Local professor issues social media warning

A GOLD Coast University Professor is warning social media users to watch what they post.

Bond University Professor Dan Svantesson said locals need to be aware of a multi-national legal minefield when posting words or images on popular sites.

He said most social media users don’t realise that they could be held accountable not just in their own country – but also any country where their post or image can be read or downloaded – if it is deemed offensive or defamatory.


“People rarely think about how many different countries’ laws they expose themselves to through their Internet activities,” he said.

“Even when doing something as simple as making a posting on Facebook,  people may need to consider the law where they live, the laws of all the countries from which they have ‘friends’ and the law of any place re-posted versions of their posting may be read, as well as American law –  due to Facebook’s terms of use.

“While some countries are quite relaxed about potentially offensive or inflammatory materials, others take a hardline stance, so something that we might not consider to be a problem here in Australia could very easily land you on the wrong side of the law in other countries.

“It quickly gets very complicated.”

Professor Svantesson was recently invited to present his research on the ever-changing field of Internet and media law at an invitation-only symposium on Internet Jurisdiction organised by Google and Aberystwyth University, followed by a lecture at The Hague Conference on Private International Law.

“We live in a world where boundaries are blurred by technology – especially now that more people are storing social information in the Cloud, and while we as users may not necessarily be able to find out where this content is stored, we may be legally obligated to consider the laws of the country in which the content is stored,” he said.

“For the vast majority of people, postings on social media will not lead to any legal drama. However, the thought of being exposed to potential legal liability in a large number of countries should be a concern to anyone.

“The bottom line is to think very carefully before posting – your post could be exposed to hundreds of thousands of people, and if the post is of an unlawful nature, you could face a whole host of ramifications.”