Social Media Posting and the Risk of Libel Lawsuits

Social Media and libel claims

Whoever’s writing the social media posts for a business is responsible for keeping things professional. This can be difficult given the provocative images and stories, political rants, and false information that fills everyone’s newsfeed. These often trigger inappropriate responses by people before weighing their potential impact.

The two most unique aspects of social media are in direct conflict with one another: the user’s ability to reach a broad audience (great for marketing!) and the user’s ability to share without fact checking and free from any regulation (where’s the integrity in that?).

You can be sued by someone claiming something you wrote harmed their reputation or their livelihood.

Why should you care about libel?

The risk of posting defamatory content is very real, as is the potential for a libel lawsuit. So, depending on how much time and energy you invest in social media, we suggest libel insurance. It’s a staple policy for journalists, who are professionally trained to write about people. Laypersons on social media have an even higher risk due to lack of training.

Libel insurance covers legal defense costs and any awards or settlements up to the limit of your policy. Social media opened up a huge playground where insults, untrue statements, inflammatory accusations and all manner of personally injurious statements can be made by anyone about anyone or anything.

Protecting against claims of libel and slander

Approximately 10% of Allstate’s homeowner’s policy customers have purchased Personal Umbrella policies that include libel insurance.  According to the Insurance Information Institute, a third of businesses reported they purchased Cyber Risk insurance in 2011, which covers electronic libel.

In 2015, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners added cybersecurity protection to its Consumer Bill of Rights. It specifically addressed coverage for libelous statements published on social media.

Libel lawsuits are relatively rare because the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. It must be proved that the offending statement is not just false, but made with malicious intent. Courts currently give social media cases a wide berth, reasoning that it’s generally understood that anything posted on social media should be looked at with skepticism or not be interpreted literally. However, litigation frequency is rising and the cost of insurance protection for this risk is minimal.

Source: Polly Mosendz. “In Age of Twitter, Libel Insurance Isn’t Just for Journalists Anymore.” 08 June 2017.
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