Just Banter! I can post what I want on Facebook and Twitter can’t I?
14th July 2017 by Luke English
The answer unfortunately is NO, as demonstrated in a recent court case.
Rhodri Philipps, the 4th Viscount St Davids, had posted on Facebook “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first generation immigrant, ” in relation to Gina Miller who led the judicial review of the government’s triggering of Article 50 (Brexit).
Mr Philips was ordered to pay £500 compensation, a £115 surcharge and costs of £250, in addition to a prison sentence for 12 weeks.
You can read more on the story here.
Often we think that our comments on Facebook are private, but they are not. Facebook is a public social media website. Yes, you can restrict those that can see your comments in the privacy settings but that does not stop your comments from being racist, sexist, defamatory or slanderous.
This also applies to most people’s jobs.
Most companies have social media policies in their Employee Handbook. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) states that you can be sacked for “gross misconduct”. This could be posting derogatory or offensive comments on the internet about the company or a work colleague.
This rule applies to other social media sites such as Twitter.
In March 2017, writer Ms Jack Monroe won £24,000 damages in a High Court libel action against MailOnline columnist Mrs Katie Hopkins, for a tweet she posted on her Twitter account about Ms Monroe.
According to the Huffington Post, the judge also ordered Mrs Hopkins to pay an initial £107,000 towards Ms Monroe’s legal costs within 28 days. The final costs figure has yet to be assessed, but some legal experts put it above £300,000.
A high price to pay for a few words on Twitter that Mrs Hopkins thought were “OK!”
As a solicitor working in the media and technology world, this issue comes up regularly. I have given lectures to university students in London, Southampton and Bournemouth on this issue. Teaching students and business people the do’s and don’t’s in the social media world is extremely important now. A drunken bit of “banter” on Facebook or Twitter can affect your employment and your entire career.
If you have any questions about what you can or cannot post or what to include in your company’s Employee Handbook, please email Luke English or Ella Gould on call 01202 557256 and they will be able to help.