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Social media law part three: Can I post whatever I want on Facebook?

Friday, 4 April 2014 | By Vanessa Emilio

In part one of my series on social media and the law, I looked at the legal implications of launching a startup on social media, and in part two I examined the employment law implications of social media. In this installment, I’ll discuss how to manage your social media.


Do we have specific social media laws in place in Australia?


There is no specific or rules in place for social media. There are some general laws that apply to capture things like false and misleading advertising on social media under Consumer law.


But some Australian laws cannot protect thanks to overseas laws protecting them. For example, the Privacy Act does not cover you for things others may reveal about you in public on social media unless the social media organisation is based in Australia.


However, even then, it does not protect individuals acting “in a personal capacity” so people posting on social media sites in a personal capacity would likely be exempt from the coverage of the privacy legislation.


So what do you need to know and why:


If you have a business, you need to know:


  1. What can you do about individuals writing damaging things on social media? If it’s about your business, it could damage your reputation. In a recent case, (Madden v Seafolly Pty Ltd [2014] FCAFC 30), swimwear company Seafolly sued a woman who claimed on social media that Seafolly copied her designs. They sued for false and misleading advertising, trade libel and copyright infringement.

    Know about your rights as a business regarding incorrect or damaging posts about you and your products or services on social media so you can protect your reputation.

  2. What if individuals post damaging comments on your own business social media channels? A company/business may be liable if they knew or should have known that a statement posted on their social media site is defamatory and if it is not removed. You and your business may be sued for something you didn’t post or write if you don’t have a process in place to monitor and remove offensive or damaging posts.

  3. Can I say what I want on Social Media? The argument ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘I am entitled to my own opinion’ doesn’t work anymore. This March, Australia’s first Twitter and Facebook defamation case was awarded $105K to the victim. The former student tried to argue it was his belief that the comments were true and that it was his opinion which he had a right to post. It didn’t work. Now individuals need to be careful and consider before posting what they think.


How to manage your social media


  1. Recognize that you are responsible for what goes up on social media and your own platform.

  2. Review your own Terms and Conditions to ensure you can take down and regulate what users post.

  3. Get your own copyright ‘house’ in order-ensure you have clear rules and regulations for your employees about sharing, posting and using images and text in your own advertisements and on all social media outlets so you don’t get caught out. Also make sure you register all valued intellectual property with IP Australia. With the growth of the internet, its more important than ever before.


With Bullying, defamation, commercial disputes, copyright infringement, social media challenges will continue to grow and the law will need to keep up. So will we,,,