Should We think Before Defaming Brands On Social Media?
|November 12, 2021||Posted by Prasant under Social Media|
Freedom is often misused and it is becoming more predominant in the age of social media. India is no exception and we are seeing it growing with every passing day. Facebook or Twitter, both social networks have grown largely because they provide the freedom of expression. But do you think that this gives us the power to say whatever we feel while addressing a brand. 140 characters suddenly becomes really very critical when it comes from a Twitter handle of an influential person. Recently, ITC Ltd. had sued ad man and socialite Suhel Seth for Rs.200 crore. The defamation case filed against Mr Seth was with regards to two of his tweets and newspaper articles that were against the brand image of ITC and its chairman YC Devenshwar. A news report was published by Times of India. Now the issue is not whether Mr. Suhel Seth will be trialed or not but the big issue is do we have the rights of defaming a brand behind the shield of freedom of expression.
This is not the first case where people have used social networking sites and tried to malign a brand. In the past Dhaval Valia was sued by Vodafone for the Facebook updates that had been posted by him. However the company had to withdraw his case due to a protest from the social media fraternity. So the big question today is as a user can I go and tweet anything about a brand. Can the law catch me for spreading hate words about a brand? We all know that we mostly do this when we are frustrated about a particular brand’s service and we go and defame them on Twitter but then when should one draw a line? For e.g. I am a frustrated customer of Tata Docomo 3G and my problem has not been solved yet. I have shown my anger on Twitter but with no use. So tomorrow can I get a notice from the court that I have been sued by a xyz brand? You might be thinking that I am kidding but I believe going further the government is going to make strict laws for social media networking sites too. Like recently a youth was arrested because he had created a fake profile of Rahul Gandhi. So what could be the repercussions?
I happened to speak to a friend who is also a barrister to discuss the same. He said that Indian laws for now are only for publication matter like newspapers and ‘Tweets’ don’t come under it. However,, in Suhel Seth’s case my friend said that it is going to be a long process since he is an influential person, chances are that either he will express an apology to the brand to settle the matter or there would be an out-of-court settlement. He further shared that if a common man tweets, the brand is not bothered but if that comes from a twitter handle that is influential and has lot of people following it, then it becomes a problematic case.
Personally, I feel that it doesn’t matter who you are and what your follower strength is but one needs to think before pressing the tweet button. You can smartly delete a tweet but think for a second, you may delete it from your timeline but it has been already published and can be easily tracked. So think twice before you say anything on social media. Freedom of expression is good but it should not be taken for granted.
Am I sounding like your school teacher? Would love to know your thoughts about bad mouthing brands on social networking sites. Do you think it is justified to defame a brand on social networking sites?