4 Not So Popular Social Media Mistakes That Could Get You Sued

Have you ever been docked?

If you have not, then there’s a need to congratulate you. It’s actually not a palatable experience to get sued for any reason and then appear before those fierce-looking magistrates and be drilled for hours. It could be emotionally and psychologically challenging.

Meanwhile, a lot of small enterprises operate with the erroneous belief that small businesses don’t get sued. What a big error of judgment! Well, for your information, anybody can be sued: individuals, small businesses or large businesses.

Don’t you believe me? It’s alright even if you don’t. But before you conclude that you are right, here’s what the U.S Chamber Institute of Legal Reform came up with their research findings:

In America in 2008, the tort liability price tag for small businesses was $105.4 billion.

81% of the business tort liability costs were borne by small businesses. Unfortunately, their revenue was only 22%.

The $35.6 billion of the tort costs paid by small businesses was paid from their pockets instead of through insurance.

Yes, you read the lines clearly. That’s how funny things could be. So, if you think because you are an individual or a small enterprise and as such could not be sued, you need to have a rethink.

Well, back to the social media, you see a lot of mistakes being made with the way things are done on the social media. These mistakes could actually land you in hot water. Yes, the social media is a free place to express yourself and enjoy a freedom of speech but it’s not a place to step on the rights of others.

While you try to socialize, always remember that socialization could come with a price tag. If you take the wrong step, someone could get hurt and sue you. Of course, you know what that could lead to.

Social Media Mistakes That Could Get You Sued

But what exactly are the not so popular social media mistakes that could land you in court? Here are a few of them:

1. Public disclosure of private facts

Everybody has the right to keep some information private, away from public consumption. Those information people want to keep to themselves must never be disclosed to the public. If you disclose them to the public you could be sued for invasion of privacy.

For instance, tweeting someone else’s medical records without his permission amounts to an invasion of privacy.

Another area where you could invade someone’s privacy is in the area where you want to give a public shout-out to your customer. You could be sued for invasion of privacy if go ahead to use the customer’s name or image in the post without first obtaining permission from him/her.

Areas where one’s privacy can easily be invaded include disclosing sexual history, medical records, financial woes, employment background, etc.

Let’s take a typical scenario where somebody is to undergo an appendicectomy operation and agrees that it should be filmed for educational purposes only. If you eventually go ahead to publish such film on social media without the consent of the patient, you have invaded his/her privacy. The person could sue you for such social media mistake.

2. False-light publicity

Another not so popular social media mistake that can land you in court is false-light publicity. This happens when you spread false or misleading information about somebody. It’s even worse if the information being spread is embarrassing or offensive to the person or his/her family.

Oftentimes on social media, someone starts a publication and you decide to retweet or share the post without confirming its authenticity.

If your retweeted or shared post gets to the knowledge of the affected person, he could sue you for spreading information that’s not true about him. The same could also apply to the person who originally started the post.

3. Misappropriation

One funny practice on social media is that people post updates or advertorials using another person’s image without first obtaining permission from the image owner.

Some even use the images of celebrities as their profile pictures without permission. In some instances, the name of a celebrity is used as a profile name.  This, often overlooked mistakes can land you in court.

An example to consider here is the case where the retired NBA star Tim Duncan sued a San Antonio real estate agent for the use of a personal image in an advertisement without obtaining his permission.

In 2015, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that a web-based travel agent owned by Serpil Sevin was asked to pay Vincent Khoury Tylor, a panorama photographer based in Hawaii the sum of $24,000 for using his image work without first obtaining permission and without credit score or the payment of compensation.

4. Slander/Libel

Making defamatory assertions against someone because you are angry or indignant could also land you in hot soup.

Words, spoken or written, that have the capacity to damage somebody’s reputation can attract litigation.

Libel occurs when you put into writing something that is damaging or untrue about someone else or group of individuals. Whether you eventually admit it as an error or reality, the damage might have been done, setting the stage for a legal challenge.

