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Marketing / Social media

Avoid being sued! Social media and the law

There are legal issues you need to be aware of when promoting your business through social media. Stay informed so that you can stay out of court.

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Rule 1. Social Media terms and conditions protect them, not you

Did you know that Facebook owns your customer list? Yes, it’s in their terms! They can close your Facebook page overnight without notice and without reason, but still market to your likers. (This is a good reason to have a website and not just social media pages.) Social Media sites all have terms and conditions, but if you read them, you’re actually indemnifying them for your clients and customer actions, as well as your own!

Rule 2. You are responsible

You are responsible for all content posted on your business website and social media accounts. This is especially relevant if you allow other people to post comments or anything at all, including advertising, products or services.

People may sue you because of copyrighted material or because of potentially defamatory information. A tweet or post written on behalf of your business may give rise to defamation action in Australia and any overseas jurisdiction where a person suffers damage to their reputation.

Be careful about making ‘over-statements’ or claims about your business on Facebook or other Social media pages, and don’t allow others to make misleading claims or defamatory comments either.

"A tweet or post written on behalf of your business may give rise to defamation action."

Consumer protection laws which prohibit businesses from making false, misleading or deceptive claims about their products or services have been in place for decades. These laws apply to social media in the same way they apply to any other marketing or sales channel.

Want more articles like this? Check out the social media section.

Rule 3. You still need to comply with Australian Consumer law

What you do, say, post or sell needs to comply with Australian law even if you’re located elsewhere. If you are addressing or targeting Australian consumers, you are bound by the local regulations, no matter where you’re located in the world. This includes regulations on your refunds, product safety standards, privacy law, compliance with local industry codes, advertising standards and so on.

For example, if you start promoting your business on a social media platform selling to UK and Australian consumers, you will have to ensure that you comply with both Australian and UK local consumer law. It’s where your customer resides that determines your requirements, not where your business is located.

Social media is a great platform for your business, but as with all communication channels, you need to be professional at all times. If you can’t say something nice…don’t say it on Twitter!

Are you aware of the laws related to social media? Will your awareness change the way you use social media?

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of Legal123.com.au, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.

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