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Saturday, September 14 • 4:46pm - 6:30pm
“To tweet or not to tweet: The legal implications of social media in a global world”

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Whether you tweet for business, research, or pleasure, there are legal implications even in those 140 characters. Gathering social media analytics and data mining may have privacy implications whether in a business or research setting. Using Twitter in an educational setting may also have privacy implications. If Twitter is a part of your business, who “owns” your followers? Engaging in debate on Twitter or following celebrities may have legal ramifications from libel to stalking. Good intentions are not a solid legal defense, so it is important for all users of social media to be aware of these legal ramifications. Just some of the legal ramifications for businesses include defamation, wrongful termination, contracts, exposing company secrets, and trademark infringement. Researchers need to be aware that ethical codes of conduct apply even on Twitter. Personal data of subjects needs to be carefully monitored. Copyright of one’s research and the careful use of others’ copyrighted material need to be insured. 

According to a BBC article, “46% of 18- to 24-year-olds are unaware they can be sued for defamation if they tweet an unsubstantiated rumour about someone” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20782257). A social medium like Twitter takes place across the global landscape of the Internet, but the company itself is based in California. Even if a user brings a successful suit against someone on Twitter in another country, the decision may be unenforceable. This poster will examine some of the recent cases involving Twitter and some of the recent legislation that has been implemented to regulate this social medium in the media, educational and business sectors, focusing on Canada, Britain, and the United States. California has law that protects the privacy of employees and students by restricting employer and administration from having access to passwords or private accounts. Maryland and Illinois protect just workers, and Delaware protects only students. Most of the high profile legal cases involving Twitter in Britain revolve around defamation and libel, such as McAlpine v Bercow ([2013] EWHC 1342 (QB) (24 May 2013)). In Canada, Crookes v. Newton (2011 SCC 47, [2011] 3 SCR 269) is a libel case and examines whether hyperlinks can be considered publishing, but the court also cautioned that “New activities on the Internet [such as Twitter] and the greater potential for anonymity amplify even further the ease with which a reputation can be harmed online” (para. 38). There is European legislation pending that would ensure everyone’s “right to be forgotten,” essentially putting control over private information back in users’ hands rather than letting social media control its storage. In addition to examining these recent cases and legislation, this poster will provide a brief best practices guideline for researchers, educators, and business. 

avatar for Lisa Macklem

Lisa Macklem

University of Western Ontario
University of Western Ontario, Canada

Saturday September 14, 2013 4:46pm - 6:30pm
Rowe Atrium

Attendees (6)