Slander, on the other hand, is when you verbalize damaging phrases.

Take for instance the report published on the telegraph.co.uk, about a typist who launched some vituperation against her employer for an alleged unpaid £150 invoice. The employer launched a legal case that is worth about £100,000.

What this simply means is that it is possible for you to slander somebody unintentionally on social media and yet not realize that you have done so. Eventually, this could land you in a legal battle that may turn out to be costly.

Unfortunately, it is not only when on social media that you are capable of committing libel. Whatever you write on your blog, newsletter or any other type of digital content is capable of landing you in a libelous case.

Since you know that people could easily pick some holes in your write-ups, how do you salvage the situation? How you avoid cases of slander and libel? The following are a few things you could easily do to save yourself that embarrassment:

  • Don’t ever say a word or write a letter/social media update when you are angry. The tendency is that you might say or write what you would later regret.
  • Write down whatever you wish to share and go through it several times before finally posting it. There’s the likelihood that you would spot what is wrong in the written post before it eventually gets published.
  • Be careful with the kind of hashtags you use.
  • Try as much as possible to avoid ambiguity while writing.

Conclusion

Social media remains a very good place to promote your business, interact with friends, share updates and contribute to social discourse. But it’s also full of thorns and landmines. You need to tread with caution all the times.

In our quest to market our businesses and make money via the platform, we shouldn’t cross the boundaries and get into trouble which could eventually cost us more money than what we made.

It is, therefore, important to remain silent if what you say is likely to land you in a hot soup. Any spoken word can never be taken back again. No matter the damage control, you would have succeeded in spoiling a lot of things.

Remember to give credit to any source of information or photos you use for your updates. Copyright infringement or intellectual property theft is a serious case you wouldn’t want to get involved in.

7 thoughts on “4 Not So Popular Social Media Mistakes That Could Get You Sued”

  1. You have shared some valuable information about the errors that people often do and overlook. Many a time people have unknowingly wallow in unlawful activities like this without realizing the gravity of the situation. Having read this post I am coming in terms with these flaws even more. I am aware of certain things mentioned in the post but when it comes to practical usage we often tend to forget these crucial points.

  2. Hello,
    Important information are shared here. There are many situations when we post something unlawful without our concern.
    These mistakes can harm us a lot.
    Many points from this post are need to be taken care while engaging in social media, for example – we should not post any thing when we are angry or should not give any private information.
    Thank you very much for useful information. Very rarely we found this type of information.

  3. Hellow Theodore,
    In my opinion, Slander is the major causes of cyber crime as we can see here some other person is affetced. So there has to some kind of Artificial Intelligence that can avoid us from posting bad comment through text string searching for bad words .

    And by image processing, we can avoid one from posting vulgar images in social media.
    What do you think ?
    Is this possible?

  4. Yes, there are a surprising number of ways to get into legal trouble on social media. I think the most obvious one is defamation.

    While there have been several well publicized cases of this occurring, what amazes me is that it doesn’t happen a whole lot more often. If you read a lot of politically themed tweets, for example, you’re sure to see numerous very damaging claims about politicians’ careers and personal lives. Some of these details have been proven in court I suppose, so there’s no risk in repeating them on social media. But many are are just rumors. And I often wonder why the subjects of these claims don’t sue the tweeters. They could make millions if they did!

  5. Hi Theodore,

    Thanks for this Post. You have shared such a useful Information with us of which many people would not be aware. We can sue many astonishing people of course who don’t have really any other work to do instead of making others life a hell sometimes and the one who sued them really did a great job. Well, thanks again. You are doing such a great Job. Keep it up.

    Thanks,
    Atul Garg.

  6. Hi Theodore,

    Good point! So much freedom on social media is double-edged sword. We have so many possibilities to promote our brand, products and ourselves, but we have to use this opportunity wisely. Because whatever happens online stays online and it can have huge influence.

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