One does not escape liability simply by pleading ignorance or unawareness of a particular law. This may be viewed as a harsh principle to some, however in terms of justice and fairness to the would-be perpetrator, there is a fair demand of logic to be applied.


Indeed social media can be fun, and may be seen as just as just a joke and/or something of a pass time. So is driving, drinking, sex, etc. these things too are regulated by the law one-way or the other.


Just to put it into perspective, one may not drive without a license, the age limit for drinking is 18 and that of sex is 16. By the time one is permitted to do the aforementioned, they are expected to understand the law surrounding the consequences of unlawfully partaking in these activities.


One may argue that in South Africa there is no specific law that regulates social media. True but, there are laws that apply to what you do on social media. There is now case law to be consulted by Judges and Magistrates with each case being treated differently.


South Africa’s constitution is regarded as one of the best in the world. This is because of the incorporation of Chapter 2, the Bill of rights. The Constitution prides itself in upholding the Rights of individuals. What you do on social media impacts real people. You could have one follower who then has 2000 followers and so forth. You don’t only tweet to that one person but potentially 2001 people, assuming those 2000 do not retweet.


“The Internet allows individuals to disseminate a message to many people at once. With very little or limited resources, an individual is able to reach out to the entire world. With that ability comes some responsibility for what is disseminated and a balancing of the legal rights of the publisher and the rest of the world.”


The terms of twitter say that “… you are responsible for … any content you provide, and consequences thereof, including the use of your content by other users…”; the one case that has been adjudicated is that of defamation. This however will not be the only aspect of law that will apply to social media. Every person in a picture is a possible litigant.


I personally have never seen pictures of an event posted, with a disclaimer that attending a party/event means you waiver the right to have your pictures posted without consent.


Yes, I agree that it is largely ignored by many people, that however does not mean that there are no consequences.


Laws that may be infringed are that of privacy, defamation and copyright. The worst part is that you can be implicated for being tagged in a post. The court believes that there are sufficient ways in which you can prevent users from tagging you; therefore liability may fall on you.


Think about the implications of what those 140 characters or status updates can have on you in the long run simply because you chose to tweet or retweet it. Do your research. It’s not ‘just twitter’, it’s never been ‘just twitter’.  Always remember, IGNORANCE OF THE LAW DOES NOT EXCUSE. 


** Writer would like to remain anonymous

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