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Having a bad day at work? That FaceBook rant or Twitter post that allowed you to blow off some steam could land you in hot water or worse, you could wind up in court.
Statements posted online that negatively impact the reputation or image of another person, business or product, may be considered defamation. The author of such a posting could face legal action especially if they used assets at work – a laptop computer, a desktop computer or a cell phone – to do so.
For example: If an employee knocks a competitor while tweeting for business purposes, the legal ramifications will almost certainly include their employer. The same goes for internal postings. Employers should be wary of e-mails among staff that slam vendors or discourage others from doing business with a supplier.
“To date we haven’t seen many of these types of cases here in Canada,” said Michael Smith, a lawyer who specializes in defamation law at BLG, Canada’s largest national law firm. “That could be because nearly 99% of civil litigation cases are settled out of court and not in the public eye. A few more high-profile cases like what we saw last month, where rocker Courtney Love settled out of court for $430,000, and Canadians will come to understand their rights. That’s when we’re likely to see an influx of defamation cases related to social media.”
As it stands now, the Courtney Love cases are extremely rare. Few people have been sued for their comments online and even fewer have went to court over them but everyday people are just as legally responsible for their comments online as any celebrity, sports star or CEO.
Here are some tips for businesses to help mitigate liability posed by social media use: