COLUMN: Think before you post

2016-07-19 06:00

Social media has assisted people to stay in touch and keep up with what their friends are doing, but failing to monitor or think before you post can get you into huge trouble. This is becoming an increasing trend, especially in the workplace. Not being careful could get you dismissed or expose you to defamation. Simply sharing someone else’s post can also land you in hot water.

Defamation in the workplace

There have been many cases before the CCMA where the employee posted derogatory and scandalous comments about their boss or company and as a result damaging the company’s reputation. This is referred to as “bringing your company into disrepute”. Your employer and the CCMA can deem this as a dismissible offence.

Defamation in generalBy posting derogatory comments about people’s character can also expose you to defamation. In a case in 2013, Isparta vs Richter and Another, the first defendant made various posts on his ex-wife’s Facebook wall stating that she was a bad mother and also sharing other personal information. The court found his posts to be defamatory, and awarded damages of R40 000 to the ex-wife.

Take note

. South African law does not require a person to be the originator of the defamatory content to be held liable. Sharing a defamatory post is sufficient to constitute defamation. A person may also be equally liable for another person’s posts when knowingly having been tagged in the other person’s post and allowing their name to be used, but fails to take steps to remove themselves from the defamatory post.

. Do not post comments that are racist, sexist or offensive.

. Do not complain about your job, employees, boss or company on your posts.

. Do not share any confidential information about others or about your company.

The comments you post on Facebook can expose you to a huge amount of risk, so think before you post.

This column was contributed by Denzil Jacobs, an admitted advocate with expertise in commercial law. For guidance on legal issues email him at dr.ddj@­hotmail.­com.

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