Using social media


The University of Oxford recognises the advantages and the importance of using social media within both professional and personal spheres. However, with constant developments and changes in the way online interactions occur, it is important to be aware of the potential issues and risks that can arise from its misuse.

This guidance outline the standards the University expects its staff members (including visitors and contractors) to observe when using social media or engaging in any form of online interaction, whilst directly or indirectly associated with the University.


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The University’s guidelines apply to all members of the University of Oxford staff (including volunteers, interns and casual workers), visitors and contractors, and are intended to protect the University’s reputation and its members’ privacy and confidentiality, and to avoid legal issues arising.

They should be read in conjunction with the information on how to use social media provided by IT Services, local rules and guidelines set out by your department, and all other relevant guidelines and policies which are listed within this guidance.

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Social media is a broad term that is used to describe a variety of online tools, such as websites, web-based platforms and applications that are designed for online interaction. Most often it is defined as online social interaction between individuals, in which they can create, exchange, as well as share content and ideas, or participate in social networking via the use of virtual communities and networks. Any website, online application or platform that enables its users to interact with it and its visitors falls into the definition of social media.

Some of the examples of social media channels include Academia.eduFacebookLinkedInTwitterYouTube, and online blogs.

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Social media allows members of the University staff to communicate and network with internal and external audiences and the University recognises that some staff use various social media platforms as part of their normal work duties.

While participating in any of the University's social media activities, members of the University staff should be mindful that they are representing the University and should follow the guidelines set out here.

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The principles outlined under the professional use of social media, above, also apply to personal use.

The University allows the occasional use of social media channels during the working day (so long as it does not involve inappropriate content), but this must not interfere with office commitments and job duties, and so should generally be avoided during working hours.

It is important to note that when posting in a personal capacity you may still be identified as a staff member of the University even if this is not stated on your account, and so you should be mindful of your audience and what is being posted in a public domain.

Use of social media at work must also not breach any of the local policies of the employing department and/or division. Staff members should be advised and briefed on any such policies or guidelines by their department and/or division.

Staff members who use social media for professional purposes should do so via a separate, online account/profile, which is intended specifically for such use.


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The following guidelines apply when using social media platforms.

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The principles of the GDPR and related UK data protection legislation and the University’s policy on data protection must be adhered to at all times. For example, confidential information should never be disclosed, unless appropriate, written consent has been given and the information is shared securely and safely.

Care should be exercised with any photographs taken at work and posted in a public domain;

  • be mindful of what the pictures might reveal (for example, in the background)
  • ensure that anyone featured in the photograph has given their express consent to the photo being posted online
  • photographs of children should only feature in professional publications (online and printed media) where written authorisation and consent have been obtained from all parties, and the NSPCC guidelines have been followed

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The University expects all its staff members to treat each other with respect, professionalism, courtesy and consideration in all forms of communication with one another.

Be aware that the creation, transmission, or display of material, which is intended or likely to harass another person, constitutes a breach of the University Policy and Procedure on Harassment. This could lead to both disciplinary action by the University and action by external bodies, depending on the severity of the offence.

At all times be aware that potential conflicts may arise through the use of social media channels, for example publicly expressing highly controversial opinions online. This is especially important with anything that could be interpreted as discriminatory under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, in relation to disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.

Where personal opinions are publicly expressed online, for example in a blog, it must be clearly stated that these are your own personal views and that they do not reflect those of the University. Where appropriate, use separate accounts for personal and professional purposes for social media interaction.

Ensure that any information disclosed online and/or your conduct does not bring the University into disrepute or breach Data Protection Legislation.

Social media channels are public spaces and you should not publish anything which should not be in the public domain, for example confidential information or inappropriate photographs.

Follow the University’s Regulations Relating to the use of Information Technology Facilities.

Where issues arise in respect of the misuse of social media, departments should consult their HR Business Partners in the first instance.

Access to particular social media websites may also be withdrawn in the case of misuse (via the University servers).

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Obtain written permission from the University before commencing online public campaigns, or making an announcement on behalf of the University (as with any other form of public communication).

Follow the University brand guidelines and ensure compliance with how the University logo or crest should be used online.

Photographs that might reveal anything in relation to University’s work, whether intentionally or not, must not be posted in a public domain unless written authorisation to do so has been given by the University which might be through a Principal Investigator, the Head of Department, or the sponsor terms, as appropriate.

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Ensure that any information disclosed online does not bring the University into disrepute, and that confidentiality and copyrights are not breached. This also applies to any photographs publicly posted.

Be aware of Intellectual Property rights of the University and of others.

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Familiarise yourself with the terms of use, privacy policy and other policies of the social media sites and networks that you use.

Ensure you have protected yourself and your colleagues by setting the appropriate levels of security in your personal and professional accounts on social media sites and networks. Follow the IT Services guidance on applying security settings to social media accounts.

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See also

Related guidance about the Use of social media during the recruitment process

The University’s IT Services and Information Security provisions including:

  • Advice about staying safe and secure on social media
  • Advice on protecting your identity
  • Courses on security and privacy online
  • Courses about how to use social media for professional purposes

The University’s  Regulations Relating to the use of Information Technology Facilities

The Public Interest Disclosure ('whistleblowing') Code of Practice. Where an employee releases information through social media that may be considered a Public Interest Disclosure (Whistle Blowing).

The University's Harassment Policy and Procedures

The University Equality Policy

The code of practice on academic integrity in research

Individual Research grantor terms and conditions

Information security / social media policies may also be published at the departmental or divisional level

In the case of misuse access to particular social media websites may also be withdrawn (via the University servers).