There are many forms of social media - blogs, social networking sites, photo-sharing sites, instant messaging, video-sharing sites, virtual worlds and more. When you're overseas having the time of your life, it's natural to want to hop on social media and share what you're experiencing. But be aware. Not all countries are as relaxed as Australia when it comes to what you can access and share online.
What to be aware of
Every country has a different approach to online content laws. Content that may seem commonplace in Australia can be heavily restricted elsewhere. Tourists, including Australians, have been arrested overseas for breaking the law by posting restricted content online. It doesn't matter if your account is private or that you're only visiting. The rules of the country you're in still apply.
Here are some things that can land you in hot water.
Commenting on local political or social issues
Some countries have strict laws against criticising their law enforcement, military, government or leaders. Even reacting to a post that could be seen as critical can get you in trouble. Some countries also restrict sharing charity fundraising or petitions without prior official approval, even if they don't relate to the country you're in.
Do: keep your political Tweets in the drafts while travelling.
Don't: share your friend's birthday charity fundraiser on Facebook.
Posting photos containing partial or full nudity
In some countries, content containing full or partial nudity falls under strict indecency or anti-pornography laws. This can apply even if the intent of the content is not pornographic. These laws often carry hefty fines or even jail time. Be aware the definition of partial nudity can vary between countries. Things that you would consider family-friendly in Australia could be too risqué elsewhere.
Do: wait until you get home to post your subscriber-only poolside shoot.
Don't: film yourself dancing naked at a sacred site for Instagram.
Sharing photos of restricted content
Many countries restrict taking and posting photos of certain places and people. This could include
- religious or government buildings
- military personnel or equipment
- images of local people who haven't consented to the photo, or their property.
Rules can be strict around photographing locals without their consent. Even including them in the background of a selfie can get you in trouble.
There isn't always official signage telling you what you can't photograph, so follow the lead of others, and if in doubt, ask.
Do: follow the instructions of signage prohibiting photography.
Don't: take photos of local people going about their daily lives without asking.
Other things to know
Some countries ban access to specific social media sites. The ban may be in law only, or they may block the site entirely. It can be tempting to bypass these blocks using a VPN, but be careful. VPNs are illegal in some countries. And even if using a VPN is legal, accessing a banned site can get you in trouble.
Content creation for profit and visas
Planning on earning money through online content you create while you're travelling? Make sure your visa allows you to do this. Working on a tourist visa is typically not allowed, no matter how you do it.
- Find out what is and isn't legal in your destination before you go so you don't learn the hard way while you're there. Read the travel advice for your destination and research the local laws and attitudes around online content.
- Regardless of local laws, be careful what you post on social media while travelling. Posting information publicly that people could use to identify your movements and where you're staying can put your safety at risk.