Social Media Laws Your Business Needs to Know

Jan 15, 2016
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Written by Ananya Singh

While advertising your business on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other social media app has numerous advantages, it is not all fun and games. The “anything goes” attitude applies to internet due to jurisdictional issues and continuing advances in technology, but as an ethical business person you understand that there are still rules that you must comply with. Also, being ethical is not an option, it is a necessity, otherwise you could face serious legal problems by not following the appropriate rules of conduct and advertising, even if it is on social media.

There are no laws specifically relating to business conduct on social media, but don’t get too excited because existing consumer protection laws, codes and regulations apply to business conduct over social media as well. These laws prohibit you from engaging in misleading, deceptive or false advertising about the product or service you are offering on social media. ACCC offers a detailed guide on social media advertising.Here are five basic principles your business should comply with when using social media:

  1. You must not make any false or misleading claims (surprise, surprise). When advertising your product or service, regardless of how great you personally think it is, you must put on your objective glasses and make sure that all the statements and promotions are true and accurate. Otherwise you could face a fine or, potentially, a lawsuit. ACCC offers a guide on this topic.
  2. Your business is responsible for any misleading or deceptive claims or posts made by your employees. If you have employees, you must ensure that they too comply with this rule or your business will be held liable for it. Thus, it helps to have a social media policy in place that outlines to your employees the kind of content that they are prohibited from posting under the business’ name, as well as the consequences for breaching it.
  3. Special offers, competitions and awards apply on social media. You may wish to have a ‘highest number of likes win’ Facebook competition. They are very popular and a great way to advertise your business. However, you need to ensure you conduct these competitions in an ethical and fair manner. You are under obligation by the law to disclose any special terms and conditions of the award or prize and supply the promised gift or prize to the winner. NSW Fair Trading Commission offers a guide on this.
  4. Privacy laws extend to social media and must be complied with. Just because it is Facebook and everyone is openly sharing their emotions and feelings, it does not make it okay for you to breach privacy laws. You must regard your customer’s personal information as confidential. There is a guide by the Australian government available on this.
  5. Think before you tweet. Using common sense, you must ensure that your posts, comments and advertising does not contain offensive and or discriminatory material. Once again, you could use a social media policy to ensure that your employees are not bullying, harassing or discriminating in their comments or posts and that they are not defaming your business.

Just employing a common sense approach, you should be able to determine the kind of activities you should not be engaging in. It will ensure that your customers are happy and that you don’t have to pay fines to ACCC.

Unsure where to start? Contact 1800LAWPATH to find the best lawyer for you to explain the complexities of social media law and help answer your legal questions. Or you can consult LawPath website for customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote.

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