If you can tell a phenomenon has gone mainstream by the fact that everyone wants to be involved, then social media has arrived. When glancing at the content of the e-newsletter of the American Automobile Association (AAA) this morning, I was surprised to see headlines asking if I have coverage for saying stupid things on Facebook and if my coverage is up to par for blogging activities. (The second link went to the wrong article the last time I checked. Hopefully, they’ll fix that soon.) This was surprising enough for me to click through and see what it is all about. Basically, it comes to down to libel laws and making sure that your basic insurance (what’s called responsabilité civile in France or the confusingly named homeowner’s insurance in the US) provides coverage if someone sues you.
Boy, have we come along way from the early days of the blogosphere! I remember being extremely frustrated by the propensity of early bloggers to publish incendiary and aggressive articles about anyone who crossed their paths. I wonder how many of them stopped to think about whether they were opening themselves up to be sued for subjecting people to “public hatred, ridicule and disgrace”? Mostly I heard them arguing their rights of free speech as if that excused verbal abuse.
For me, the attention paid to this by a common insurer reflects both the importance that social media has gained and underscores why social media interactions should never be undertaken in an offhanded manner. Words (and images) matter. A world of citizen journalists opens up new opportunities for communications, but it also means that we all (individuals and organizations) may be subject to rules and regulations that previously applied mainly to formal media. Food for thought.