In­sur­ers warn of le­gal risk in so­cial me­dia rants

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS -

LI­A­BIL­ITY in­surance against a pos­si­ble costly law­suit for that of­fen­sive Face­book or Twit­ter rant is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant for South African so­cial me­dia users.

Spe­cial­ist in­sur­ers Stalker Hutchi­son Ad­mi­ral warned yesterday that by us­ing these plat­forms, mil­lions of users un­know­ingly ex­posed them­selves to pos­si­ble law­suits‚ which could cost hun­dreds of thou­sands of rands in de­fence costs or pay­outs if found guilty.

Ac­cord­ing to the Or­nico SA So­cial Me­dia Land­scape for 2018‚ in South Africa alone‚ 16 mil­lion peo­ple use Face­book‚ 7.7 mil­lion are on Twit­ter and LinkedIn has 6.1 mil­lion users.

SHA’S Si­mon Col­man says sta­tis­tics show that 85% of Face­book users ac­cess the plat­form via their mo­bile phones‚ up 77% from last year.

“In­creased us­age of so­cial me­dia plat­forms on mo­bile phones has even fur­ther in­creased the ease with which peo­ple can post to any so­cial me­dia plat­form,” he said.

“It sim­ply takes one – usu­ally un­in­ten­tion­ally – of­fen­sive post to spark an out­rage on so­cial me­dia plat­forms‚ which can lead to ma­jor defama­tion or in­va­sion of pri­vacy le­gal ac­tions.”

SHA launched Slip-uP‚ a li­a­bil­ity prod­uct‚ through its tra­di­tional bro­ker data­base‚ which is avail- able on­line. The pol­icy will not cover in­di­vid­u­als who have pub­lished ra­cial slurs on so­cial me­dia.

“SHA has specif­i­cally ex­cluded defam­a­tory or of­fen­sive com­ments re­lat­ing to race‚ cul­ture or re­li­gion as the un­der­writ­ing man­ager be­lieves it would be against pub­lic pol­icy to en­ter­tain such claims,” Col­man said

There were nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of peo­ple who had found them­selves in hot wa­ter in so­cial me­dia com­mu­ni­ties for say­ing some­thing they be­lieved to be fairly in­nocu­ous, he said.

“It’s safe to say that any so­cial me­dia user could make a state­ment that is not meant to cause any harm, but may lead to pub­lic out­rage‚ which can have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for the in­di­vid­ual‚” he said.

“Peo­ple just don’t re­alise that they are prac­ti­cally walk­ing around with a dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing com­pany in their pock­ets‚ with­out ap­ply­ing the same lev­els of sen­si­bil­i­ties that a pro­fes­sional pub­lisher or jour­nal­ist would.

“To make mat­ters worse‚ just retweet­ing or shar­ing some­one else’s post on so­cial me­dia can put the in­di­vid­ual in the chain of li­a­bil­ity.”

Col­man said par­ents could be in the fir­ing line for their chil­dren’s so­cial me­dia slip-ups.

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