ATT and CIOT have developed a set of guidelines for volunteers of both bodies accessing and engaging on social media.
What is Social Media?
Social media (or 'networking') includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue.
Social media takes on many different forms, including networks, magazines, internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. It includes Wikipedia, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, etc. and this policy applies to all these communications and media.
As volunteers of ATT/CIOT, we have a responsibility to represent the organisation in a positive and appropriate way in all forms of communication. Social media is a powerful, public and easily shared form of communication, so remenber that whatever you say will be seen, and often judged, by others.
The use of social media is an important means of communication to enhance the profile of ATT/CIOT and its branches as well as the professional profile of volunteers. These guidelines are intended to advise and assist volunteers using social media either as part of their role with the ATT/CIOT, or in a private capacity. They are not intended to restrict what volunteers say or do in a personal capacity, nor prevent volunteers from expressing critical comment in an appropriate way.
Volunteers, like all members and students of the ATT/CIOT, have to abide by Professional Rules and Practice Guidelines (PRPG) and Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT). Both codes are centred around fundamental principles, one of which is professional behaviour. This requires members to comply with relevant laws and regulations and avoid any action that discredits the profession.
This is expanded further in PRPG, which states that members:
- 2.6.3 Must not conduct themselves in an unbefitting, unlawful or illegal manner, including in a personal, private capacity, which tends to bring discredit upon a member and/or may harm the standing of the profession and/or the ATT or CIOT (as the case may be).
- 2.6.4 Should be courteous and considerate towards all with whom they come into contact in the course of their professional work.
And in PCRT, which states that a member:
- 2.21 Must always act in a way that will not bring them or their professional body into disrepute.
- 2.22 Must behave with courtesy and consideration towards all with whom they come into contact in a professional capacity.
- 2.27 Should ensure that their internal and external communications including those using social media are consistent with the principles in this guidance and in particular confidentiality.
These guidelines expand upon these statements to consider separately both the use of social media as part of your volunteer role, and in a personal context. However, there are also a number of general guidelines which apply to all use of social media:
- Remember to protect confidential and propriety information - postings should not include company logos or trademarks unless permission is asked for and granted.
- Be sensible and accurate in your communications via social media, even if you're in a closed or private group.
- Do not post abusive or defamtory messages, make personal attacks or damage the credibility of other brands or individuals.
- Use your common sense - the normal social rules apply - don't swear, don't be rude, don't make comments that are racist, sexist, ageist or otherwise offensive (and remember other people may have different views on what is offensive - especially in other countries and cultures).
- Tread very carefully if making any kind of political comment.
- In line with usual standards about disclosure of information you must not publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to the ATT/CIOT unless you seek prior permission from the Chief Executive of the ATT/CIOT as appropriate.
- Do not publish or report on any items of communication of the ATT/CIOT, unless already in the public domain, without seeking permission from the Chief Executive of the ATT/CIOT as appropriate.
- Do not post any photographs of people unless you have their permission (any photographs of children and young people under the age of 16 should have parental permission).
Unfortunately, some organisations or individuals may make abusive use of these communication methods. These guidelines also provide some basic guidance on protecting your privacy and advice on what you can do if you are subject to harassment or bullying via this form of communication.
Using social media as part of your role as a volunteer
This section applies to ATT/CIOT volunteers who create or contribute to wikis, social networking sites or any other kind of social media as part of their role. This includes, for example, those who operate social media accounts on behalf of their local branch.
- Volunteers need to be aware when using social media in this way that they are representing the ATT/CIOT. The lines between public and private, personal and professional can become blurred in online social networks. If you are identified as a volunteer of the ATT/CIOT, you need to ensure that your content and tone is consistent with your role.
- As with all communication you make on behalf of the ATT/CIOT there is a reasonable expectation that you are respectful to others. You should therefore avoid spam or remarks that are off-topic and must not post offensive comments.
- All statements you make must be true and not misleading. If you speak about other professional bodies (ICAEW, ACCA, CIMA etc.) make sure what you say is factually correct and that it does not disparage them. Avoid unnecessary or unproductive arguments. If you make an error, acknowledge your mistake and correct it. If you modify content that was previously posted, for example editing a blog, make it clear you have done this and ideally why you modified it.
