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Share This Too: More Social Media Solutions for PR Professionals by Stephen Waddington, Rob Brown, Chartered Institute of Public Relations

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Chapter 17

Social Media and the Law

Hanna Basha

Here we review the law governing social media including defamation, privacy, confidence data protection and copyright. It's a massive topic and it's not possible to set out all the legal issues, so this chapter briefly discusses the main risks for those involved in public relations and tries to offer practical tips to prevent legal action.

Social networking platforms are often referred to by lawyers as “cowboy country”, because they seem to operate outside of normal social laws and rules. People have the ability to communicate instantly and informally and this gives many a sense that they are chatting to friends, when in fact they are publishing their thoughts to the world, often with a greater impact and circulation than traditional forms of media.

Unlike newspapers and broadcasters, who have internal legal departments, the public publishing via social media do not. There is therefore no one assessing or mitigating the risks or threats of litigation before publication.

The problem is that there are risks and threats of litigation as the same laws and rules do operate online. Publication of information on social media sites brings with it the threat of legal action from people and companies who wish to enforce their legal rights, be it a right to reputation, confidence or intellectual property. Of course the issue with social media is often enforcement, as it can be difficult to find the person who has published and bring a meaningful ...

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