Mind Your Own Online Business: Social Media Laws You Should Know Before Posting

Posted on: 22 June 2015

These days privacy is minimal. Social media allows people to post whatever they want, whenever they want. People post pictures of themselves, their family, and even other people. Before posting pictures of people other than your own family, make sure you understand the laws. Know when posting a picture or status on social media is illegal.

Compromising situations

You may think it's funny to post a picture of a friend drinking or doing something questionable, but you have to think about the consequences of the images. Your friends and family may have important jobs and a reputation to uphold. School teachers, business executives, and other professionals could lose their jobs over questionable photos winding up on the internet. If you damage someone's reputation and cause them to lose something important in life, they can sue you for defamation or slander. It's best to ask before posting pictures of other people, especially when they're full of questionable content.

Copyrighted material

Technically, you can't post pictures taken by another person, period. If you share photos of celebrities or photos taken by photographers, you are violating copyright. While most people don't care, or at least not enough to take legal action, it can and has happened.

While celebrities don't tend to care if pictures are shared, they can't be used for advertising purposes. If you are running a business page on social media, you have to use your own materials or obtain permission to use other people's. A clothing line was sued by Humphrey Bogart's estate for posting a photo of him for an advertising campaign.

Public venues

Photos taken in public venues are fair game. You can post pictures taken at concerts, fairs, sports games, and other public venues without the consent of anyone else in the photos. "Private" public places are an exception to the rule. These are places that give you the assumption of privacy. These include public restrooms, doctor's offices, and other places where security cameras wouldn't be allowed.

False statuses about others

While posting compromising photos can ruin someone's reputation, so can posting false statuses about people. If you make false claims about people on social media and the false claims cause their reputation to become ruined, they can sue you for defamation of character. A businessman named Mathew Firsht had his reputation damaged when a childhood friend created web sites and claimed to be Firsht. He created them in first person and talked about himself (Firsht) telling lies about his life. When Frisht found out who was behind the web sites, he sued his old friend for libel and won $43,767.

Stalking someone online

When you make friends on social media, you need to be respectful of them. You can be sued for harassment if you don't respect their boundaries. All social media web sites have a 'block' feature. Blocking someone makes it so neither of you can contact each other. Figuring out someone else's password and posting fake statuses on their account, or making new profiles to contact someone who has blocked you is considered harassment.

If someone doesn't want anything to do with you, don't try to contact them, post about them, (or for them). A teenager in Arkansas sued his mother for harassment when she logged onto his Facebook and posted mean statuses about him on his wall. She changed his password so he couldn't login and delete them. The boy lives with his grandmother and has a no-contact order against his mother.

Social media tends to make people think that they can put whatever they want on the internet whenever they want to. Just because people don't always take legal action, doesn't make it true. Be mindful of others when posting on the social media, and know the laws so you don't get yourself in legal trouble. If you do find a law suit headed your way, however, you may want to consider contacting a lawyer from a firm, such as Brown Beattie O'Donovan.