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Legal issues raised by social media

The rise of social media creates a number of legal issues that business owners must be aware of when utilising platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Businesses should consider a proactive approach in implementing both preventative and reactive ways of mitigating potential risks.

Confidentiality:
Legal issues arise when confidential information is disclosed on social media. In accordance with privacy regulation, individuals must be notified when personal information is being collected and the disclosure of such information is prohibited unless it is for certain purposes. To mitigate the risk of an unwanted privacy breach, you should constantly revisit the strength of your online security by updating software, creating strong passwords, and backing up data.

Misleading conduct:
Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), an individual acting in trade or commerce must not make any false or misleading statements about the goods or services that they are providing. Claims made on social media, as well as any comparisons with competitors, must be substantiated. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides guidance to businesses to ensure their social media pages are not breaching the misleading conduct provisions of the ACL.

Defamation:
Defamation occurs where content is published or broadcast that injures a third party’s reputation. Defamation on social media platforms can have far-reaching implications, as a slanderous comment can be distributed online instantaneously to numerous jurisdictions, causing severe damage to a person’s reputation. Social media creates a further risk for defamation, as it could even occur by ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ a defamatory comment made by someone else.

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