Policies and procedures

Policy No.
Human Resources
Authoring Organisational Unit
Employee Relations and Management Services
Date Approved
15/07/2011 Revised 26/09/2014
Next Review Date
Approving Body
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor And Registrar

The University of Western Australia

University Policy on: Social Media

Purpose of the policy and summary of issues it addresses:

This policy outlines appropriate participation of University employees in social media technology.

The purpose of this policy is to clarify the boundaries employees are required to understand about private identity within the social media context. There is the need to be mindful of behaviour that can impact on employees' public roles and the reputation of the University.

While the purpose of this policy is not to prescribe boundaries to an employee's private identity within the social media context,

the inappropriate use of social media, either in a professional or personal capacity, can violate the privacy, breach the security and harm the reputations of other employees, students and/or the University. Such activity may be determined as misconduct or serious misconduct, resulting in possible disciplinary action or termination of employment.

Reference to various University policies, regulations and codes of conduct regarding employee media representations, and use of information technologies, are included for consideration with this policy. Employees need to be aware of relevant policies and codes of conduct relevant to use of computers and networks of the University and social media sites.


"Employee" means a person employed by the University.

"Social media" and relevant information technology includes the transmission of text and images by, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Flickr, Urban Dictionary and YouTube.

"University" means The University of Western Australia.

Policy statement:

Social media technology is now being used not only for online communities, but also as an alternative for 'traditional' business communication. For many people, participation in these forms of communication technologies is an integral aspect of their professional and social lives, which may lead to a blurring of the public face and private identity of employees.

The University recognises that social media is a term which encompasses the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. These activities, and the manner in which information is presented, are dependent upon varied perspectives and the creation of shared meaning as people share their stories and understandings.

1 Use of Social Media Technologies

The University supports participation in social media technologies, recognising they are:

  • used for both work and private use by many employees;
  • a valuable vehicle in teaching, learning and assessment processes;
  • an effective way to communicate with students;
  • to be encouraged as legitimate texts for study in particular areas of the University;
  • a vehicle for easy, unobtrusive creation and strengthening of ties among colleagues; and
  • widely used to build and maintain external professional networks, such as LinkedIn.

2 Participation as a Representative of the University

The authorised use of media forums, including social media, in any capacity on behalf of the University to announce achievements and public comments within an area of expertise, is more comprehensively outlined within Public Affairs' Media Policy.

3 Participation as an Individual

The University has a particular concern regarding the ease which professional distance and personal use can be blurred. With the immediacy of the media and false sense of anonymity often constructed through internet communication, employees must be mindful that:

  • personal views on employees' social network spaces can affect perceptions of their professional views if taken in the wrong context;
  • personal postings which discuss tertiary education or the University should include disclosure that the author is an employee of the University, and the views expressed are those of the author and not those of the University;
  • the news media will always make the link between controversial comments made by a UWA employee and the University;
  • appropriate staff-student boundaries can be breached and allegations of misconduct, inappropriate contact with students or inappropriate conduct outside of work hours are a possibility;
  • tensions between work colleagues may be exacerbated;
  • care must be taken not to share unauthorised or confidential University information;
  • not everything on the web is free to copy and care must be taken not to intentionally or unintentionally breach copyright;
  • web conversations with friends and colleagues about students, colleagues and/or the University may breach the University's Code of Conduct; and
  • inappropriate postings may result in claims of defamation, discrimination, harassment and invasion of privacy. In any lawsuit, blogs, postings, e-mails and other digital exchanges may be subject to discovery.

4 University computers and networks

Access to the University's electronic systems is granted to employees who agree to comply with conditions included in individual Contracts of Employment and the ITS Conditions of Access to The Administration Network & Systems. Appropriate use of the University's computers, software and online services are comprehensively covered by Information Technology Services Computer and Software Use Regulations and Policies.

  • While computers and networks are provided for University purposes, employees are permitted limited personal use, which includes accessing social media sites. Access for personal use is to be managed and discussed within the work area and the "reasonableness test" applied to determine whether or not employees' personal use of these resources is appropriate and does not interfere with their work.
  • Employees must not deliberately access, download, store or send materials of a pornographic, racist, sexist, inflammatory, hateful or abusive nature and must comply with the University's Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct.
  • The University will respect the privacy of individuals' electronic material (eg email, disk files), using University computers and networks, and expects others to do likewise. However, no-one has the right to absolute privacy of material on University IT systems. Users should recognise that there may be occasions when even the most private of their material may become disclosed.

5 Obligations of Social Media Users

Individual employees of the University are obliged to:

  • be responsible for what they write and disseminate;
  • respect their audience; and
  • respect copyright.

Any activity which represents a failure to meet these obligations may be determined as misconduct or serious misconduct, resulting in disciplinary action including termination of employment. Such action will be taken under the provisions of the relevant staff agreement or employment contract.

Related forms: N/A

TRIM File No:


Contact position:

Employment Relations & Management Services

Related Policies or legislation:

"Email Essentials"

UWA Code of Conduct

ITS Conditions of Access to the Administration Network & Systems

ITS Computer & Software Use Regulations

Privacy Policy

Managing Misconduct Policy

Legal Services-Copyright

Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth)

Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cwlth)

Crimes Act 1914 (Cwlth)