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Social media – friend or foe?

While social media is a valuable tool for marketing a business and engaging with the wider public, using social media personally and professionally creates increased risks that might result in legal claims against a business or a professional personally.

In 2018, 79% of Australians were on social media, and 47% of small businesses, 49% of medium businesses, and 60% of large businesses had a social media presence.

Given such widespread use and dissemination of data, it is likely that any misuse or unethical conduct of a business or its employees will be exposed rapidly and generate an adverse response through social media forums or through litigation.

As material published online is usually available worldwide, there may also be exposure to claims in other jurisdictions. In Dow Jones v Gutnick, a US-based publisher was sued for defamation in Victoria because the allegedly defamatory content was downloaded in Victoria where Gutnick had a local reputation.

Key risks include:

  • Breaches of the consumer law such as the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and the Australian Consumer Law by making false or misleading representations about products or services, such as in ACCC v Allergy Pathway Pty Limited where a company and its sole director were held responsible for publishing misleading and deceptive statements on the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
  • Breach of privacy laws through the inadvertent publishing of confidential information on social media, either by the business or by someone with access to the business’s records.
  • Employment claims of discrimination, harassment or unfair dismissal caused by employees’ use of social media.
  • Liabilities arising from the failure to moderate or remove consumer created content posted on business social media pages, which could include a breach of an applicable code of ethics.
  • Copyright infringement by the reposting or sharing copyrighted content.
  • Defamation risks.
  • Reputational risks associated with posting information about product or service failures and unethical behaviour.

Where social media is an integral part of your business, it is important to be aware of the potential legal risks and to take pro-active steps to minimise them.


Does using social media affect you or your business?

To find out more about how using social media may affect you or your business, please call us on 07 5597 3366 or complete the ‘Contact Us’  form below.



Please note

This article was written by Margaret Miller, partner at Bell Legal Group. It is general in nature, is not legal advice and must not be relied on as such.