The Risks of Social Media


Social media has completely changed the way we live. It is where we go when we want to know what is happening in the world and where we go when we want to organise our weekend brunch date. Even though our online lives are often password-protected and we can curate our public persona – never before has there been such a permanent and sticky record of everything you have ever said or done.

There are many positive things about social media, but there are also a great deal of negatives. Activists are increasingly using social media as a weapon to attack and silence people through lawfare over ideas and speech that they don’t like. Comments that you made ten years ago can be resurrected to be used against you in a defamation suit. Third party comments on your page can cause you to be liable for vilification.

Social media can pose significant risks to people who are open and honest about what they think and believe.

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Here are some general answers to common questions about the risks of social media.

Not necessarily. This will depend on how you engage and the tenor and quality of your interactions with people online. In general it is always a good idea to engage respectfully and thoughtfully. In general, it is a good idea to avoid pejorative language or demeaning others and to engage with other people’s ideas and opinions rather than attacking the person behind them. Heated and unhelpful arguments that remain posted online only invite further unhelpful speech and can be a risk when it comes to defamation and vilification claims.

The law concerning liability for statements on social media is a developing area. There are some recent decisions that suggest that you can be held responsible as the publisher of third-party comments on social media pages that you control and can moderate. It can be a risk to let free and open debate play out on your social media page without any oversight and moderation of comments.

Unfortunately, no. Vilification laws do not treat anyone’s ideals about open debate as relevant to establishing that vilification has taken place. Allowing people to have heated arguments on social media pages that you control can open you up to liability for vilification claims.