Social Media Guidelines to Avoid Defamatory or Criminal Charges

With the industry under severe stress, and a lot of anger circulating among salons in the past weeks, Hairnews has observed many hairstylists and others involved in the industry, destroying their reputation online and laying themselves open to defamatory or criminal charges through their comments and interactions online.

We know of at least one client in the Hairnews team alone, who has changed hairstylists as a result of comments made and will be choosing a different salon after the industry resumes.

Please remind all your staff about the importance of thinking rationally, not emotionally, before posting, and also what constitutes defamation, racism and hate speech online. Remember that negativity might breed more of the same, but positivity has a longer lasting reach, and attracts more people to you in the longer term.

Here are some helpful guidelines for you to share with your staff:

  1. Take great care in making accusations or negative statements about anyone or any entity - even if what you are saying is true. Under our law, statements MAY be defamatory EVEN IF THEY ARE true (Our law on defamation is not the same as in the States, which many people assume). In other words, you may be charged with defamation even if what you are saying is totally true. Something needs to be true AND in the public interest (not 'interesting to the public') in order for you to have a defence against defamation. Just avoid it. It's a minefield.

  2. Do not talk about your boss, spouse, ex-spouse, ex-friend, neighbour etc in a negative way and certainly don't bring children into it! Even if you keep the identities of those people anonymous, you can still fall foul of the law if those people can be identified by their relationship to you.

  3. Do not badmouth your company online. They are well within their rights to dismiss you, even if you are badmouthing them on your own personal, private Facebook page! (They can do the same if you express racist, sexist etc sentiments online - even if what you are saying has nothing to do with your company or anyone in it)

  4. If your comments are (or may deemed to be) racist, sexist, discriminatory based on religion, culture, sexual preference etc they may amount to hate speech. This is a crime for which you can be prosecuted. (And you don't have to go as far as Penny Sparrow to get yourself in trouble)

  5. Many people believe that they will be protected by the right to freedom of speech. Your freedom of speech ends when it infringes on another's right to dignity or privacy. Case law suggests that the courts take a pretty dim view of 'I have a right to say what I like" as a defence, when you have invaded someone's privacy or undermined their dignity.

  6. 'Naming and shaming' is particularly risky -it can infringe on someone's right to privacy, can amount to harassment and can amount to defamation. Many people believe it is ok to post a picture of someone's car and registration plate if they are driving badly, haven't strapped their kids in or have parked in disabled parking. This can get you into huge trouble - particularly if you were breaking the law while getting the photo/footage (e.g. driving while taking pictures or video on your cell phone)

  7. Anything posted online is considered to be 'published' and is therefore not the same as you expressing your opinion in the pub or amongst friends. You cannot use as a defence "It was my own personal opinion". Also, social media posts are not afforded the same protection / leeway under law as journalism.

  8. Take great care regarding what you 'Like', repost, agree with in the comments section or retweet. If the post itself is defamatory, an invasion of privacy, hate speech etc, anyone who furthers its dissemination can be held liable.

  9. If someone asks you to remove a post, do so immediately and count yourself lucky that you are getting a chance to do so.

  10. Administrators can be held liable for the comments of its members, as it has provided the platform for such comments and posts to be made. As admin, you have a responsibility to remove such posts and distance yourself from those users (or block them). Having a policy is not protection enough.

Thanks to Pink Pony Media for sharing these tips with us. Please like and follow them HERE

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