Social media guidelines

The term ‘social media’ refers to online channels of communication which allow users to interact in the public domain by sharing information, opinions, knowledge and interest. Social media is of course popular with students but we have put together some guidelines to protect both you and the University.

The word ‘social’ could imply that participation in these online communities or networks are not related to users’ professional lives, but this is certainly not the case.

Businesses and organisations throughout the world are engaged in utilising social media to promote their products and services – and Ulster University (Ulster) is no different.

Ulster has a number of official accounts on sites such as facebook, twitter and youtube where the opinions expressed and information shared reflects the views of Ulster as a corporate body.

Any member of staff or student (either on an individual basis or as a group) seeking to set up a formal Ulster University social media account needs permission from PR & Communications Department to do so and should consult these guidelines.

In this section we offer specific advice to all Ulster students who are using (or considering using) social media in any capacity.

It has been compiled to assist you to understand the reputational, legal and ethical implications of engaging in online communications of this nature and what can happen if social media is misused, whether intentionally or not.

You also need to be aware of a number of other relevant policies and guidelines:

Purposes & objectives

These guidelines clearly articulate to students how to make best use of social media sites without compromising your personal security, current/future career prospects and/or the reputation of Ulster University.

Their objectives are:

  • To provide a definition of social media and to articulate the potential risks it poses for students and the University.
  • To define the responsibilities of individuals for the use of social media for University purposes.
  • To highlight the potential risks of using social media for personal use.
  • To raise awareness of relevant UK legislation and regulations, and Ulster policies.
  • To minimise the potential negative impact to the University as a result of social media use by students.

Social Media definition

For the purposes of these guidelines, social media is any interactive online media that allows instant communication and the sharing of information in a public forum. This includes e-mail, online social forums, blogs, video and image-sharing websites.

These examples are not exhaustive and these guidelines should be adhered to in relation to any social media usage.

Principles

General responsibilities

  • It is the responsibility of students to read and act in accordance with the principles of these guidelines.
  • It is also the responsibility of students to read and act in accordance with the rules and guidelines set out by individual Social Media, Social Networking and Website Hosting companies and providers.
  • The University will ensure these guidelines are highlighted to students during annual Online Registration, included in the Student Guide and highlighted at student induction sessions.
  • Students should not use social media sites to attack or abuse anyone. You should respect the privacy and the feelings of others. You must not include contact details or pictures of other students or members of staff without their prior permission. Remember that if you break the law on your site (for example by posting something defamatory), you will be personally responsible. Further information on the responsibilities of students in relation to data protection is contained under point 7 of the University’s Data Protection Policy which is available online here.
  • The University monitors all references to Ulster University online and will act accordingly to any references or associations that could bring discredit upon the University.

Responsibilities of students in official University online/social media presence

  • The University logo may only be used on your site with permission granted by the Department of Public Relations & Communications. Sites must comply with our visual identity guidelines. Contact details are below.
  • Any media interest resulting from your online activity should be dealt with in conjunction with the Students’ Union or the University Public Relations & Communications team. Contact details are below.
  • Ensure that you do no reveal confidential information about the University or its staff students, partner organisations or clients.
  • If utilising social media as part a research study or project, all relevant ethical considerations need to be taken into account. You should not use your site or pages in any way that may compromise your current or future fitness to practice.

Responsibilities of students in personal online/social media presence

  • The University recognises that many students make use of social media in a personal capacity. While they are not acting on behalf of the University, students must be aware that they can impact on the University’s reputation if they are identified as being Ulster University students.
  • A student’s online profile may reference the University’s name as their place of study, but it needs to be made clear that any comments/posts made by the account holder are personal. A disclaimer such as “The views I express here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my place of study” will help clarify this.
  • Any communications made in a personal capacity through social media must not:
    1. do anything that could be considered discriminatory against, or bullying or harassment of, any individual eg making offensive or derogatory comments relating to sex, gender reassignment, race (including nationality), disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief or age; using social media to bully another individual or; posting images that are discriminatory/offensive or links to such content;
    2. bring discredit upon the University e.g. criticising or arguing with fellow students or other individuals; making defamatory comments about individuals or other groups; posting images that are inappropriate or links to inappropriate content;
    3. breach copyright eg using someone else’s images or content without permission; failing to give acknowledgement where permission has been given to reproduce something;
    4. breach confidentiality eg revealing confidential information owned by the University; giving away confidential information about an individual or organisation.
  • Ulster students are not permitted to use the University’s logo on personal social media sites.

Misuse of Social Media

  • The University has the right to request the removal of content from an official social media account and from a personal account if it is deemed that the account or its submissions pose a risk to the reputation of the University or to that of one of its members.
  • If you post views, opinions or images relating to fellow students or others you may invoke the University’s Student Discipline Procedure, as detailed within the University’s Charter, Statutes and Ordinances available online here. Your actions may also be subjected to prosecution under UK criminal and civil legislation examples of which are listed under point 6 of this policy
  • You are also advised to remember that prospective employers may trawl social media sites as part of their selection process and the social media posts that you make could undermine your future employment prospects.

Relevant Legislation

  • Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998).
  • Data ProtectionAct (1998).
  • Human Rights Act 1998.
  • Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997.
  • Health & Safety at Work (NI) Order (1997)
  • Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
  • Freedom of Information Act 2000.
  • The Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000.
  • Communications Act 2003.
  • Computer Misuse Act 1990.
  • Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988.
  • Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992.
  • The Terrorism Act 2000.
  • The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
  • Official Secrets Acts 1911-1989.
  • Obscene Publications Act 1994.
  • Malicious Communications (NI) Order 1988.
  • Electronic Communications Act 2000.

Student Social Media Policy

Useful Contacts

Public Relations and Communications

Room 8M12
Jordanstown
028 9036 6425

pressoffice@ulster.ac.uk

Students’ Union

VP Academic & Student Affairs Belfast – vp.belfast@uusu.org

VP Academic & Student Affairs Coleraine – vp.coleraine@uusu.org

VP Academic & Student Affairs Jordanstown – vp.jordanstown@uusu.org

VP Academic & Student Affairs Magee – vp.magee@uusu.org