The Amplifying Effect of Social Media on Defamation for Users and Businesses
With the emergence of social media, people have access to communication tools that are much more powerful than ever before. Along with the benefits of having wide-spreading communication channels, there are legal implications for social media users and brands with an online presence. Defamation has been amplified in the social media era, and there are associated risks on either side of the defamation.
A simple Facebook post or a Tweet venting frustration may be found to have negative effects on a business, and be categorized as a defamatory statement.
Personal and corporate users of social media platforms should be mindful of what they post to mitigate potential claims for defamation arising out of their statements.
Social Media Users
- Treat everything that is said on the Internet as if it was being published in the newspaper with a widespread audience.
- Be careful of defamatory comments or controversial topics that appear on social platforms in your own social circle. Users can face liability, especially when endorsing by sharing, commenting and liking the post.
- If a user has an association with a brand or public figure, and their writing style is close to being defamatory, it is advised to tighten privacy settings to limit the audience of the post.
- Any offending comments should be immediately dealt with. The longer a post stays online, the greater potential for damages to arise.
- Always audit past social media postings to ensure there was no potential for past defamatory comments and language.
- Have a social media management system: Consolidate all social media accounts into a single management system. This way brands can easily track mentions and analyse results of their social media campaigns.
- Control access: As a brand, maintain control over social media accounts. Give junior employees limited permission to draft messages that can be approved by senior management before publishing.
- Maintain control over accounts: Social media profiles for brands should be safe from hijacking. Have a switch for turning on and off employees’ access to social media accounts.
- Training: Employees need to be guided or trained on how to approach social media — whether it’s introducing them to different social platforms or train how to leverage social media for business strategy. Everyone needs to be on the same page to protect a company’s social media profiles from abuse and issues relating to potential defamatory instances in the workplace.
Given the speed in which a statement can go off on social platforms and quickly reach a large audience, it becomes ever more important for businesses to think twice before posting, liking, commenting or sharing.