#SistaHoodHour…Emma Sadleir: You, Social Media, the Law and everything in between

Social media has become such a big part of our lives in ways that we are not always aware of. We cannot avoid it, well we could by going off social media, deleting our accounts and just living life without the selfies, hashtag blessed captions and going back to having proper conversations with the people who are sitting in the same room as us.

That’s the “simpler” side of social media. There is the side that rears its ugly head every so often and it is crucial that no matter who you are, once you have a social media account, are using it regularly that you have an understanding of the legal side of things, because you would hate to land up on the not so good side of the law.

I have been a follower and fan’girl of Emma Sadleir for quite a bit of time, every chance I had to listen to her share her knowledge on the law and social media, I took it. There were times when she’d be on a morning radio show and I’d sit in the car listen until the end before I started my work day. I was so excited and nervous when she graciously agreed to join a #SistaHoodHour Twitter chat session in 2018, where we got to talk about social media, using it responsibly and understanding the law of social media.

With all the many different things being posted / tweeted, I thought our first #SistaHoodHour Twitter chat recap should be about “You, Social Media, the Law and everything in between”, because WOWZA, it sometimes gets messy on the socials. Let me know what your thoughts are regarding social media law and people.


Wednesday 21 February, 2018 #SistaHoodHour chat with @EmmaSadleir 

You, Social Media, the Law and everything in between 


Hi! Thanks so much for having me! I’m a social media lawyer, speaker and author living in Jozi. I  spend a lot of time educating people about the legal, disciplinary and reputational risks of social  media. I have a legal consultancy called The Digital Law Company. The biggest issues we deal with  are cyber-bullying, revenge porn (image-based violence), defamation and privacy. By training I’m a  lawyer, but actually these days I’m more of a speaker, psychologist and PR person. My life is very  unstructured. I travel a lot for talks but I try to squeeze in a horse ride where possible! These tweets  are coming to you from the stables!  

Q1: What piqued your interest in social media law? 

A1: I’d been working in media law for a few years when I went to do a Masters at London School of  Economics (just as the whole world was shifting from traditional media to social media). It was an  incredibly academically-indulgent year – I had time to get on top of all this new stuff! So basically:  Right time, right place! I’m the luckiest girl in the world  

Q2: Practising responsible digital citizenship – what does that mean and why is it important?

A2: The problem with the internet is that when things go wrong they go very wrong! We all have instant  access to an international, public, permanent platform. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Often  when clients come to me (fired, expelled, arrested, sued) it’s too late and the damage has been  done. Prevention is better than cure. Education is key. #SistaHoodHour

Q3: Following from both your books, “Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex…And Other Legal Advice for the  Age of Social Media” and “Selfies, Sexts and Smartphone”, from what you have seen, do you think  there has been a change in social media behaviour? 

A3: Yes! I think that our educational work, talks and books (and high profile cases like Penny Sparrow,  Mabel Jansen, Vicky Momberg etc) have resulted in people realizing that there can be serious  consequences if you mess-up online (or in the real world and it’s documented online). But the  platforms keep changing, the examples keep coming and the law keeps updating – it’s a full time job  just staying on top of new developments! These days I speak more about what it means to live in a  digital world rather than just the social media platforms. 

Q4: What are the top three questions that you are asked by parents or young people?

A4: Q) At what age should I give my child a smartphone? – A) 13 years old – before that, get them a dumb phone! 

Q) You say I can be fired, sued, arrested, expelled for what I say and do on my phone – but what about  my FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?  – A) FOE is not an absolute right. It can be limited when it comes into conflict with other ppl’s rights to  dignity, privacy etc 

Q) Does privacy still exist?  – A) Absolutely! But only if you look after it. If you can show you have a reasonable expectation of  privacy in the circs, and someone infringes it, you can sue them. The more you look after your  privacy, the greater your right to privacy becomes. 

Q5: Cyberbullying can get out of hand, what has been the worst story you’ve heard of it amongst young  people, and even adults – and what were the lessons that we can learn? 

A5:  The root of just about all cyber-bullying is anonymity. It’s the single biggest problem I have with the  major social media platforms – refusing to hand over identifying information of the bullies eg. the IP  address of who created that “teen slut shaming” page. Some people think you can stop bullying  using anonymous reporting apps. I think that while well-intentioned, any anonymous platform can  be further abused by the bullies. I say “END the anonymity!!”

Q6: I read a Q&A that you once did and you spoke highly of Dario Milo. What does mentorship mean to  you and what are the benefits of it to ones career? 

A6: Simply, I wouldn’t have the career I do today without @Dariomilo. He has been my mentor and  friend. I can only hope to be the mentor to others that he has been to me. I think mentorship is  absolutely critical in all professions. 

Q7: What is next for yourself and The Digital Law Company? 

A7:  I would love to spread my message as far and as wide as possible, hopefully partnering with  @GovernmentZA and/or one of the big mobile networks (in the same way a beer company sponsors a Don’t Drink & Drive campaign, they should be sponsoring a digital literacy campaign).

For more information on the work that Emma does and her company The Digital Law Company, visit their site or also follow Emma on Twitter to get some up to date info on all things social media law and more.

Do remember to check out #SistaHoodHour on Twitter, 1pm CAT on Wednesdays

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