When using social media sites, it is easy to get carried away with expressing disgust or irritation. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is important to avoid libel. The first step in avoiding it is to know the definition. Libel is any type of defamation that takes place on a more permanent source. Some examples include printed publications, blogs, films or any other written documents. Those who write, publish or are involved in similar practices should read about publishing laws. It is important to fully understand what is constituted as libel or slander. Avoiding such trouble online is the best way to also avoid a costly lawsuit. In addition to being expensive, lawsuits also tarnish the reputations of trusted publishing sources. Even bloggers who have a faithful followers may lose them if libel becomes an issue.
One of the best ways to avoid libel is to check facts. Responsible journalism demands this practice. Never rely on commercial sites for accurate information. Wiki sites are also bad sources for information. Anyone can add text to them, so it is easy for inaccurate stories and figures to surface. If a specific piece of literature lists a person or organization as the main source of information, contact the main source for verification. Quotes and testimonials should also be verified before printing. If a libel suit surfaces, it is important to have a list of sources to back the information. If it is impossible to verify a piece of information directly, be sure to clearly cite the source where the words came from.
In addition to avoiding misquoting people, it is important to avoid trade libel. Making disparaging remarks about a product or the company producing it is considered trade libel. After purchasing a defective product, it is easy to vent personal frustration online. In some cases, people simply want to alert others about a bad experience. However, it is best to contact the offending company directly. If the matter cannot be solved, contact the Better Business Bureau to resolve the issue. Never post insulting comments about a company or product online. Many social media profiles are public, and a quick Internet search for a person’s name may show several social media posts. Avoid jokes that may be interpreted as libel.
Overall, the main idea to remember is to test a comment or statement before posting it. Think carefully about the comment. Would it hurt a company’s reputation? Is it personally insulting to a certain individual? If it may be damaging and cannot be verified completely, avoid posting it.
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