Many Kenyans have a social media presence. According to a study done in 2017, Kenya had 12 million WhatsApp users, 7.1 million on Facebook and eight million YouTube accounts.
These numbers must have gone up after two years. Because of the big numbers cited here, use of social media merit frequent discussion since it can influence public opinion.
When properly used, social media is an effective communication and marketing tool. Many businesses use social media to advertise, a trend that is increasingly becoming favourable because of affordability and wide reach.
Social media has become a career. People known as influencers use it to determine public opinion and earn.
However, social media can be a two-edged sword. Irresponsible use courts more controversy and danger. In Kenya, incidence of social media litigation involving prominent people is noticeable.
But these odds can be minimised by individuals and businesses who end up losing lots of resources through damages.
Kenya is yet to have a direct social media law, but there are laws that govern communication and public welfare that shouldn’t be breached.
The Constitution, for example, guarantees users the freedom of expression and freedom of media. However, this must be done within the confines of the law. Once a social media user crosses that line, they expose themselves to litigation.
Publishing defamatory posts exposes a user. Such posts are untrue and are meant to injure the reputation of a person in the public sphere.
You can expose yourself to criminal charges by publishing hate speech and other material injurious to public good.
What should you do?
Do not publish false information when you know it. In one case, an employer had to pay its employee damages for publishing false information about her character on an online website.
At times, the truth may be scandalous. It is okay to publish such stories but do not demean people.
Organisations can minimise risk by having a social media policy that sets out responsible usage and consequences of misuse.
A policy sets out purpose and objectives. It is prudent to assign a particular person to manage the page on behalf of the organisation.
Responsible social media use ought to be known to all staff. Indeed, misuse can lead to termination.
Monitor your comments carefully. A media house was successfully sued for allowing readers to post derogatory comments on their pages.
While the media house did not publish a false story, the readers’ comments were defamatory and the court ruled the publisher had a responsibility to monitor the comments and deleting those that were inappropriate.
It is, therefore, important to monitor customer reviews and feedback through the comments page.
An untrue comment can cost your business a lot of revenue. In such a case, it may be better to take legal action.