Social media has become a huge part of our lives, with people sharing almost every aspect of their daily activities on sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It seems almost obvious that there are rules and regulations when it comes to using social media, but, we are all guilty of ignoring the ‘Terms and Conditions’ when making an account. So what actually are the laws when it comes to using social media? Here is a quick guide to social media law that might keep you from trouble online.
One of the best things about social media is the way it gives everyone a way to express their views. It’s so easy to post a Tweet or Facebook status, that often we do it on autopilot without thinking about the consequences. It may come as a shock to you to hear that when you’re posting your thoughts and opinions online, you may actually be breaking the law! How? Well, there is a law of defamation, this refers to something that is said, or written about another person that has the potential to seriously damage someone’s reputation or subject them to shame and ridicule. The defamation law isn’t something taken lightly; if you post something defamatory, it is possible to be sued civilly and the victim of the comments may be entitled to damages (often large sums of money). To avoid breaking any laws, think before you tweet!
It’s no secret that cyber bullying is not only wrong but also illegal, however, this refers to more than just posting hurtful comments and pictures. Harassment can also be considered a form of cyber bullying and this is illegal. This refers to a persistent course of conduct by a person against someone else, generally leading to them feeling uncomfortable or offended. This may be accidental, something considered funny or light hearted can be taken as harassment. Something as simple as continual comments on someone’s photos could get you into trouble if the recipient feels threatened. Each state has different laws, but these offences can come with heavy penalties.
Copyright is the legal term to describe someone’s ownership of creative work, this covers anything from writing to artwork. This does cover works that are shared on social media, however, websites terms and conditions may change these rights. Websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter give themselves the right to copy and use anything you post without your permission. As easy as it may be to ignore the terms and conditions, it is always safest to do so in order to protect your work.
The Bottom Line
Not knowing the law isn’t a valid excuse for breaking it, so it can be really important to familiarise yourself with basic social media laws. It is your responsibility to ensure whatever you are doing, or posting online falls within Australian law. If in doubt, air on the side of caution and don’t post, because under Australian law you are liable for your behaviour online.