One day, not too long ago, a young artist named Euodia was invited to contribute some of her work to a product range a local merchant called Woolworth was putting together. The two met frequently and Euodia was pretty excited about the prospect of her work being added to Woolworth’s inventory, he was well regarded in the area and all the local farmers saved for months to buy his goods.
News channel ANN7 has been the object of both considerable ridicule and controversy lately. On the one hand, the 24 hour news channel launched by the similarly controversial Gupta family has been criticised for poor production values and content and, on the other hand, an Indian company known as Aiplex Software has been filing take down notices with YouTube in an effort to remove a growing number of satirical videos targeting the fledgling station.
The notion that online sentiment is a critical risk factor, especially in the context of stock markets and share trades, is gaining momentum. Australian Dionne Lew, the CEO of The Social Executive, wrote an article for Leading Company titled “Social media: Love it or loathe it, the ASX says you can no longer ignore it” in which she highlights the increasing impact online sentiment in services like Twitter and blogs (still relevant and important after all these years) has on companies’ bottom lines, particularly in the context of stock exchanges.
The Associated Press Twitter profile was hacked yesterday and a fake tweet about a bombing at the White House was published. The result was dramatic, the US stock market plummeted and only recovered about 10 minutes later when AP tweeted that it had been hacked and since locked its Twitter profile down.
One of the big stories online this last week involves objectionable jokes, a tweet, a blog post, a lot of trolls and a couple people being fired in the aftermath of it all. This is a cautionary story for a number of reasons. It has implications for gender activism, free expression and employment-related concerns we have been seeing percolating in various judicial and administrative fora for a couple years.
The social Web encourages sharing but sometimes we share too much. This post gives you an idea of what to look out for and, perhaps, what not to share.
If you look to recent cases, you generally see this issue arising in the context of politicians and sports personalities whose indiscretions are published online (usually Twitter) and disseminated rapidly. Embarrassed plaintiffs and applicants approach courts, indignant, and seek to silence the debates and expressions of schadenfreude. The courts, applying the law as they understand it to this new medium, grant orders which sometimes just seem to be out of touch with new realities. What concerns me about these cases is that simply applying these legal principles to this new, unprecedented landscape can, and often does, have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
When it comes to acceptable conduct on Twitter and, defamation in particular, our law will govern how South African Twitter users use Twitter and may well inform how Twitter responds to improper use of its service too. Although simply making defamatory statements is not immediately actionable, doing so unjustifiably likely is wrongful and can expose you to legal proceedings seeking to stop you, to remove your defamatory statements or even to claim financial compensation from you. That said, there would be a tension between Twitter's approach to users' freedom of expression and local judicial authorities' approach which could be interesting but, on the whole, Twitter will likely respect local laws which are aligned, at least ostensibly, with its values.
In all likelihood, most of the conjecture about Pistorius’ guilt is defamatory and the question is whether those defamatory statements are justifiable and that remains to be seen. If you are engaged in a debate about the case, it may be prudent for you to be measured in your statements and avoid potentially prejudicial declarations.