Cell block: why Tweeting abroad could land delegates in trouble

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Emanuele Scansani, operations manager at travel risk experts Riskline, explains how some social media posts can prove controversial, and even punishable by law, in certain countries…

Social media has revolutionised the way we communicate with each other and transmit information to the world-at-large. However, with this increased visibility, travellers should be mindful of the risks involved in using social media, especially in a world where Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter spread information instantly and are, in some case, monitored by government authorities.

A social media slip up can have serious repercussions. Consider this: a post on Facebook criticising the Sultan of Brunei, for example, can land you in serious trouble with authorities there. Indeed, posts or tweets deemed to be anti-government in nature can potentially land you in jail in dozens of countries, from Turkey to Thailand.

Even just sharing or liking posts of a particular political or religious nature could provoke unwanted attention from local authorities in specific countries. In Thailand, for example, there have been several cases of foreign nationals being jailed for posting or sharing comments critical of the king on social media - a strict offence under the country's tough lèse-majesté laws. Another example - in November 2017, a British national was arrested in India for spreading social media content deemed offensive to the Indian government over its alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Here’s the golden rule: if in doubt – don’t create or share any content. Businesses and their employees should avoid sharing, posting or liking any content that can be deemed political or religious in nature, especially when in a country where spreading such content is considered an offence.

Social media (in)security

The monitoring of social media activity by government authorities  raises concerns about privacy and personal data. While law enforcement agencies in most countries monitor social media to a certain degree to scan for legitimate security threats, some countries like Russia and China, for example, have pervasive ICT surveillance measures in place which could lead to data breaches.

In November 2018, it came to light that Russian-based IP addresses had been pulling vast amounts of personal data from Facebook and other social media platforms since 2014. In this instance, bringing in a blank device might make sense for the purposes of business-critical travel to such countries.

Keeping all this in mind, it is vital for travellers to be well-informed of potential technology and communication risks in the country they are visiting and to be mindful of their social media activity. To assist today’s travellers to better navigate this risk landscape, Riskline has developed comprehensive reports on Technology & Communication Risks (TCRs) for 225 countries which details any restrictions to internet access and social media in a particular country, and whether you can end up in trouble if you flout these rules.

For travellers unaware of cultural customs and local laws, the path from cell phone to cell block is a short one. By being prepared and well-informed, travellers can instead take the necessary precautions to mitigate risks, avoid the hassle of being questioned by local authorities and even ending up behind bars.

James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.

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