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‘Watch what you write’

Thursday, 13th March, 2014

A social media expert says the law is finally catching up with technology and people need to monitor what they say about others online.

Dr Paul Scifleet, from Charles Sturt University’s School of Information Studies said increasing importance has been placed on social media because of its popularity.

Dr Scifleet specialises in internet and social media, including its community and organisational impacts, and information policy.

He said social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus have become places to express all forms of opinions.

“It has become a forum to place your daily happenings and express your opinion which can often be unfiltered,” he said.

“It’s not surprising that people are in a relaxed environment and are prepared to share their views.”

His comments came as City Council recently warned people to be careful about making defamatory comments.

Research shows that when using social media, people might believe they are just networking with their friends, Dr Scifleet said.

“But the things they say could be harmful, vilify someone or have a negative impact,” he said.

Dr Scifleet said that often people wrongly regarded Facebook as more private than some other forms of communication.

“Research is saying that people feel Twitter is more public and requires them to be self-conscious, where Facebook is a private and personal space.

“So they will be less guarded, however that is now changing.”

Dr Scifleet also said the law is catching up with technology advances.

“There are an increasing number of cases for defamation and liable,” he said.

“Courts of law are recognising the need to control social behaviour.

“There was a big case in Australia recently where a teacher had false allegations made about her on Twitter and she received $100,000 in damages.

“So there is common law precedence.”

Dr Scifleet said while social media had changed the way people sought to express themselves, there were still rules.

“Social media is changing the way we are living and thinking,” he said.

“In some cases people are jumping in at the spur of the moment with some quick quips on how they are feeling about the world.

“It is important to monitor what you say.”

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