When social media engagement puts your business at risk

Businesses are relying more and more on the power of social media to promote their products, services and brands. The goal of any marketing driven social media post is to generate as many “likes”, “shares” and comments as possible, in order to rank highly on the platform’s newsfeed and reach a wider audience.

However, in the recent judgement of Fairfax Media Publications; Nationwide News Pty Ltd; Australian News Channel Pty Ltd v Voller [2020] NSWCA 102 (Voller), the NSW Court of Appeal has delivered a timely reminder of the business risks associated with the use of social media.

In Voller, the Court of Appeal upheld the NSW Supreme Court’s prior ruling which found that media companies can be held liable for defamatory remarks made by their followers in the comments of their social media posts.

In reaching its decision, the Court considered the resources available to media companies to review and moderate the comments on their social media posts, and found that by failing to remove or manage defamatory remarks on their social media posts, media companies could be held to have published the defamatory materials themselves.

Whilst the Court’s finding in Voller is relevant to NSW defamation laws and is focused on media companies only, this case highlights the risks for businesses who adopt a “set and forget” mindset in their use of social media.

If your business uses social media to publish marketing content, you should carefully consider the type of content that is published, how your followers engage with your posts, and whether there is a need to regularly review and moderate comments on your business’ social media posts.