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How to Avoid Getting Sued on Social Media


Key Takeaways

Jonathan Selby - Founder Shield
Jonathan Selby

General Manager

There are around 200 million content creators worldwide — all with different followings — but none of them are risk-free regarding their online activity. 

If Elon Musk can get sued, any content creator or business using social media for marketing purposes can also. 

To be successful online and avoid facing legal action, the number one rule is that personal homeowners insurance nor general liability is enough. So, here is a rundown of the latest lawsuits affecting social media, how businesses become susceptible to litigation and how they can protect themselves with the right insurance in place.

The Infamous Elon Musk Defamation Lawsuit 2023

Musk has been on a suing spree, but he’s getting his comeuppance. Individuals and companies are retaliating, and he’s been sued left, right and center this year…from being accused of operating a pyramid scheme to disclosing his Twitter stake late

Recently, X’s owner (formerly known as Twitter) was hit with a fresh lawsuit where, allegedly, Musk defamed a young Jewish man after amplifying tweets that falsely identified him as a neo-Nazi. 

Musk restated claims suggesting that 22-year-old graduate Ben Brody was involved in a fight between two right-wing extremist groups in Portland earlier this year. 

Brody and his family suffered a wave of harassment. 

And these tweets are not Musk’s first engagement with right-wing conspiracy theories or spreading misinformation and heated rhetoric. He also doubted the Allen, Texas, mass shooter’s ties to white supremacy. 

So, in line with this, the lawsuit cites Musk’s “pattern of reckless false statements, promotion of disinformation, and denial of neo-Nazi violence.” 

Mark Bankston is the lawyer representing Brody. 

He recently successfully sued conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones spent years defaming the parents of the children who were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, suggesting the shooting was staged and that their children were still alive.

Why This Social Media Situation [and Others] Matter

Independent content creators or business owners using social media for marketing purposes often have little legal expertise. 

But they end up navigating a complex legal landscape. 

Simply staying informed about intellectual property laws, defamation standards and privacy regulations can minimize legal risks and protect creatives. So, aside from defamation, here are some other legal challenges content creators must be aware of: 

1. Privacy Violations

If content creators fail to protect the personal information of individuals featured in their material, they can quickly become involved in privacy violations. These kinds of situations would involve revealing personal information or private images without consent. If you have a shadow of a doubt, anonymize data where necessary and familiarize yourself with data protection laws.

2. Trademark Infringement 

According to a US federal court ruling in August 2021, influencers can be held liable for trademark infringement. This is the unauthorized use of someone else’s logo, brand name or slogan without permission. 

For example, following a sponsorship deal, actress and model Molly Sims promoted beauty company Rodan and Fields’ “Brow Defining Boost” on her blog. Turns out another company owned the registered trademark “Brow Boost” and sued both Rodan and Fields and Sims for trademark infringement.

3. Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement arises when a content creator uses copyrighted material without permission from the owner. 

An example on social media could be a user sharing a photograph on their Instagram account that they found online without the photographer’s permission or giving proper credit. Even without intending to profit from the image, content creators can still infringe on the photographer’s rights.

4. Misleading or False Advertising

Social media is fertile ground for misleading and blatantly false promotion. For example, some influencers choose not to disclose paid partnerships or sponsorships and may even make false claims about products or services. One of the main players in regulating online advertising is the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). And in March 2023, the Federal Trade Commission ordered eight social media companies to provide reports on how they monitor deceptive advertising.

How To Reduce the Risk of Getting Sued on Social Media

Many content creators or small businesses experience rapid success and become targets overnight. 

Many have personal homeowner policies that don’t cover commercial endeavors or for-profit business activity. So, they can quickly face liabilities before they’ve even thought of commercial insurance coverage. 

Business owners using social media must really plan for the worst. 

Firstly, having IP insurance can be the be-all or end-all. It provides coverage and financial protection against legal claims regarding intellectual property infringement or misappropriation. For example, if someone challenges your claims about a product’s usefulness or asserts ownership of intellectual property (IP) allegedly misused in a social media post.

Next up, content creators may feel that the ever-evolving landscape of FTC investigations and lawsuits won’t impact them. 

The reality is that hundreds of lawsuits were expected to happen this year against TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Roblox and Meta, so the chain reaction has begun — and nobody is safe. That’s why it is vital to stay educated about different platforms’ standards and terms of service, regulatory changes and current media-related lawsuits

Thirdly, content creators or companies must perform regular audits on social posts, ensuring that past and current content aligns with platforms’ rules and regulatory standards. 

These audits involve checking language, visual content, disclosures in cases of sponsored content, and any false claims. And in complex cases or industries with specific regulations, consider consulting with legal professionals to ensure full compliance. 

Finally, consider partnering with a broker to get the proper social media insurance coverage needed.

How Insurance Is the Silver Bullet for Content Creators

Although content-creating abilities may be praised and recognized without insurance, adequate coverage legitimizes your professional endeavor. Today, most brands require content creators to carry specific insurance policies, such as:

  • General liability: Known as “all-risk” insurance, it protects your company’s assets against legal obligations, protects customer property (whether bodily or personal) and protects against the cost of third-party claims. 
  • Professional liability: General liability insurance policies do not provide coverage for claims stemming from acts of negligence, malpractice, errors or misrepresentation. So, professionals with experience in specific areas may require this insurance.

Increasingly, brands working with influencers or companies using social media are also now looking for media liability insurance and product liability insurance. 

Media liability insurance covers not just social media risks but also liabilities associated with any content or material that a company creates, publishes or disseminates. A general liability policy typically only covers specific risks of promoting your own business online, leaving out further possible vulnerabilities you could face if creating content for clients.

On the other hand, product liability insurance safeguards your business against claims that a product you manufactured or sold resulted in bodily injury or property damage. Some insurance companies include this as part of an insurance package.

If you are still trying to figure out the differences and want a one-stop-shop, check out our Scale Social package. It’s an affordable insurance tailored to content creators, protecting them from advertising, publishing, and regulatory exposures.

What To Do If You Are Sued on Social Media  

First things first, preserve all the evidence: Save all relevant posts, messages, and interactions so you have a full overview of the incident for your defense. Most importantly, remember to document the incident without admitting guilt or volunteering extra information. 

A lawsuit is likely going to be funneled through an insurance claim. So, notify your insurance provider within a good time frame and check what your policy covers again. 

Some accidents may not cause enough damage to warrant an insurance claim, so you’ll also want to consider whether filing a claim is the right decision or you’d prefer to cover the costs yourself.

Alternatively, you could also consider working closely with an insurance broker to report a claim. Some brokers have a dedicated portal. 

Founder Shield’s online claims portal is available 24 hours a day. 

Lastly, we recommend consulting an attorney, your in-house legal team or risk management team to understand your rights and options when facing a social media lawsuit.

We understand that social media influencers encounter distinct challenges, and still little is discussed about the lawsuits and, consequently, the available insurance in this sector. That’s why, at Founder Shield, our mission is to be that reliable partner you’ve been looking for to de-risk your business with personalized insurance and overcome any obstacles that come your way. 

For more information about insurance for content creators, get stuck into our white paper here.

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