- In a taxation context it is inevitable that there will be debate. You should feel free to comment on your area of expertise, but ensure that you are not disclosing any confidential information regarding the ATT/CIOT and maintain standards required in Data Protection legislation in discussing other people. When disagreeing with others' opiniors, however heated the debate, be polite. What you say and how you engage with a debate reflects on you as a professional and on the ATT/CIOT.
- Do not comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation, or any parties the ATT/CIOT may be in dispute with.
- Do not comment on anything that may be considered a crisis situation unless and until you are asked to do this by the Chief Executive of the ATT/CIOT as appropriate.
- The ATT/CIOT are professional bodies so we must ensure that we remain balanced and independent. Do not make any political comments whilst representing the ATT/CIOT without prior discusson and approval from the Chief Executive of the ATT/CIOT as appropriate.
Do feel free to engage in conversation - interacting with an audience through various social media channels can help boost involvement with the ATT/CIOT and its branches, as well as attracting new volunteers.
If you think there is an opportunity, or need, for you to engage more actively through social channels as part of your role, then please contact the Chief Executive of ATT/CIOT or the Branch Network Manager and we will ensure you are taking the right approach - and we're not duplicating effort - before you start.
Advertising membership of an ATT/CIOT committee, steering group, sub-committee or working group
A member can include in advertising material (e.g. on a website or in a cv/biography when bidding for work) a short, factual statement to state that they are a member/Chair of an ATT/CIOT committee, steering group, sub-committee or working group. This statement must be kept up-to-date, it should not attempt to describe the content of the role, and members must not give the impression that they are an employee of the ATT/CIOT. Social media profiles (such as LinkedIn) should show ATT/CIOT activities as volunteer experience.
Using social media in a personal capacity
The ATT/CIOT respects volunteers' rights to a private life. However, the ATT/CIOT must also ensure that confidentiality and its reputation are protected. It therefore requires volunteers using social media networks to:
- Ensure that they do not conduct themselves in a way that is detrimental to the ATT/CIOT (for example expressing a view while referring to your role as a volunteer could associate ATT/CIOT with that view - you should take great care in referring to ATT/CIOT when expressing a view).
- Ensure that they do not act in a way that damages the reputation of the ATT/CIOT and/or breaches confidentiality.
Even if your social media activity is not related to your role as a volunteer, people can quite easily make a connection back to the ATT/CIOT. It is therefore important, where you are commenting in a personal capacity, to make that clear. This could be achieved, for example, by including a disclaimer in your posts and/or profile which states something like 'the views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ATT/CIOT'.
Even if you're not explicity commenting as an ATT/CIOT volunteer, you should take care to avoid consistently expressing strong political views or religious views where what you say may be linked to your role or connection with the ATT/CIOT.
Cyberbullying is where someone, or a group of people, threaten/harass someone using social media, email or mobile phone. Where volunteers are subject to such practices they are advised to respond as follows:
- If the originator of the material is a member of ATT/CIOT staff or a fellow member you should immediately report this to the Chief Executive of the ATT/CIOT as appropriate.
- If the originator of the material has no connection to the ATT/CIOT, you should consider reporting the matter to the police.
- In all cases you should report this to the website/internet forum requesting that the people targeting you are removed as users or their accounts on the website/internet forum suspended.
- If you are unsure, please ask the Chief Executive of the ATT/CIOT as appropriate.
Security and Identity Theft
Volunteers should be aware that social media is a public forum, particularly if they are part of a 'network'. You should not assume that your entries or exchanges will remain private.
Social networks allow people to post detailed personal information such as date of birth, place of birth and favourite football team, which can form the basis of security questions and passwords. Volunteers should therefore be security conscious and take steps to protect themselves from identity theft, for example by restricting the amount of personal information that they give out.
Think about your own privacy - set privacy settings appropriately. Most social network profiles, blogs etc. are public. Do not put information on them that you do not want others to see. Once information has been posted it can be very difficult to remove and often impossible. Even if you unsubscribe from a site the information may continue to remain visible for a long time.
If you are subject to a breach, please inform all your connections.
In addition, volunteers should:
- ensure that no information is made available that could provide a person with unauthorised access to the ATT/CIOT and/or any confidential information; and
- refrain from recording any confidential information regarding the ATT/CIOT on any social networking website.