on February 16, 2018 Social Media Inbound Marketing Social Media Advertising Working in Social Media Social Media Agency Facebook For Business Digital Strategy

10 Illegal (and Unethical) Things You’ve Probably Done on Social Media

So, you think you’ve got a handle on all this social media stuff. Awesome! You’re posting great content and getting a lot of engagement. But, if you aren’t generating this content yourself - i.e. taking the photos, designing the images and writing original copy - chances are you might be using someone else’s content, which is illegal. And, even if your content is original, you could be posting things that can be construed as unethical. (Have you ever posted something that angered some of your followers?) Stay ahead of the game by making sure to keep your content on the up-and-up.


Downloading or copying a copyrighted image.

It is illegal to republish or download copyrighted images or GIFs. This includes photos you get from Google images (although there is a tool to search for images that are permitted for reuse). Good stock images almost always come with a fee to use them, so if you’re simply reposting them from some other site, you’re probably infringing on the copyright. Not only that, but the image you simply reposted could have been used illegally as well, making the original source tougher to track down. You don’t want to use images originally published by a site that goes against your brand. Play it safe and buy your images from a stock photo site. These sites have done already done all of the work to secure the rights.

Posting a picture without permission.

While it is not illegal to post someone’s photo without their permission, it is unethical. You should always ask someone before you use his or her photo online, especially if the person is in an awkward pose.

Giving false information for an account.

Facebook sets the legal age to have an account at 13. How many kids do you know under 13 that have an account? Exactly, but that doesn’t make those accounts legal. There are terms and conditions you must go through to set up a social media account and providing false information violates those terms.

Blocking advertisements.

There are tons of ad blocker extensions out there for Chrome, Facebook or YouTube, but many of those are probably illegal. That’s because if you block ads, you’re basically viewing content – that someone else paid for – without their permission, another form of theft. Sorry, either pony up the money to skip ads or just suffer through them like everyone else.

Parody accounts.

If you open a parody account on Twitter, you must label that it’s fake. You cannot impersonate others online according to Twitter’s terms and conditions. We’re talking to you @PimpBillClinton.

Uploading copyrighted YouTube content.

Uploading copyrighted YouTube content has been going on since the platform got started but it’s still – and always has been - illegal. Unless the YouTube channel you’re watching is controlled by the actual network that runs your favorite show, it’s likely to be illegal. For example, I’m guessing the Rocket Jump channel doesn’t have the rights to Key & Peele’s “Mexican Standoff” skit.

Repeatedly sending a Direct Message.

Sending a DM over and over is similar to emailing someone over and over, which is email abuse. Usually three is the magic number when it comes to contacting someone. If they haven’t responded by then, it’s likely they’re not going to and it’s just rude to keep trying.

Inappropriate text.

This may go without saying, yet it still bears repeating: refrain from using racial slurs, sexual references and swearing. Social medial is a public forum and all these types of speech can be considered social cruelty. Plus, it is definitely gives the WRONG idea about your brand.

Linking to appropriate content.

Just because you didn’t create the content, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to link to it. But, If the content is relatable to your brand, throw up a disclaimer first so your followers won’t be caught off-guard.

HR violations.

Social media is not the place to hire or fire an employee. It’s also not the place to reward one employee over another. Keep employee business in the office and off your social media account.


Seem a little overwhelming? Not to worry. We’re experts at wading through social media’s murky waters. We can help you navigate with no worries.



Erin Sandage

Erin’s a pro at writing copy, and for good reason; she’s been doing it for nearly two-decades. She has written and edited copy for a wide variety of audiences and publications, from the local news to niche B2B publications. From short posts to long-form features, she’s got it covered. A Sioux City-native, not counting a short detour through Iowa City during college, when she’s not churning out copy, she’s hanging out with her husband and two daughters, watching anything British on PBS or walking her two golden retrievers Han and Chewy.