Campaigns: Digital - Staying on the right side of internet law

Campaign: Accidental Outlaw
Client: Nominet/Knowthenet
PR teams: Brands2Life and Nominet in-house team
Timescale: November-December 2011
Budget: £15,000

Knowthenet is a free advice website created by Nominet - a not-for-profit company that manages the UK internet infrastructure. It educates consumers on using the internet safely and productively.


- To increase traffic to Knowthenet by 25 per cent during the launch month

- To raise awareness of the legal implications of online behaviour.

Strategy and plan

Brands2Life decided to highlight the issue of people inadvertently getting into trouble online for what they published on social media sites, or for activities such as unintended copyright infringement.

It named this type of person an 'Accidental Outlaw'.

The agency designed an experiment that resulted in more than 2,000 consumers completing nine tests measuring their ability to spot online activities that broke the law. This included identifying a libellous tweet about a celebrity and knowing what an incitement to violence on Facebook was.

The experiment found that, on average, only 44 per cent of people were able to correctly identify which activities were illegal.

Brands2Life's in-house digital team designed the Accidental Outlaw online quiz, which gave consumers individual scores and risk profiles they could post on Twitter or Facebook, as well as advice on how to stay safe.

The agency also designed an infographic summarising the main findings, stills from the quiz and case studies of real-life accidental outlaws to supply to the media. The story was launched by inviting journalists and bloggers to take part in the quiz and through conducting more than 40 press interviews.

Measurement and evaluation

More than 50 pieces of coverage appeared in the first ten days, 90 per cent of which included a link to the Accidental Outlaw online test. The team kept the story going with data and insights from analytics websites such as Google Analytics and SocialMention.

Print coverage included a front page of The Daily Telegraph, Metro and the Richard & Judy column in the Daily Express. There were three hours of broadcast airtime on stations including Sky News radio, ITV, Heart and the BBC. There was coverage across the tech trade titles and major articles in Forbes magazine, Management Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Online coverage from sites including Mail Online, Metro, Wired, The Huffington Post, MSN and Yahoo generated referral traffic to the Knowthenet site.


During the month of the launch, more than 12,000 people took the online quiz, spending an average of six minutes on the site. There were more than 4,000 shares across social media direct from the game.

Knowthenet doubled its traffic on launch day and saw a sustained increase of 44 per cent across the launch month, well above the target of 25 per cent.


It had become evident during the past year, given the riots in London and incidents such as the student who tweeted racist obscenities about footballer Fabrice Muamba, that consumers were likely to be worried about the legal consequences of what they said online.

The campaign idea was the tried and trusted technique of conducting a test to highlight the problem, combined with old-fashioned editorial savvy. Fear of personal consequences was right at the heart of it.

The numerical results were strong. The question all PR firms need to ask themselves is how to take campaign-based audience traction such as this and turn it into sustained engagement, driven by editorial nous.

Few people understand that social media are like any media: defamation and libel laws apply equally.

Over time, Nominet should look to get the audience engaged in a crusade to bridge the disconnect between low legal understanding and the actual risks of personal publishing.

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