Sometimes it feels that social media is just another platform for people to complain, grunt and be negative. While we all sometimes have a good reason for it and feel like it’s a good idea to use social media to vent and express our opinions, it’s important to note that what you write on your posts can be used as evidence in a court. Did I just lost you interest?
I urge you read this further as it might help you protect yourself against others or open your awareness about your own conduct. I promise I will not bore you with too many legal details. Agreed?
Ok, my marketer’s hat off, and my lawyer’s hat on.
Recently, Australian Federal Court made a decision that serves us as a reminder that individuals and businesses should exercise caution when making comments on social media and that same standards apply to social media as to other forms of advertising and marketing.
So what happened?
We all know Seafolly for their stunning beach wear collections. Recently they sued, a designer from White Sands Swimwear for engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct by posting number of statements on Facebook and in emails to several outlets indicating that Seafolly ripped off almost her entire line. To cut the long story short, the court found in favour of Seafolly and found that Ms Madden falsely represented that Seafolly had copied her designs and that Seafolly was not the creator of their designs. She also falsely represented that Seafolly used underhanded means to obtain photographs of the White Sands garments in order to copy them.
Although Ms Madden did not explicitly accuse Seafolly of copying, the statements made on her Facebook page and the emails to media representatives were understood by her audience to be assertions that Seafolly had engaged in unethical practices. That understanding was evidenced by the tones of the early media articles and comments on the issue.
So why should that worry you?
Even though these statements were made on Ms Madden’s personal Facebook profile and could be seen as expression of her opinions, the Court found that she was reckless in forming them. She took none of the steps that she should have taken to ascertain the truthfulness of her suspicions. Her intention of making these statements was not relevant – what counts is the understanding of audience to whom these statement were directed. Ms Madden was awarded to pay $25,000 for damages to Seafolly’s reputation, which the Court labelled as a ‘serious assault on Seafolly’s business integrity’, and also their costs of the proceeding.
Social media is a valuable marketing and social tool. We have to remember that even though it appears informal, the unethical conduct can results in serious consequences for individuals and businesses, including payment of damages and legal costs and adverse media attention. Before you post anything on Facebook and other social media platforms, check your facts and check them again. Even thought the statements are instant and can be deleted, they can be retrieved and damaging for your business.
If you ever think that someone is violating your rights, refrain from resolving this matter on social media. Check the facts; engage with offending party off-line and/or engage lawyers if necessary.
Most of all, don’t post anything you would not say to that person or brand directly; and consider how you would feel if you were on the other side.
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