognises that social learning tools are increasingly being used as a teaching resource to enhance and develop the curriculum and respond to learner expectations. It is not the intention of this policy to limit such innovation but to ensure that where social media is used for these purposes the principles of professional behaviour and the content of this policy are adhered to. 

Where appropriate, violations of this policy will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the University’s Disciplinary Procedure.

Social media usage at work

The University must ensure that confidentiality and its reputation are protected.  Whilst this policy is concerned with the use of social media, which may impact on the University, employees are reminded of their obligations under other employment policies when using social media sites generally and whilst at work. 

Staff are reminded of their responsibility not to bring the University into disrepute or to allow personal interaction on websites to damage professional relationships with colleagues, students or other University stakeholders. Employees who fail to maintain these standards may be subject to disciplinary proceedings. 

Staff often have access to private data in their jobs and this has to be respected when using social networking sites. Confidential and/or proprietary information must not be shared (e.g. information regarding sensitive personal data, disciplinary cases, grievances, internal disputes, intellectual property and research). This is covered by the Data Protection Act and the University’s Data Security Policy. Where such information is shared, members of staff may face disciplinary action. 

Staff should consider their social media content carefully, so that they do not violate University policies or values but also so that they protect their own privacy. 

New or existing social media channels or sites that are intended to represent an official University department, service, project or initiative must be registered with the central web team.

Staff should ensure the Web Team has the most up-to-date information should the status or any details change regarding a social media account e.g. if the person responsible for maintaining the account has changed, or if the account is no longer in active use and has been closed. 

When launching a new social channel or site, it must be established who holds ultimate responsibility (ordinarily a Line Manager).

Before embarking on work-related social media for any work-related purposes, staff should familiarise themselves with the University’s Policy on Web Publishing and the Social Media Toolkit, particularly if social media is being used for promotional purposes. 

Content must be regularly monitored and appropriate action taken to respond to issues as they arise. Publication and commentary on social media carries similar obligations to any other kind of publication and commentary. It cannot be assumed that the University is not responsible for comments by others on blogs, wikis or social networking sites set up by staff. 

Content must also be regularly monitored in order that content remains current and old material is removed as appropriate. 

Users of social media must comply with all University policies including those specifically outlined in the related documents section.

If staff are unsure about their actions regarding the use of social media, they should consult their line manager.

Provisions for MMU branded networks/sites

When using MMU branded social media1, all rules that apply to other MMU communications apply. These include respecting University values, respecting members of staff, students, and other stakeholders; protecting confidentiality, privacy and security; and proper use and safeguarding of MMU assets. These should be considered when posting content and privacy laws should always be respected. 

Employees may not post any material that is obscene, defamatory, profane, libellous, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful, or embarrassing to another person or entity when posting to MMU-hosted sites.

MMU-hosted blogs must focus on subjects related to the organisation and be beneficial to it.

MMU’s name or brand may not be used for private purposes to endorse or condemn any opinion, product, private business, cause, or political candidate.

Employees must comply with copyright laws. Content may not be posted or any activity conducted, which fails to conform to all applicable legislation. It is critical that copyright law is complied with by ensuring that permission has been obtained to use or reproduce any copyrighted text, photos, graphics, video or other material owned by others.

Employees should always include citations when using or posting online material, which includes direct or paraphrased quotes, thoughts, ideas, photos, or videos. Links to the original material should be provided if applicable.

MMU may review content posted to social media sites. In respect to any site maintained in the name of the University, MMU may remove or cause the removal of any content for any lawful reason, including but not limited to, content that it deems threatening, obscene, a violation of intellectual property rights or privacy laws, or otherwise injurious or illegal.

Members of staff should be careful of whom/what you are following/liking/adding/favouriting/reposting/retweeting/sharing; it can be viewed as an endorsement. Also, be careful about re-posting links and comments from other users.

Should a social media account no longer be required, the owner of the account should take the appropriate steps to close the account and inform the Web team.

Further information about setting up a social media online presence can be found in the Social Media Toolkit.

1Examples of MMU branded social media:

Provisions for non-MMU and personal networks/sites

Employees may not disclose any confidential or proprietary information about MMU, its employees or wider community, including but not limited to business, financial and personal staff/student information. When expressing a view the individual must make clear that he/she is not communicating the views of MMU, or do anything that might reasonably create the impression that he/she is communicating on behalf of, or as a representative of, MMU. 

Employees may not use or disclose any information about staff/ students obtained from work on any social media without the express written permission of the staff member/student. This applies, even if an individual is not identified by name within the information used or disclosed, if there is a reasonable basis to believe that the person could still be identified from that information. If this is the case, the use or disclosure of the information could constitute a violation of MMU policy and may be considered gross misconduct. 

Employees must not use MMU’s name, logo or other trademarks or intellectual property on non-MMU or personal sites or media. 

On sites that are self-hosted employees may not imply, say or suggest that the views and opinions they express on that site are related to MMU or represent the University’s view in any way or form. Representation of personal opinions as being endorsed by the University or any of its organisations is strictly prohibited.

Where an employee discloses their affiliation to MMU on their profile or on any social media they must include a disclaimer indicating that the views expressed are their own, and do not represent the views of the University.

Standards of conduct and sanctions

Where the standards of conduct set out within this policy and/or other associated university policies are not followed or are breached, this may be regarded as potential misconduct or gross misconduct.

This may result in disciplinary action being taken in line with the University’s Disciplinary Procedure, irrespective of whether or not the breach of the policy was committed using the University's IT facilities and equipment.

Any member of staff suspected of committing a breach of the policy will be required to co-operate with the University's investigation, which may involve handing over relevant passwords and login details, in line with the provision of the Data Protection Act and the University’s policies.

The University's response to any misuse of social media in a personal capacity will be reasonable and proportionate to the perceived offence, the nature of the postings/comments made and the impact or potential impact on the University.  Social networking sites may be referred to when investigating possible misconduct/gross misconduct.

Examples of misconduct or gross misconduct (depending on the severity and extent)  in these circumstances include comments, videos, audio or photos which have been posted on social media sites about the University, students, work colleagues or managers which can be considered to be:

  • Derogatory
  • Defamatory
  • Discriminatory
  • Offensive
  • Bullying
  • Intimidating
  • Threatening
  • Harassing
  • Creating legal liability for the University
  • Bringing the University into disrepute
  • Breaching this policy or any other University policy or procedure
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Breach of any laws or regulatory requirements 

The University may require staff to remove internet postings that are deemed to constitute a breach of the policy. Failure to comply with such a request may, in itself, result in disciplinary action.

Disciplinary action in the above circumstances may be up to and including dismissal in accordance with the University’s Disciplinary Procedure.

This document has been screened to determine its impact on groups that are protected by law using the University’s Equality Impact Assessment process.

It will be reviewed in two years, or earlier if legislative requirements change.