“If one writes in a secret Facebook group something not very complimentary about another Facebook member, and that person finds out and prints a screenshot of the posting, does one need to be concerned about legal liability?
“Also, if said person wants to write an apology, would a lawyer recommend that this was an OK way to prevent a lawsuit? Or would the apology be used as possible evidence towards a libel suit?”
Let me guess… this is strictly hypothetical, right?
Seriously, I’ve been telling people for years that they have to be careful about things they post on social media. Even a closed Facebook group (there is really no such thing as a “secret” Facebook group) is public information. Once you post something there, it is there forever, and sooner or later anyone who really wants this information can get access to it. Assuming that “someone” is you, if what you wrote in your posting is 100 percent accurate, you will have nothing to worry about. Truth is an absolute defense to any sort of libel or slander lawsuit.
If what you wrote in your posting was merely an opinion (as opposed to a statement of fact or accusing someone of a legal violation), you also probably would have nothing to worry about. Saying “so-and-so is a jerk” is a lot different — and a lot safer — than saying “so-and-so has engaged in illegal or immoral behavior.” If the person you posted about is offended, they can easily come back at you by saying, “Yeah, and your mother, too.” At least, that’s what we used to do in my childhood days in the Bronx.
If what you wrote in your posting was a statement of fact that is not correct and was intended to cause harm to the person you posted about, you may have something to worry about. If, however, the person about whom you posted is as impecunious as you are (i.e. they are not filthy rich people who enjoy bringing lawsuits as a blood sport), you probably have nothing to worry about.
First, people (and employers!) WILL look for you online. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Now, ask yourself, what will they find? Will they be impressed or put off?
Second, even before having an online presence that represents you positively, it’s important to have a presence in the first place. I recommend that everyone have an online presence to showcase your knowledge and skills, but if you are in marketing or business, you MUST have an online presence. Think about it, if you’re applying for a position that includes social media or online marketing and you don’t even have a Twitter account, do you think they’ll hire you? Probably not.
So, now that we’re clear that you should have an online persona, and that it’s important that it is positive, let’s look at some DOs and DON’Ts for today’s top channels:
share information or post pictures that would make someone’s nose wrinkle. For example, posting a picture of you drinking a beer when you were 18, writing a status about the color of your latest (fill in the blank), or ranting and raging about your ex is just NOT appropriate. Seriously, use your judgment! Oh, and talking about how much time you have left before you serve your jail time is also not appealing.
use Facebook to share what you’re interested in and connect with family and friends. We are all human, and we like to socialize, hence the immense popularity of Facebook. Feel free to post a picture of you eating dinner with your family or share an article about something you like. Just be you – a positive and happy you.
use profanity or be a spammer. People also don’t really want to know that you failed your chemistry exam or how bloated you feel. Tweets were not designed for the world to hear about your ailments or how much you hate this or that. And, like I said, don’t be a spammer – don’t assume the default Twitter egg is a perfectly good profile picture, or that tweeting mystery links to strangers is okay.
share your knowledge and post interesting articles. Start conversations with like-minded professionals. RT a valuable infographic or blog post (make sure you read it first!). Twitter can be a powerful networking tool and a good way to help you share information related to your expertise.
Leave your profile outdated. If you’re profile still says you’re working at the café you waited tables at in high school, you definitely need to make some revisions. You also shouldn’t have a profile picture of you in your swimsuit. LinkedIn is a professional network!
showcase your work and take advantage of LinkedIn features. LinkedIn is your online resume – make sure to tell people what you do or did in a particular position, and try to get recommendations for them too. Add pictures, videos, or slideshares that relate to your experience (this is one of LinkedIn’s new and awesome features). Visuals can compliment your experience in many ways.
In the end, it comes down to presenting yourself in a way that you wouldn’t want to hide from anyone, whether it be your grandmother or a potential employer. Present yourself and communicate in a way that you would face-to-face, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine.
By Cliff Ennico