Bombs under wheelchairs, model airplanes and other stupid tweets

The last couple weeks saw two spectacular lapses in judgment in corporate Twitter accounts. The first was the pornographic US Airways tweet in response to a passenger’s complaints about a delayed flight and the second was an FNB employee’s flippant tweet about an ad personality’s activities in Afghanistan.

Each incident has unfolded a little differently. Both are stark reminders about the very serious legal consequences for misguided tweets.

Extorted out of a $50 000 Twitter handle

Update (2014-02-26): The Next Web has reported that Hiroshima is once again in control of his envious Twitter handle, @N. This is a happy ending not only for me but also for sane employees and loyal users of Twitter's. Congrats to those, too.— Naoki Hiroshima (@N) February 26, 2014 //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js A good Twitter handle is... Continue Reading →

Cancer stories and contextual privacy

If you are unfamiliar with Twitter direct messages, they are inherently private and only people who follow you may send you direct messages. Aside from not informing Adams that she was writing a story about her, Keller apparently did not obtain Adams' permission to repeat the direct message conversation and that violated Adams' privacy, regardless of how public she is about other aspects of her experiences. 

Nokia’s errant F-bomb tweet and a reputational smear

Although the tweet was almost certainly not sanctioned by Nokia’s marketing team, it highlights the importance of carefully managing not only access to a brand’s social profiles and establishing clear guidelines for people who do have access to those profiles explaining what acceptable behaviour and content are because whatever is published using those platforms is going to be perceived as representative of the brand to some degree. Aside from the obvious reputational smear, consider the economic impact of a brand that is perceived to have taken a strong stand against its customers, especially at a time when it is undergoing considerable transformation.

Gender activism, trolls and being fired for tweeting

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.

What you can legally say on Twitter

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.

Your Oscar Pistorius conjecture could get you sued

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.

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