Social Media Law – It’s Kind of a Big Deal

About Ulrich Fobian

Ulrich is an associate at Weavind & Weavind attorneys. He specialises in social media law and wrote this article linking our use of social media to Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s novel, “The picture of Dorian Gray”. Also, see this article where he gives tips on protecting your name and good standing on the web.

Social Media Law

  • There is no “social media law”. Media Law is being updated to include social media.
  • The 3 main laws in the Constitution that come into play with social media are:
    • 2.16 – The right to freedom of expression
    • 2.14 – The right to privacy
    • 2.10 – The right to human dignity
  • One law cannot be quoted as more important as another.
  • If you believe that someone is overstepping your right to human dignity or privacy then do the following:
    1. Take a screenshot as evidence.
    2. Contact the person to remove the post.
    3. Contact Facebook or Twitter to remove the post.
    4. Assess the possibility of legal action via an attorney.
  • If you want to post something that may infringe someone else’s right to human dignity or privacy, consider the following:
    1. Is there an alternative manner of confronting the situation? (Through company policy, for example)
    2. Will the post be for the benefit of the greater community?
    3. Is the case for freedom of expression greater than the case for privacy or human dignity?
  • In South Africa, if you are tagged in a post or you liked a post that is stated to be illegal, then you can also be prosecuted.
  • Case law helps to determine the way forward in terms of social media law. There are grey areas and the strength of the case of the plaintiff or accused will set precedents for following cases.

Quick Tips:

  • Be careful of posting pictures of your child. Especially naked pictures will not be helpful when they grow older.
  • Use social media as a platform to connect with others. Be real about your life and be careful not to fall into the trap of the “Dorian Gray Effect”.
  • Think before you post something. What is your intention behind the post? Is it helpful to the community?
  • Do not post when you’re hungry, angry or tired. If in doubt, do not post.
  • Check your privacy settings. In South Africa, if someone tags you in a post with legal repercussions, you will be included in the lawsuit.