By: Chris Spain and Catherine O’Keefe

At a glance

  • Between October 2023 and February 2024, at least 60 registered health professionals have been the subject of notifications made to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) because of posts on their personal social media accounts about the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.
  • As a direct result of this spate of notifications, AHPRA has updated its social media guidelines to clarify the types of notifications which will trigger an investigation.


AHPRA’s social media guidelines have always acknowledged that health practitioners have the right to post on social media and advocate social causes. However, this right is not unfettered. While registered practitioners will not be investigated purely for holding or expressing their views on social media, the updated social media guidelines set out the grounds on which AHPRA will commence a formal investigation arising from a notification made about a registered health practitioner. These grounds include a practitioner expressing their views in a way which presents a risk to public safety; provides false or misleading information or breaches privacy or confidentiality; risks the public’s confidence in their profession; or requires action to maintain professional standards.

New guidelines introduced

Two new sections have been added to the social media guidelines, setting out examples of social media activities that are likely, and are not likely, to warrant investigation. These examples are based on real-life notifications received by AHPRA. Examples which are unlikely to trigger an investigation include:

  • Advocating for a peaceful resolution of a war or conflict. This includes calling on governments to use United Nations and other processes to bring about an end to hostilities or a war.
  • Urging for protection of health workers and health facilities who may be caught in a conflict or war.
  • Calling for accuracy, truth and impartiality in reporting on a conflict or war.

According to the updated guidelines, notifications regarding social media posts such as these are likely to be closed without a formal investigation as they do not present a risk to public safety, do not risk the public’s confidence in the profession and do not require action to maintain professional standards.

Examples of social media posts that are likely to warrant an investigation include political content that:

  • Calls for inappropriate action such as signing a petition or attending a protest march which specifically discriminates against a particular population or group.
  • Is deliberately biased and not factual, including information and content which is inflammatory and has the potential to incite racial hatred or intolerance.

In circumstances in which AHPRA is required to review every complaint received, it is hoped that the updated social media guidelines will assist AHPRA to triage complaints, and reduce the number of formal investigations that focus on published content about the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

Most importantly, the updated social media guidelines should provide some certainty to health practitioners and reduce the likelihood of social media activity on this very emotive issue leading to an investigation by the regulator.