Could carelessness on social media land you in court?
Did you know that you can be sued for posting something online that is not true or for sharing or endorsing a false post made by someone else? Did you also know that if you are sued, you could be ordered to pay compensation and legal costs and forced to make a public apology?
If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, then you are not alone, as recent research suggests that nearly 50 per cent of the UK’s 45 million social media users are not aware that they are legally responsible for what they do and say online.
‘There has been a significant rise in the number of legal claims for defamation being made as a result of social media posts in recent years,’ explains solicitor Laura Baglow of NetRights.
For example, in 2013 Sally Bercow, wife of the former House of Commons speaker John Bercow, was ordered to pay £15,000 to Lord McAlpine over a tweet she posted following a TV documentary into alleged child abuse by a senior, but unnamed, former Conservative politician, which read “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*”. In 2015, the parent of a former pupil at St. John’s Preparatory School in North London was ordered to pay £95,000 after posting an online petition in which they made a series of untrue allegations.
When you might face a claim
For legal action to be taken against you for something you have posted or shared online, generally you must have written something or shared something written by someone else that is untrue and which has caused or is likely to cause the person who is threatening to sue you serious reputational harm.
If you are accused of saying something untrue or harmful about a business, then they must have suffered, or be likely to suffer, serious financial loss before they can take legal action against you.
It does not matter that you have not named the person or business in question. If they can be identified from your post or online activity, then you could still find yourself in trouble. It is also irrelevant that you did not intend any harm or that the defamation was entirely accidental. Similarly, it is no defence that the statement was made or posted by someone else first.
Risks for employers
It is also not commonly known that employers can be responsible for their employees’ social media misuse even where it has taken place outside of work hours and away from the workplace. This can prove very costly for employers as it can expose their business to litigation and have a damaging effect on the company reputation. It is therefore vital that all employers take action in advance to minimise these risks and to protect their organisation.
Why urgent legal advice is needed
Legal advice should be sought as soon as possible to avoid the risk of making matters worse. NetRights can provide you with urgent legal advice if you are accused of making defamatory or libellous social media posts. We can help you to determine the right approach in the circumstances, including limiting any damage and/or defending your position.
How to reduce the risks to your business
There are steps that a company can take to minimise its exposure to liability for employee social media misuse. It is essential to have an effective and up to date social media policy in place which communicates clearly to staff what actions they are, and are not, permitted to take on social media both inside and outside the workplace. Just as importantly, meaningful training should be provided to staff to ensure that they understand the risks connected with social media use and know how to avoid the pitfalls.
NetRights can draft a social media policy which is tailored to the needs of your company. NetRights can also provide training to your staff to ensure that your employees understand the risks of social media use and how to avoid them. This training includes practical tips on avoiding legal liability on social media.
NetRights is the Social Media, Internet and Media Law department of Parnalls Solicitors. For legal advice regarding social media posts, social media policies and training, please contact NetRights at email@example.com or telephone 01566 772375. Find out more about NetRights here.
The contents of this article are for purposes of general awareness only and do not constitute legal or professional advice.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Commercial Property Legal FAQs
Rent Charge Suspensions: Protecting Your Interests
Been Asked to Sign an Employment Settlement Agreement? Seek Advice Urgently...
Services Update: Continuity of Legal Service Provision
Advising You in Uncertain Times
Could carelessness on social media land you in court?
Is an electronic signature on a commercial property document acceptable?
What happens when there is no health & care LPA in place
Social Media Training for Businesses
Information to gather for your probate solicitor
Gazundering, what it is and how to avoid it
Relief from forfeiture – what happens if the tenant forgets to pay the rent?
Not so safe at work - compensation for an accident at work
New organ donation law: giving you control
Running a business from home
Have nude photos of you or your teenager been posted online?
Landowners’ rights and the Electronic Communications Code
Building in your back garden
Christmas is a time for giving (and inheritance planning)
Buying the freehold of your leasehold house
Redeveloping an empty pub for commercial use
Why it takes time to obtain the Grant of Probate
Social Media: The unconscious privacy threat
Is your reputation being threatened?
Making a will after your spouse or partner has died
Interns celebrate completion of internship at solicitors
Selling your home in a flat market, some top tips
Claiming compensation for a serious road traffic accident
New Media and Communications Court list reflects surge in internet defamation claims by Laura Baglow
Has your personal information been shared without your permission?
Planning your escape to the country, what you need to consider – part 2
Government consultation on new national model for shared ownership
Choosing a partnership structure
Planning for what happens when you die by Deborah Adams
Changes to legislation could offer protection for tenants in the private rental sector
Move to the country - Part One
The risks of DIY probate
Will your septic tank still be legal in January?
The death knell for ‘kiss and tell’?
Making a will when you retire
Selling your property at auction
Not looking so good - your guide to compensation for botched non-surgical cosmetic procedures
New threshold of seriousness in defamation proceedings
Legal considerations when building a granny annex
Choosing the right person for your power of attorney
Formal Interviews - Do you need legal representation?
Privacy rights and aerial images
Trustees’ duty to give information to beneficiaries
Five problems with a leasehold property
Taking your first commercial lease
Is your organisation protected from employee social media legal risk?
Have you been targeted by negative social media posts?
Farmers be alert when being inspected
Help for House Sellers?
Don’t let your digital assets end up in a digital grave
Valuing an estate for probate
Development proposals and your local authority search
What can you do if your child is injured in a serious accident
NetRights welcomes new protection for social media users
SHOULD I GET A LAWYER FOR A SPEEDING OFFENCE?
Supreme Court recognises that social media is a “casual medium” in libel battle
Choosing the best conveyancer who is right for you
Making a will after a second or subsequent marriage
Option or promotion agreement – which is best for landowners?
Anonymous pub and restaurant online reviews leave a bad taste
Have you had an accident involving a horse?
Help to Buy – beware of some cracks in the structure
Understanding Lasting Powers of Attorney
Changes to Energy Performance Certificate for Landlords
Had a cycling accident? Your route to obtaining compensation
New year, new home: tips to sell your home in the New Year
Tax Planning for your inheritance
Hearing loss: when your employer may be liable
Buying a home for your retirement, five things you need to consider
Farmers plan to diversify after Brexit
Ministers press ahead with probate fee shake-up - reports BBC News
Botched dental treatment? You may be entitled to compensation
Why a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney is a good idea
Will the new charge on building developments in Cornwall affect you?
Energy Performance Certificates – Do They Matter?
HMRC Challenging Stamp Duty Land Tax Payments
Ben Mitchell qualifies as a solicitor
The potential implications of Brexit on employment law
Appointing a guardian for your children
Houses in multiple occupation – new rules from October 2018
New Agriculture Bill published
Will Brexit affect my pension?
Dreaming of a holiday home? Sort out the legals before putting your feet up
Lasting Power of Attorney by Deborah Adams
Settled status after Brexit by Alexis Hager
How to choose an executor to administer your estate when you die
How overage agreements can boost profits from your land
Top tips for first-time buyers
How Could Brexit Affect My Farm?
Wills & Succession in Spain by Deborah Adams
Brexit – an international and local view by Alexis Hager, Litigation
Capital gains tax - important facts for non-residents of the UK
Buying a home: the importance of making sure the seller is entitled to sell
Changing a will after someone has died: it is possible and it could save you money
Your responsibilities when you have people working in your home
Sad passing of Battle of Britain pilot who served with Parnall family member
Considerations when buying a heritage property
Disciplinary proceedings at work: guide for employers
Employers should have a disciplinary process in place, but just following this may not be enough to avoid falling foul of the law and exposing yourself to the risk of an employment tribunal claim.