John Szepietowski discusses the potential consequences of posting on social media

The lion’s share of the public finds difficulty in restraining themselves from sharing on social media and many have developed fruitful careers from their failure to do so. Whilst the consensus amongst the population deems the readily available internet-based platforms to be a blessing and, to some, a necessity, however, as with everything, there are downfalls if used inappropriately. The balance between freedom of expression of opinion and a defamatory statement is arguably a subjective matter. However, defamatory statements do not stand alone as the sole cause of legal action in respect to social media postings.

With the ever-increasing popularity of becoming a social media influencer, many lack awareness of the terms and conditions agreed upon when creating an online presence. Firstly, the most apparent cause of action is the contract that is formed between the user and the operating platform upon creating the profile whereby the majority of users seemingly accept the privacy policy as well as the terms and conditions without a mere glance at the wording that legally binds them. Albeit most policies and conditions are packed full of complex matters which may never become relevant to the user, there will also be stringently important information included in these documents. One must always be aware of what one agrees to. The omission of doing so often leads to user accounts being suspended or even terminated.

With the abuse of freedom of speech being exaggerated in recent times, it is unsurprising that social media platforms have become a breeding ground for negativity and often discrimination. Social media operators have received pressure to tackle the discriminators and often will take action against accounts that post offensive material. Furthermore, employers have become accustomed to including clauses in employment contracts that allow for reprimanding if and when an employee is inappropriate on social media. In some cases, further action may be taken against them individually including legal action where there is a threat of violence, a breach of a court order, or certain forms of harassment. There may also be criminal action taken against an individual who posts or shares an image or video of a sexual nature without that person’s consent. This has become an increasingly important issue amongst social media users today and should be treated with the utmost significance.

On the other side of matters, if one receives a monetary gain for posting on social media or a gratuitous product which they then post on social media, whether an influencer or not, it will be classed as an advertisement by law and therefore, must be accompanied by text or a hashtag to make that known on the post. This is also applicable to meals and holidays that may be gifted.

For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email or visit our Linkedin page.

Larissa Bourgi

This information was correct as of September 2021

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