Did you know you stand the chance of being sued for what you tweet? Don’t let this scare you away from the network altogether, but do understand that there are implications beyond simply getting retweets when you post something to Twitter.
A new study by UK-based law firm DLA Piper shows that the majority of Twitter users are blissfully unaware of the potential legal ramifications of what they tweet.
They found that, of their poll of 2,000 internet users, 20 percent had sent out a tweet at least once. Of course, this pales in comparison to Facebook’s 61 percent, and Facebook has its own slew of legal implications as well.
But when it comes to Twitter, many users don’t fully understand that a tweet is a public piece of communication, even though it’s only 140 characters long at the most, and can potentially be taken as libelous or slanderous.
A full 52 percent of Twitter users do not even consider the fact that their tweet could have negative legal repercussions for themselves, rising to 65 percent with 18-24 year olds.
As the study explains (and as we have explored on numerous occasions), the number of defamation cases related to Twitter has just about doubled in the past 12 months. And with this number expected to continue to rise, ignoring the legal repercussions of a tweet can be dangerous.
And there is another serious problem with Twitter users not fully understanding their legal ground. Only 18 percent of social media users surveyed said that they read the terms and conditions for posting to the sites they use, a decline compared to 2008’s 33 percent.
Despite the many precedents, including users facing up to 2 years in prison for breaching a privacy injunction on Twitter or inciting a riot, the study explains that,
“…nearly two thirds of online Brits still don’t understand the law and how it applies to them, with young people particularly ambivalent about whether they are breaking the law, specifically when using Twitter.”
Don’t let all of this scare you into shutting down your Twitter account and selling your laptop. However, it is important to understand that what you tweet may have negative consequences, as you can break the law just as easily on Twitter as you can using other media.