01 Dec 2017

Matric Silly Season - Social Media Update

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

Last year we talked about the Matric Silly Season and we are in the thick of it again. Matric Rage has descended upon the coastal towns and we see lots of teens enjoying their freedom after finishing their exams a few days ago.  This is the time when they let their hair down and experience some real independence.  And often the alcohol is flowing!  One of the favourite tricks of many young people is to impersonate their friends on their phones and post “in their names”.  It goes without saying that the posts are usually incredibly embarrassing…

Whilst these kinds of practical jokes may genuinely be for fun, they may have unintended legal consequences which are incredibly serious.  Impersonation (or pretending to be someone else) online is not always illegal, however, it can be if the reasons for doing it are to achieve an unlawful result (for example to swindle money out of someone) or if you cause serious damage to the reputation of the person that you are impersonating. In a drunken state the latter will be very easy to do.

Also, it must be remembered that taking compromising pictures of friends and posting them to social media without their permission can be a serious infringement of their privacy that may be legally actionable.  These kinds of “dangers” were not present a few years ago when photos were taken on separate cameras and had to be downloaded, or even developed from film.

Don’t let the December holidays be ruined having to spend time with lawyers defending a social media case!