Insurers warn of legal risk in social media rants
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.