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For public consumption ...

Keeping it private: a guide to privacy

What if Donald Trump decided one day that every one of his asinine tweets that has been recycled for the benefit of the media and wider public consumption was his personal, intellectual property, and that he wished to be compensated for their reuse without his permission?

What an utterly ridiculous story that would make.

The entire purpose of the President of the United States, the de facto “Leader of the Free World” — how obscene is that self-styled title post-November 8, 2016? — getting his retaliation in first is to get his retaliation in first.

He wants to strike first and ask questions later.

He wants the world to know what he is thinking — all the time, without being watered down by minion-like press secretaries.

He cares little for the consequences.

If Barack Obama made social media sexy in his ascension to the highest office on Earth, his successor has accelerated its regression to the time circa 2007 to 2010, when the loons and the perverts were running wild with Twitter before the sensible folk caught on to the phenomenon, and sanitised it. Somewhat.

But whatever social media was then, whatever it is now, any person of sound mind has to know that putting comment into the public domain, whether intellectually uplifting or immorally crude, makes it public.

So, too, sharing and “liking” said comment.

Until now. Until citizens living in the goldfish bowl that is Bermuda appear to have stumbled upon social media for the first time while totally unaware of its uses, abuses and permissions for the past 12 years — pretty much the period since Facebook lifted the shackles and became available internationally to registered users aged 13 and above.

Yesterday the Media Council of Bermuda found itself in the outrageous position of having to make the bleedingly obvious clear to the island in an official sense that public posts on social media are just that — public.

Speaking your truth to the world and then taking umbrage when the world speaks back beggars belief, and is more akin to the gazelle looking back with incredulity at the pursuing cheetah and pleading, “Can’t we all just get along?”

After having to contend with a series of harebrained complaints in recent weeks, Media Council executive officer Don Burgess had this to say yesterday: “There is a misconception that what people post on social media is private and can’t be used by the news media. Most people have not read the full terms of service from the various social-media sites.

“In addition, most people are posting publicly. There can be no reasonable expectation of privacy when you post to a Facebook group or push out a tweet and hashtag a well-known celebrity in it. The news media don’t have to ask your permission to use what you posted, as it is already in the public domain.”

There have been a number of people who have been caught out by social media. Depending on their profile, the consequences and fallout traverse the scale of severity.

Those who are constantly in the public eye — politicians, their families, sportsmen and leading business types, in particular — have a greater duty of care to keep their noses clean.

But, still, some slip up.

We have had cricketers making light of the Ebola virus while seemingly oblivious to its spread occurring in West Africa and not in East Africa, where Bermuda were due to play an international tournament before it was regrettably moved, and that West Africa is closer to Bermuda as the crow flies than it is to East Africa.

We have had footballers writing homophobic tweets at the height of the debate over same-sex marriage, denying it and then bizarrely outing themselves in the same medium.

We have had white family members of ranking politicians taking to social media to say racially insensitive things about black people.

We have had prominent business owners suggesting that those who took part in the unlawful blocking of Parliament on December 2, 2016 — and, yes, it was unlawful — should be hung, drawn and quartered.

All it takes is for one “friend” to like or share these thoughts among their multitudes of social-media contacts — think Ellen DeGeneres — and you have a viral explosion.

Social media does not provide a mulligan. There are no do-overs or backsies.

If you neglect to use settings to allow your thoughts to be visible to only a select few — and the vast majority of us do not because our inner narcissist mandates that everyone should know how clever or well-informed we are, about anything — then you must accept the consequences.

That so many in Bermuda do not know this betrays naivety in the extreme, inviting a social-media designation of Third World proportions. And rightfully so.