The real cost of the comments you post on Facebook - InfoNews

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The real cost of the comments you post on Facebook

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January 31, 2018 - 6:00 PM

Now more than ever, the stakes are high for people commenting defamatory statements online, and what you're saying in your Facebook comments could have major legal implications.

Before the rise of social media and internet commenting, journalists were the main target for libel and defamation lawsuits. Now, anyone can be sued for defamation just by what they post online.

Law professor Craig E. Jones spoke at a privacy and security conference at Thompson Rivers University today, Jan. 31, where he discussed legal accountability in social media.

A post on social media by yourself, or a post by someone else that you retweet or leave on your profile, could make you culpable in a defamation lawsuit. However, if you link to a post, in the eyes of the court, you wouldn't be considered culpable.

“You can be subject to libel laws all over the world,” Jones said.

Meaning, if someone were to make a post about another person defaming them, they could be sued in any country. The laws in regulating posts online are ever changing, and lawmakers are having a tough time keeping up, Jones said.

“Governing regulatory bodies are hopelessly under resourced, legislation is outdated before it is even passed."

The repercussions of social media posts are far-reaching, not only effecting the people posting, but the people who are being posted about.

Filing lawsuits against people who hurt your reputation online is tough. Jones explained that it’s because quite often, the people making these posts cannot afford to pay damages.

“Internet mob groups that are harassing or bullying you... if they don’t have any real world presence, or brick and mortar shop, or assets, civil law is quite powerless,” said Jones.

This leads to groups online being able to get away with some controversial stuff.

Jones mentioned the various "Creep Catchers" organizations that exist in the province, including the Interior, as part of online echo chambers who can do severe damage to a person’s reputation without suffering consequences.

“These groups are taking on themselves this law enforcement power with no accountability and no standards,” Jones said.

He claims the groups gather personal information through deceptive tactics, causing a major privacy violation.

Typically these kinds of groups “have committed hundreds of privacy violations in collecting personal information by using deception, the problem is nobody knows they are the victim until the very last instance,” Jones said.

Jones said people who are caught up in "Creep Catcher" situations who may be guilty of wrongdoing typically don't file for defamation. But for those who are innocent, their lives are dramatically effected and in some cases, their reputation ruined.


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