Be careful what you say on Social Media

Social Media has been known for a place where you can express yourself freely and say what is on your mind. More and more we are seeing how certain governments are controlling what people can say on these social media platforms and in some cases you can get sued or even arrested. A Libel case in Britain involving Twitter is a prime example of what can happen for expressing yourself on Twitter. BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation, made a report about sexual abuse of a child linking former Conservative Party official Alistair McAlpine. While BBC did not mention the officials name readers were able to make assumptions that it was Mr. McAlpine and started posting this on twitter.

Mr. McAlpine accused BBC and many others of libel. BBC made a settlement agreement but other twitter users that made comments about the official and had over 500 followers are facing libel claims as well. Users with less than 500 followers will not be part of the claim if they write and sign some documents  apologizing to Mr. McAlpine.  It seems as these types of comments are taken more seriously in some countries than others. This strict control of what you say on social media might discourage some users from posting.

Do you think it is fair that people are being sued for tweets and re-tweets? If social media is so heavily controlled wouldn’t it discourage users, therefore losing its popularity?

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6 thoughts on “Be careful what you say on Social Media

  1. Libel is a very serious issue, because unfounded assertions have in the past proven to ruin people’s personal and professional lives. Anybody making an accusation regarding charges as horrendous as child abuse better have some concrete evidence to back their story up. By not mentioning Alistair McAlpine, BBC demonstrated that their evidence was iffy at best. They deserved to get sued. Regarding the people who retweeted the info, let this be a lesson in fact checking. As individual twitter subscribers gain large amounts of followers, they in effect become “trusted” disseminators of news.

    I am certain that there are some people on twitter that have larger followers than some reputable news organizations. In today’s day and age, where do you draw the line between the two?

  2. Interesting article. I think that there should be some accountability around what is posted about other people on social media. I think this is especially important when the reports are then repeated by seemingly reputable news networks. Since we can sue for slander/defamation of character, I think this should apply to the social media world as well. We shouldn’t be able to make false accusations which ultimately ruin people’s reputations w/out consequences.

    • Historically, it usually comes down to who is in power. A judge who was appointed by a certain party may be more likely to rule in favour of a case involving alleged libel against his party-mate, and against a case brought by one of his opposing party. Social media cases are just newer, and more interesting, as precedent is still being set, and laws being revised to better address these media platforms.

  3. I totally agree that people should be held responsible for what they say in the social media realm, but who is to decide what and isnt okay to say? This goes along with what we have talked about numerous times in class, how much of what we say should be completely private and how much of what we say should be watched over by social media sites to make sure that we are not doing anything bad? Where does the privacy issues cross lines? And why/how does this pertain to the 10,000 followers that were unknowingly misled? They had no other reason than to believe that the BBC was correct in their report. This could very well be a lead-in example and set precedence for future privacy issues on social media.

  4. This is a question we bring up almost in every class and I think it’s because there is no clear definition of who creates these “rules” of what is right vs wrong or what the consequences should be. Additionally, who monitors the conversation and makes the ultimate decision? I think each situation is handled differently depending on the stakeholder but agree, that social media although provides you all the freedom needs to have certain limitations (i.e. you shouldn’t be “allowed” to ruin someones reputation).

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