Is Our Speech Really Free?

Ian HancockStuff

We’ve come a long way over the years in allowing the reign of free speech. From the Victorian era where children were to be seen and not heard, to children now taking to social media to air their views. With the rise of social media, a platform has been created where people can vent openly and have a help in shaping the political and social landscape, without being directly involved within the media.

Social media has given a generation the freedom to say what we want about who we want to a mass audience with no consequences – until now! However are the lines really clear about what you can and can’t say on Twitter and Facebook? Over the past few months we have seen “trolls” go to court over their abusive comments but what constitutes someone going to prison? Has social media redefined our views on what’s acceptable in society and should Twitter and Facebook even play a role in law and prosecution?

In more traditional media, individual’s and companies are protected by slander and defamation laws. In terms of social media, there is a Malicious Falsehood Law (false statements made to cause damage to a person’s business reputation.) However in order to make a complaint you must be able to prove that the person who published a statement did so knowing it was false and that as a result financial loss has occurred.

Yet when someone is personally attacked, can they actually do anything about it? In the current case with the missing April Jones, a 17 year old made vile comments about her which sent the police looking for him. Yet is saying hurtful comments really enough to be imprisoned? It may be hurtful but it’s not much different to school playground mentality when someone tells a teacher about a nasty remark.

However the courts are becoming more clear on individual cases. The law gives victims of sexual offences and other cases anonymity and those who reveal the victims on social media have in fact broken the law. The concern with social media is that in can be a damaging tool but there aren’t clear defined lines. Recent abusive tweets have sparked the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue a rethink about social media rules on abuse saying – “in my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media”

In terms of business there are a number of things a company can do without dragging a slanderous person through the law courts, only to be an expensive task which makes no difference to your reputation. No matter who you are you can’t control the “trolls”. The best thing to do is face it head on, fightback a Facebook attack and use it to your advantage. You can ignore it but it’s best to diffuse any negative comments by upping your social media activity.

Miromedia can help manage your brand’s reputation and create a tailored social media campaign for your business. Call us now to find out more.