Social Media and your Business

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There is no doubt that social media presents many opportunities for businesses to communicate and build relationships with their stakeholders.

However, the use of social media can also present legal risks to a business. When using social media businesses need to ensure:

  1. compliance with Australian Consumer Law;
  2. your posts are not defamatory or offensive; and
  3. no third party intellectual property rights are infringed.

Compliance with the Australian Consumer Law

The same rules apply to posting or advertising on social media as they do to any other form of traditional advertising or marketing.

The Courts have found that what businesses or their representatives say on social media can be relied upon by consumers. As a result, some businesses have been found to be engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct based on comments made by their Facebook or Twitter accounts. There is nothing to say that this logic can’t be extended to LinkedIn, Instagram, internet forums and chat rooms.

Defamatory and offensive comments

Given the potential for widespread publication of comments published on social media, businesses should take particular care to ensure its social media postings are not defamatory in any way. A business may still be liable for defamation even where a its social media function is delegated to an employee or outsourced to a third party.

Infringement of intellectual property rights

Posting an image, trademark, recording or other medium that belongs to a third party without that third party’s consent is an infringement on the intellectual property rights of that third party – just as it would be in any other form of advertising. Before posting anything on social media you should ensure that your business owns or has some other clear right to use any intellectual property rights existing in the material about to be posted.

How to ensure compliance

Having a good social media policy in place is a great way to ensure that staff and any contractors are aware of how your social media accounts are to be used. The policy should clearly outline the business’ expectations of employees and contractors when using social media for or in any way connected with the business. Some training on this policy (and on the use of social media in general) will be of assistance.

The business should also have sufficient monitoring systems in place to ensure that any offensive or potentially defamatory, misleading or deceptive comments made by third parties on social media platforms facilitated by the business are quickly removed or amended.

If you need advice in respect to compliance with social media, or drafting social media policies please do not hesitate to contact us.

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