Legal risks and social networking: removing the blinkers on cybersafety

Legal risks and social networking: removing the blinkers on cybersafety


Michael Henderson
Melissa de Zwart
David Lindsay
Michael Phillips
Year of publication: 2013

from_Cyber_bullying_to_cybersafetyWhile projects have tackled the issue of cyberbullying surrounding the use of social media and in particular social network sites, little research has been performed in Australia and internationally on the broader legal issues such as privacy, intellectual property, copyright, unauthorised disclosure and criminal law. This chapter describes some of these serious and frequently misunderstood legal risks, drawing on an extensive review of regulatory frameworks, research literature and a large scale study of middle school students, their caregivers and teachers.

Much of the literature dealing with cyber safety generally focuses upon abusive behaviour, such as cyber-bullying and grooming. Little attention has been given to other, potentially more common, legal risks. Therefore this chapter attempts to fill a gap in that literature.

After an analysis of Australian and international regulatory frameworks, legal rulings, media reports and various studies, four key areas were identified as giving rise to relevant legal liability for young people: privacy, disclosure and breach of confidence; intellectual property rights, especially copyright infringement; defamation; and criminal laws, including harassment and offensive material. Our findings indicate that the most serious legal risks arise from the unforeseen consequences of publication to an unintended audience. Thus, user education has an important role to play in minimising such risks.

Link to the book:

Please cite as: Henderson, M., de Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., & Phillips, P. (2013). Legal Risks and Social Networking: Removing the Blinkers on Cyber Safety. In Ria Hanewald (Ed.), From Cyber Bullying to Cyber Safety: Issues and Approaches in Educational Contexts. New York:  Nova Science.