From the comfort of our own homes it’s possible for information to reach scores of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ on different devices, to see, hear and read messages that are unpleasant, blatant lies and potentially damaging on a personal or professional level.
If you’ve ever been tempted to post a ‘nasty’ message on social media, STOP, take stock and save yourself the potential of an expensive legal case.
Libel or Slander?
The internet now means that libel (written defamatory statements) and slander (spoken defamatory statements) have become merged into “defamation” as digital platforms make it so much easier to share our thoughts and words with other people. 10 minutes sat at a keyboard or recording a message on a phone and you can be one click away from making a defamatory statement!
Actual or Not?
It’s very easy to have an opinion on the internet, we all have a voice and followers who are interested in you and your news. Opinion becomes defamation when you make a statement of fact about something or someone that is false. When false statements of fact are posted and you knew or should have checked them out to be true, it then becomes alleged defamation.
You can’t put the Genie back into the lamp
There will always be someone who will see, screengrab, download or right-click-save what you put out there. Once you hit publish or upload, it’s out there for the entire world to see. You never know what’s going to catch on and go viral. Be sure that everything you publish is correctly researched and also that it's factually correct. The internet works quickly doesn’t it?
Social media requires us to trust people we’ve never met
20 years ago I used to do business looking into the whites of the eye of a supplier and trusting my instincts to like and trust them before completing a transaction. Now there is a lot more business done on ‘trust’ as conversations have moved to ‘tweets’, emails and blog comments. Starting conversations online has never been easier, but we are also exposed in a way never possible 20 years ago.
Liable for your words and others!
Social media platforms allow people to comment on what you say or allows you to share what others say, which also raises your level of liability. There are safeguards for bloggers that allow comments on their posts but it won’t necessarily protect you from defamation. It is too easy for a defamatory post to gather influence and weight through shares and likes, thereby perpetuating false statements of fact. The law is starting to catch up to cover social media situations and new and emerging technologies.
Defamation knows no boundaries
Defamation laws are on the books in over 100 countries across the globe. The courts in another country may not be able to force you to defend yourself in that country, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. If you are the target of a defamatory statement, what do you do when you’re “here” and the blog is based “there?”
For more information or to discuss a situation that may have arisen then call the reliable and profession team at Samuels Solicitors on 01271 308049.
I'm Sarah and I live just outside Barnstaple near Umberleigh.
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