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Could you face a lawsuit regarding a social media post?

Many people use multiple social media accounts, both to connect with friends and family and to promote their business. It can be a good way to reunite with people you grew up with and encouraging to build connections that could help you expand your company.

However, did you know you could potentially face a lawsuit about something you post online? Although many people use the internet in positive ways, others use it to vent. And while that may not be inherently bad, it’s how it’s done that could potentially lead to trouble with the law and harm your company’s reputation. With the spread of social media has come the spread of court cases for defamation relating to what people post about other people online.

Think twice, post once

Whether someone misconstrues something said in jest or something stated as fact affects another person’s business or personal situation, they could choose to hold you liable. Unfortunately, without vocal inflection or facial expressions attached to the statement, the web can amplify misunderstandings and even turn an ordinary occurrence into an international incident. In some cases, this could lead to a serious dispute.

Happily, there are some things you can keep in mind to help you avoid facing charges related to libel, slander or defamation. Before commenting or posting something on social media, consider:

  • Is the statement about a particular person? Negative statements about specific people or businesses will draw attention from the person who wants to protect his or her reputation.
  • Will everyone understand your joke? Written communication often leaves room for misinterpretation, and your sense of humor may not be clear on the web.
  • Why are you posting? Are you angry? If so, it might be wise to reconsider.
  • Is what you are about to say true? Refrain from stating anything as fact, especially if it is your opinion or hearsay. If the statement is a fact, you should make sure it is really true. Is the source where you obtained the “facts” trustworthy?

Beyond that, think about who and what your social media activity will benefit. Give your posts and responses a second look before sharing them to determine whether what you are about to post is necessary or if it could potentially be detrimental to another person.

You might want to apply the “Golden Rule” online

What you say online, as well as in person, reflects on you as well. In fact, people’s posts on social media have proven to be a good source for evidence of a person’s character and reputation in lawsuits, even those not involving defamation. So, while it is a good idea to try to avoid posting certain things for the sake of avoiding a lawsuit, you might remember that what you post also helps others understand who you are and how you view those around you.

Before you click, you might want to think about how the picture, hashtag or words you are sharing would make you feel if roles were reversed, and proceed according to what you would want someone to share about you.

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