Policy University Management Social Media Guidelines

Social Media Guidelines

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The increase of social media usage has brought with it great opportunities for interaction not previously available. This allows staff and students to readily communicate with their peers, institutions and other entities quickly and easily. It allows for direct feedback and ease of collaboration that will enhance relationships within the university and in the greater community.

JCU certainly encourages and supports the ideal of the ‘engaged academic’, ‘engaged Student’ or ‘engaged Affiliate’ who, via Social Media and public commentary, is participating in the sharing of information, opinion and ideas that showcase the University’s research and scholarly expertise.

This should be at the same high standard of communication, behaviour and conduct expressed in other policies that govern our workplace and/or study environment.

What is Social Media?

Social media is a prevalent and effective communication tool used both personally and professionally by employees and students, as well as being a reliable vehicle in the pursuit of teaching, learning and assessment outcomes.

Social media may include, although is not limited to:

  • social networking sites, for example Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer
  • video and photo sharing websites, for example Flickr, Instagram, YouTube
  • blogs, including corporate blogs and personal blogs, for example SharePoint
  • blogs hosted by media outlets
  • micro-blogging, for example Twitter
  • wikis and online collaborations, for example Wikipedia
  • forums, discussion boards and groups, for example Google groups
  • VOD and podcasting, for example SoundCloud
  • instant messaging, including SMS
  • geo-spatial tagging, Foursquare, Facebook

Personal vs private use

Personal and professional boundaries may become blurred, challenged, or confused, when social networking and social media is utilised in, and intermingled with, the academic context. Regardless of privacy settings or how much the sender stresses the importance of privacy, once material is transmitted electronically, control is lost over who sees it and how it is used.

The speed at which people can transmit information can lead to lapses of judgment. Publishing on social media has the potential to reach a large audience, to amplify and distort messages and to make permanent, messages that were ephemeral in the spoken word.

This guide reminds staff and students of the permanency and longevity of information and comments that may be made on social media which may impact on future career aspirations if considered inappropriate – regardless of the private or professional context.

Risks with inappropriate use of Social Media

Staff and Students have a right to publish materials that express viewpoints that are at odds with others within the University community or external to it. In so doing though, they should be aware that they may have to bear the consequences including, but not limited to, public rebuttal. Where materials published are bullying, discriminatory or defamatory to the others, it may be applicable to deal with the author under misconduct processes or to refer the alleged perpetrator to University or legal processes.

Some staff and students who breach codes of behaviour around social media, might be notified to professional bodies including for example the Australian Health Practitioners’ Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Situations to Avoid

Publishing without written, informed consent.

When social media is used to transmit material about others, written, informed consent is required. The Information Privacy Act 2009 applies (see the JCU Right to Information Policy and Privacy and Right to Information Guideline).

Breaching confidentiality

Publishing material that breaches confidentiality is a breach of trust. The Code of Conduct also articulates standards of professional conduct in relation to privacy and confidentiality.

Using social media to bully, defame or discriminate against others

Publishing material about any person without their consent is inappropriate. When this material is harassing, bullying, defamatory and/or discriminatory this is especially inappropriate, in breach of the University’s Bullying, Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy and is illegal.

Complaining about staff and standards in education and clinical settings

Staff or Students may use social media to critique the performance of other students, staff and organisations. This may result in harm to individuals and to established relationships that exist with organisations such as hospitals, schools and workplaces where students do placements or internships. Students are encouraged to participate in critical analysis of work related performance.

However, the place to do this is through appropriate processes – discussing with the student representative or Year Coordinator is the best place to start.

Publishing ‘on behalf of others’

Some staff or students might say that they are communicating material on behalf of ‘their year’ or ‘their clinical group’ etc. Students are reminded that he/she requires approval from the student body to do so. Students who are not nominated representatives of a class or group should not send material claiming it is ‘on behalf of the class’ or represents a widely held view, unless they have been delegated this responsibility.

Information that goes viral

If material is posted by a staff or student on social media that is subsequently disseminated beyond the audience for which it was intended, the person who sent the initial message is responsible for the consequences associated with the message ‘going viral’. Others who ‘forward’ messages without the consent of the first author may also be held responsible.

