With ever-increasing numbers of people taking their conversations online it is little wonder that more and more people are exposing themselves to legal and reputational risks by ‘not watching what they tweet’. It is reported that insurance brokers have identified social networking as a legal weak spot for brands, companies and high profile individuals and are now looking at developing ‘social media cover’ to assist who run into legal trouble offline due to online comments.

There have been a number of high profile cases recently in which a tweet has landed someone in hot water. For example…

  • Earlier this year Courtney Love became the first person to be sued for defamatory comments made on Twitter. The singer had to pay out $430,000 in a settlement to fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir after posting things such as Simorangkir was an “asswipe nasty lying hosebag thief.”
  • Fashion designer Kenneth Cole had to make a public apology after he made insensitive comments about the riots in Egypt. He tweeted: “Millions are in an uproar in (hashtag) Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”
  • Last year Fine Gael politician Simon Coveney was at the centre of controversy when he tweeted that then-Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, sounded “half way between drunk and hungover” in that infamous interview.
  • Former Liverpool soccer player Ryan Babel was fined £10,000 by the English FA after he criticised referee Howard Webb following Manchester United’s win over Liverpool in the FA Cup and posted a photoshopped picture of the referee wearing a United jersey.
  • Similarly last month the FA landed West Ham striker Carlton Cole with a £20,000 fine after he made some distasteful remarks about the number of Ghana fans at the England match in Wembley. He tweeted – “Immigration has surrounded the Wembley premises!I knew it was a trap! Hahahaha.

The latest statistics reveal that there are over 200 million Twitter accounts and more than 500 million Facebook users globally. The immediacy and convenience with which you can share your thoughts and observations with your online network make it alarmingly easy to ‘post before you think’. People become comfortable exchanging posts with their ‘friends’ and forget that their comments can be scrutinised by anyone with internet access. Remember, don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in a crowded room in ‘real life’.