19 November 2019

Be careful of what you post on social media, you could end up in jail (seriously!)

In today's increasingly monitored social media landscape, travellers need to be ever more mindful of what they post and share on their social media profiles to avoid unnecessary scrutiny from local authorities.

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 monitored by government authorities. 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 get you unwanted attention from local authorities in specific countries. In Thailand, there have been several cases of foreign nationals being jailed for posting or sharing comments critical of the king on social media, which is a strict offence under the country's tough lese majeste laws. 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. As a general rule, travellers should avoid sharing, posting or liking any content that can be deemed to be political or religious in nature, especially when you are in a country where spreading such content is considered an offence.

In addition to that, the monitoring of social media activity by government authorities also raises concerns of privacy and personal data security. While it is an accepted fact that law enforcement in most countries around the world do monitor social media to a certain degree to scan for legitimate security threats, some countries like Russia and China 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 encompass things like whether there are restrictions to internet access and social media in a particular country, and whether you can end up in trouble if you flout these rules. By being prepared and well-informed, travellers will be able to take necessary steps to mitigate such risks and as such avoid the hassle of being questioned by local authorities over your social media activity for example.