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Social networking hazards abound

Jasmine L.
December 15, 2011
Filed under Features

Social networking sites allow people to connect instantly with others –it doesn’t matter where they are, with a click of a button they can instantly start talking and sharing pictures via the virtual web. However with these privileges, users must consider all that each post you “publish” online is opened to the public. Things that you may have posted in the spur of an angry moment can easily come to haunt you later in the future.

                Although Facebook claims that they have privacy settings, it is very poor reputation and it is not surprising that many lawsuits have been filed against them. Facebook enables their users to “tag” their friends in pictures, statuses, and general posts. “Tagging” allows the user who did the tagging and the one who is tagged one’s friends to see the picture or post. However, one does not need permission to tag others, thus allowing many people (that you may not even know) to see pictures of yourself.

                Privacy is not the only element that can be violated on social networking sites. One can be sued for copyright infringement as well as libel on Facebook. Although one may think that the first amendment’s free speech protects those who post unkind posts about others, a lawsuit can be filed for “unfairly tarnishing your reputation.”

                Plagiarism Today, explains that “a plaintiff only has to show that a third party saw the communication and it hurt their reputation. You can commit libel with something distributed to small list of friends the same as if you had posted in on the broader Web.”

                The most common cases on Facebook are harassment, including one where a son sued his own mother for breaking into his account and posted something as him. Harassment is defined as when a person “repeatedly behaves in a manner that is perceived as intrusive or threatening.” However, with it being the most “common” case, it is the most difficult to prove. Believe it or not, what one person might define harassment another might not, thus becoming very hard to prove in court. 

                It is very tempting to post exciting news on Facebook to share with all your friends and family. However, the simple action of posting about a new work plan, or simply give too much detail about your workplace can get your fired for breach of contract. Many employers use Facebook and other social networking sites for background and occasional checks on their prospective/current employee.

                According to Microsoft research 79% of U.S. hiring managers have admitted to using the web to look up information about applicants, with an astonishing 70% admitting to rejecting a client based on negative content.

                The Federal Trade Commission, a federal independent agency committed to promote consumer’s protection, has recently approved a new background check company called Social Intelligence. This company specializes in collecting information from a person’s social media profiles. Individuals collect the information, and then flag pieces of their posts as objectionable due to the sexual, racist, or violent nature of the content.

                However there is objection to this new program. CEO of Michael Fertik commented on Fox & Friends, “Would you trust a computer to make the right judgment about your professional reputation?”

                Despite these objections it is certainly clear that social networking users must use discretion when posting things on their profiles –it may cost one their friends, and even their future.