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No longer can a person go online and post hateful comments and derogatory statements anonymously. What you say online follows you and it is not forgotten. A Swiss man learned this lesson the hard way this past May, as the Zurich district court fined him 4,000 Swiss francs ($4,100, €3,700) for liking defamatory comments on Facebook.¹
The landmark case involved comments made about the head of an animal protection group, Erwin Kessler. The court said the defendant "clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own" by clicking “Like” on the comments. The unnamed man did not post anything, but merely liked others’ comments about Kessler, according to Swiss newspaper Le Temps.²
This case should cause brands to ask themselves, “Should we be moderating or even hiding defamatory or hateful comments from our posts?” Values have shifted over time and brands are being forced to take defamatory content more seriously.
Pushing ads out that allow commenting and having a social media page is now considered the same thing as posting those comments yourself. You and your company may be legally liable for damage caused by comments posted by third parties.
Another great example of needing to be cautious of your actions online took place recently when Harvard revoked 10 acceptance letters after incoming freshmen joked about hanging a Mexican child as “pinata time".
The students met through an official Facebook group started by Harvard for newly admitted students and then created a Facebook page of their own devoted to memes. According to the Harvard Crimson, “the students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children.” ³
These stories are examples of situations that could have ended better. As a brand on social, you must take charge of your campaign and your social assets and set the rules. You set the parameters of the conversation. Don’t let the commentators damage you and your brand.
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