If you are a moderator

The below table identifies potential issues and risks that this activity may elicit and provides mitigation strategies to manage these in an appropriate and proactive manner:


Mitigation Strategy

Negative comments posted about JCU or  Staff, Students or Stakeholders or the page is tagged in a negative post

  • Monitor comments and determine if content is inappropriate.  If so and the post needs to be removed   inform the person of their error and then delete comment.
  • Direct message the follower and inform them that foul language will   not be tolerated on the page and refer them to the user guidelines:

“Dear (insert name), we welcome comments from everyone on our page, however, [foul language] [defamatory comments] is unacceptable. Your comment has been deleted. If you would like to continue to comment please read our user guidelines (insert link) and ensure all future comments comply. Thank you (insert name of person writing reply) ”

  • Outline the expectations of all users in the Facebook ‘About’ tab.
  • Enable Word blocking and profanity filter settings
  • Enable for ‘tagged posts’ to be approved prior to them being made   public.
  • In case of trolling, Message the follower directly and inform them   that their behaviour/ comments are not welcome on the page, if they persist   then block the follower so they can no longer view or comment on the page.

“Dear (insert name), we welcome comments from everyone on our page, however, trolling will not be tolerated. Your comment has been deleted. If you would like to continue to comment please read our user guidelines (insert link) and ensure all future comments comply. If you do not comply you will be blocked in future. Thank you (insert name of person writing reply) ”

Staff divulging confidential information, insensitive, defamatory or inappropriate comments/content

Complaints or allegations of inappropriate behaviour by staff or students

  • Hide comment and refer to   College Manager or equivalent who handles complaint resolution.
  • Direct message follower letting them know the University will look   into the allegation or complaint and request their best direct contact   details should follow up/clarification be required.

“Dear (insert name), Your concern has been noted and will be investigated further.  If you could please advise us on your best direct contact details so we may follow up with you directly that would be greatly appreciated.

If you wish to make a formal complaint this is where you can do it (insert link). Thank you  (Insert name of person replying)”

Monitoring and record keeping

  • Monitor Facebook insights to see who is visiting the page, at what   time, and from where.
  • Monitor Facebook comments to ensure only appropriate comments are   visible.
  • Select page privacy settings so all comments are reviewed before   visible to public.

Making a complaint

Acceptable communication, information sharing practices and related standards of behaviour are referred to in a number of existing JCU policies including the Staff Code of Conduct, Student Code of Conduct Policy, Information Privacy Policy and the Digital Technologies Acceptable Use Policy as well as the Social Media Policy.

Many problems can be resolved informally and staff or students with complaints should be encouraged to begin by trying to resolve any complaint directly with the person/s concerned. This may be the easiest way of resolving the issue. The complainant can explain to the person concerned why their comments are considered unfair, offensive or discriminatory. Through informal or even mediated discussions the issues may become clear, and the problem can be addressed.

However, formal complaints can be made to HR or Student Complaints as appropriate.

Consequence of policy breach

Breaches of the Social Media Policy will be addressed through the disciplinary procedures prescribed for Staff (including the University’s Staff Code of Conduct and the Enterprise Agreement as amended or replaced from time to time), Students (including the Student Code of Conduct Policy), and Affiliates. Depending upon the severity and implications of the breach, sanctions may include a warning, counselling and/or other disciplinary action (such as suspension or termination of employment, or suspension or exclusion from the University).

The University monitors its Official Social Media sites and may determine, in its absolute discretion, to remove (without notice) any content including comments, photos, videos or other content that is considered inappropriate.

The University will examine postings on external Social Media sites of which it becomes aware, that threaten or incite harm to its Staff, Students and Affiliates, or facilities, or any postings that threaten the University’s reputation.  The University will take action where it considers a posting breaches its policies.

Further Information

If you have any doubts or would like to discuss any issues regarding use of or complaints regarding social media use please contact:

  • Chief of Staff, Vanessa Cannon – 4781 4078
  • Director HR, Dave Waters – 4781 5532
  • Head, Media and Communications, Richard Davis – 4781 4822
  • Director Marketing, Future Students and Admissions, David Craig - 4232 1098
  • Student Complaints, Jonathan Strauss – 4232 1397


Approval date

Implementation date






Guidelines established

Chief of Staff