Let’s face it, many injured workers are actively participating in various forms of social media for example through blogging, Twitter-ing, and Facebook-ing and are unaware that there are some serious downsides to this practice. Especially since our blog’s recent DoS attack, I have been thinking a lot about this topic and I believe it would be helpful to share some of my informed thoughts for injured workers using or considering a dive into the social media space.
Downsides of social media for injured workers
I know I/we have published many articles about the dangers of using social media [under keyword “surveillance”] whilst on workers compensation, but I believe that it is necessary to raise the downsides of using social media over and over again.
Following the severe DoS attack on aworkcovervictimsdiary’s site, I have been discussing the use and the dangers of “social media” with many informed people, including other injured workers who blog (and have had their site copied by workcover] and experienced lawyers. One such a discussion with a lawyer stood out:
Blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting etc really is forever
Even if you try to delete a single published post or an entire blog, a Tumblr site or Facebook page, it’s really very tough to delete all the references to the work/articles/comments etc that have been reprinted, reformatted or placed in an archived cache online.
In addition to that as the lawyer we spoke to stated: WorkCover and insurance agents frequently download Facebook pages, entire blogs, websites etc… in case the “evidence” is later deleted – so basically what we are saying is that YOU (the injured worker) have very little to no control about the content of your social media (even if you were to delete it, chances are that someone else has already shared or reprinted you “old” material and chances are that workcover or their agents have been crawling all over your sites and tweets and made entire copies of it!).
Dis you know that the map of a single tweet (see below) for example also exposes us, injured workers, to the reality of the internet: much more is contained in any post or tweet besides its content, for example information about the time, the computer type, and even the location.
When your publish a thought, article, comment on a social media platform, you are writing in pen (make that a an indelible marker!), not pencil! And, sadly, there is the real potential to take prose out of context (sarcastic or not) which could then have significant legal ramifications for those injured workers, especially those under “surveillance” and those in a (potential) common law damages claim .
In my couple of months writing (well, dictating and having just about all of my blog posts actually physically entered for me, in my case), I often think about this and wonder if the benefits I (and our co-authors) have garnered by sharing some of my/our [workcover] insights could be rendered mute by a single legal reference to this blog, or – perhaps worse – if somehow the contents of this site could be used against an injured worker.
Remember that just a few months ago the administrator of aworkcovervictimsdiary was threatened with a law suit for “defamation” by Allianz NSW and their lawyers. Obviously this was not about “defamation”, rather an intimidating attempt to shut is (authors, contributors, domain owner) up.
Whilst I/ we [authors] are not eligible for a common law damages claim, or involved in any court proceedings and certainly have nothing to fear from the insurance company or my/our employer; I am just imagining that – like some of you – =what if I/we was/were eligible, or in the midst of a law suit? What if I/we/you was/were currently under PI surveillance with a threat of cutting of my/our/your benefits (medical care or weekly payments), …
Is it going to bite you?
Perhaps you are blogging or tweeting or Facebooking just to socialise (fact is most of us, seriously injured workers, including myself, are socially isolated); or maybe you do it to show your “strength.” Perhaps you do it because you want to stand up for what you believe.
Social media is not a legally risk-free hobby!
Being a “blogger” I have learned to appreciate the power of social media. I have also learned that people who decide to attack bloggers/tweeteres who tell the truth -or who tell lies- risk being even more exposed themselves (this phenomenon has been dubbed “The Streisand Effect.”)
That’s because most bloggers to their homework and are careful to obtain background documents or refer evidence to support their commentary.
So if you’re going to do this social media thing seriously, you need to realise that it does have risks that you might not suspect or be aware of.
It would be good for YOU (all injured workers participating in social media) to review information offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They have many helpful legal resources for bloggers there, new or old.
The Take-Home Message
Be very very careful of what you write, think about it first, back up with evidence if you can and do not get trapped in the Streisand Effect; for example do not IMPULSIVELY reply to some comments, tweets etc – do NOT lose your cool, do not get angry or upset and always word your blogs, tweets, comments VERY carefully [phrase it in such a way that if a PI our workcover agent were to read it, it can not be twisted or taken out of context].
A good example would be an injured worker writing on Facebook page that “they spent all day moving house” – this is a very poor choice of wording and it can be easily taken out of context (by workcover et al) finding that “if you can move house, you can’t be as injured/impaired as you claim to be”. So, in this example you ought to write for example “I spent all day moving house – well, my family, friends,… actually all came and packed all my belongings in boxes for me, how kind…” (If that is true obviously).
Another example: ” I am cleaning out the swimming pool” – whereas you actually need to write it as it is: ” my son, whatever, is taking the bugs out of my pool and I am helping where I can, whatever”. Another common one ” I had a drink last night…”, whereas you are really saying that you had so much pain, grief, wathever that you drank half a glass of red on top of your painkillers” – you see workcover et al does NOT know anything about you (personal life) and can so easily misconstrue a “case against you”, for example implying that hey, as you were drinking, you must surely have been partying like hell, and how can you claim to be depressed…