The interim guidance on criminal prosecutions for offensive messages on social networks comes into force today and is part of an ongoing consultation that ends in March of next year.
It intends to strike a balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the law and comes after a spate of high-profile stories in the media about such cases.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said, "The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it."
It highlights the rapidly changing world we have been living in for some time and the need for organisations to adapt to this relatively new form of 'open communication'.
Whilst many large multi-nationals are still scrabbling to patch together a 'Digital Strategy' and other business owners live in fear of this powerful new parallel relationship between company and customer (and employee), many businesses have not yet grasped how platforms such as Twitter and Facebook will eventually change the very fabric and even hierarchy of their organisation.
On a regional level, many businesses have grasped the concept of 'selling' through social media (although that is rarely the best strategy to employ) but we have yet to encounter any where the organisations' leadership teams have understood how each and every employee has become knitted into the business as a 'brand'.
Your staff have a voice both inside and outside of work. Their social networks are made up of family, friends and colleagues and when this is graphed, we can see that within the weaker tie of the online social network, there are numerous stronger networks with deep relationships that are less compartmentalised than before.
Social Network is not a new concept, the term has been in use since the 1960s, what is new, is that our networks are now open and visible to more people. Your running club mates can see how you interact with work colleagues for example, and your old school friends get an insight into your adult family life.
Employees (part of your brand!) talk about your company online. What previously may have been a moan to the other half about the boss (and we British are very good at moaning) now reaches potentially and literally thousands of people. Their conversations affect how your brand is perceived. Recognition of this, acceptance that it will happen, that employees have a right to it, and understanding how to manage it, will be key to creating successful and happy businesses where people want to work.
Digital Media isn't simply an 'add on' to marketing strategy; it is an integral part of daily life inside and outside the business and is fundamentally changing human behaviour. Our objective when talking to businesses about their digital activity is to strive for convergence of the online and offline experience - when a customer slips between your online and offline offerings seamlessly and unnoticeably.
It is indeed a brave new world we live in, but even braver is the business leader that embraces this fact and throws opens their organisation to the world of Social Media.