Most companies unaware social media could get them sued

Brian Turner

February 16, 2011

65% of UK businesses are unaware that what they publish online could see them facing prosecution for defamation, according to a new study of companies who use social media for marketing.

78% of businesses do not check for potentially libellous content before it is released online, and 91% of all firms surveyed admitted to having no social media policy in place.

These are the findings of a study conducted by Digital Clarity, who polled over 1200 firms who have already embraced social media to market themselves.

The survey defined social media by splitting it into three groups, Blogs: including WordPress, Microblogs like Twitter and Social networking sites like Facebook.

It is estimated that over 2 million UK organizations are already using at least one type of social media as a new way to advertising their company or brand.

The survey results are published in the wake of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) ruling that messages on Twitter count as public information, following a complaint from a civil servant after her tweets were published in the UK press.

This means that employee comments online could see companies exposed to legal action.

“After recent cases in the UK and US, we wanted to see just how much British businesses understand about the potential perils of using social media”, says Reggie James, Managing Director of Digital Clarity. “Not very much appears to be the answer.”

“This is a fast and ever-changing landscape so it is crucial that companies get to grips with the basic issues and implement an up-to-date social media policy which is fully understood by their employees,” said James.

“Firms must realise that defamation laws apply to them in the same way that they apply to national newspapers and TV channels. If you don’t know exactly what is being published by your company or by your employees at any given time then you are putting your whole organisation at great risk,” he added.


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