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A word to the wise when writing online

The internet provides a wealth of opportunity to access endless amounts of information as well as instantaneously express our thoughts and opinions. It is really quite exciting and offers endless possibilities to broadcast items to a large audience with relative ease. Unfortunately as with all opportunities and new vistas, there are some risks. The power to express yourself via a blog or on Yelp comes with potentially negative consequences. Blogs and chat room postings that are negative, even if truthful, can prompt legal action against the author.  Although the First Amendment does guarantee Free Speech, it does have some implied responsibilities in that its use should be for the benefit of the greater good. With that understanding, here are some risk management tips to consider before blogging or posting comments on the internet:

  • Check your facts carefully and document your sources. If you print an inaccuracy consider a retraction or correction post facto.
  • If you purchase a product or service on-line and have an unpleasant experience which gives you cause to complain publicly, be sure to offer your complaint based on the actual events avoid inflammatory language and hyperbole.
  • If you are a blog master and someone is posting false or incendiary remarks remember as a “publisher” you maybe held liable for what you say.
  • Make certain your homeowners include coverage for personal injury which includes the coverage for libel, slander and defamation. Many homeowner policy forms do not have this coverage without you specifically requesting it.
  • Look at purchasing an umbrella policy, these normally provide broader coverage in the personal injury area then homeowner’s policies.
  • It you are a frequent blogger/web commentator, check out The Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org). This non-profit is designed to safeguard the rights of those who use digital media and provide legal guide to bloggers large and small. They have quite a bit of useful tips and content for activity web communicators.
  • If your blog is generating revenue, your homeowner’s policy coverage will exclude a claim for libel, slander and defamation. You may want to look into purchasing a commercial policy which will provide not just the basic personal injury coverage but additional media coverage as well.

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William Gallagher Associates is a leading provider of insurance brokerage, risk management and employee benefits services to firms with complex risks and dynamic needs, within industries that include technology, life sciences, financial risks, health care, renewable energy & clean technology, and environmental services. WGA has offices in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Hartford, CT; Princeton, NJ; Columbia, MD; and Atlanta, GA.

Categories: Property & Casualty
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