A leading media and communications lawyer is warning of a dramatic increase in civil and criminal defamation cases against Australian businesses and individuals, due to the lack of awareness and understanding of the legal ramifications at stake for users of social media.
Nicholas Pullen, partner at TressCox Lawyers, said this threat is potentially holding back Australian businesses from embracing social media in their customer marketing activities.
He said his views are backed by a spate of recent cases where online postings on media such as Twitter and Facebook have resulted in – amongst others – an employee losing their job, an insurance benefit entitlement being cancelled and a teenager being convicted of criminal defamation.
“As social media continues to become an everyday part of our lives, more organisations and individuals will unwittingly find themselves exposed to civil and criminal defamation cases,” he said.
Pullen believes there needs to be a set of industry policies and best practice guidelines established for social media use, particular for smaller businesses that don’t have the budget and resources that bigger corporates do to develop social media strategies.
“A set of industry policies and best practice guidelines needs to be established to address an appropriate framework of behaviours that helps to raise people’s awareness and understanding of the legal issues at stake,” he said.
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