Instant messaging has reached critical mass, with most people having at least heard of it. It’s so widespread that even those who have never used it before probably have a preferred app they use to keep in touch with pals.
Despite its usefulness, instant messaging can raise a few legal difficulties that you should be aware of. The knowledge of these concerns and challenges will help you avoid many unwanted implications especially that can cost you money or reputation.
1. Instant messaging legal issue: Defamation
The term “defamation” describes the act of harming a person’s reputation by making up stories and revealing them to a third party. This can happen in the context of instant messaging when users make false claims about another person and spread them around other users of the platform. This might have severe repercussions for all parties concerned and possibly result in legal action.
It may be deemed defamation if someone uses instant messaging to spread false rumours or make false claims about another individual. Defamation may occur, for instance, if someone sends a message accusing someone else of a crime or spreading rumours about their private life.
Messages sent with the purpose of damaging another person’s reputation may likewise be construed as defamatory. For instance, it may be considered defamatory if someone sends communications to harm another person’s reputation in the eyes of their friends, family, or coworkers.
You could be prosecuted with defamation or one of the following offences if the victim can prove that your online communication was broadcast to a third party. There wouldn’t be any legal issues if the victim had been alone when the comment was made, but if a third party was there when it was given, you might be held accountable for defamation.
It’s important to make sure that any messages made through instant messaging systems are factual and true in order to prevent breaking defamation laws. Legal problems can also be avoided by abstaining from making disparaging remarks or spreading rumours about people.
2. Invasion of Privacy-public disclosure of private facts
Even if an IM isn’t derogatory, it may be seen as an invasion of privacy or a breach of confidence in some jurisdictions. The legal concerns will vary on the jurisdiction’s legislation, but if the person you are communicating with has a legitimate expectation of privacy and believes they are only corresponding with one person, you may have legal issues. Invasion of privacy has no defence of truth. If a victim establishes that you have disclosed private information through your online communications, you may face legal difficulties (IM).
Similar to emails and other electronic documents, IM chat transcripts fall under the category of ESI and can be used in the discovery process. For the purposes of discovery, instant messages are generally treated the same way as emails are in most countries. If a third party who was not a party to the IM receives a subpoena for the data, the user may be subject to legal action. Many mobile phone and instant messaging users falsely believe that their conversations are permanently deleted once they are transmitted. Nonetheless, the average storage period for a customer’s SMS and IM history is between one and three months.
3. Cyberharassment and Stalking
An online Instant Messaging IM user can become a victim of cyber harassment, stalking, or misuse of telecommunication networks which can constitute a criminal offence. Employers and individuals need to protect themselves from legal issues from instant messaging, which is misused. The same is true of other electronic communications. However, instant messaging (IM) is possibly more susceptible to misuse involving cyber harassment, discrimination, online hate speech, bullying, and stalking due to its immediate, informal and intrusive nature.
A user must know how to report an abusing IM user and ban them from sending inappropriate messages. Instant messaging screen names may be changed, like email addresses. This internet communication channel permits direct real-time conversations between employees and organisations without considering legal difficulties when creating acceptable email use rules. These platforms are more informal than emails, making them more prone to sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and other abusive communications.
The legal issues surrounding the use of IM were widely publicized when former congressman Mark Foley was found to have sent explicitly sexual instant messages (IM) to house pages and persons under 18 from his congressional office personal computer. The scandal led to concerns about legal issues and warnings about the legal consequences of inappropriate internet messages.
Under occupational health and safety workplace laws, businesses have a legal responsibility to provide a safe work environment free of harassment, discrimination, and other illegal conduct. An organisation needs instant messaging (IM) management tools to deal with the legal issues posed by internet messaging IM in the corporate environment.
4. Security Risks & Compliance Risks
Security experts believe hackers favour IM for phishing and virus-infected files. Viruses, trojans, and malware may spread quickly via friend lists. Instant messaging (IM) can waste corporate time, resources, and assets, when employees utilise it for personal reasons at work or are unaware of its security issues. Text-based IM is more prone to eavesdropping, and passwords are recorded in text, so anybody accessing the user’s computer may see them. Many IM programmes don’t support password encryption.
Additionally, instant message software demands that the user open UDP ports to the world, which enhances security threats. The use of Instant messaging (IM) solutions in the workplace give rise to legal issues in terms of compliance with data security, storage, and retention laws. Business communications in most jurisdictions must be archived and retrieved under regulations. Many organisations may not appreciate the legal issues and the requirement to preserve instant messages.
5. Leakage of embarrassing information, company intelligence or intellectual property
Security specialists have identified instant messaging (IM) as the primary technique for hackers to perform phishing attacks and spread computer virus files. Viruses, trojans, and malware may swiftly spread across an infected user’s friend list on an instant messaging service. Instant messaging (IM) can waste a company’s time, money, and assets if employees use it to talk to their friends during work hours or if they don’t know how internet messaging services can pose security risks. Because most IM is conducted via text, it is more susceptible to eavesdropping. Because user passwords are saved in text, they are available to anybody with physical access to the user’s computer. Encrypting the password on many instant messaging software apps is not possible.
In conclusion, instant messaging applications can be both beneficial and detrimental. Numerous users can benefit from these applications’ convenience, quickness, and low cost. Users can become susceptible to threats such as cyberbullying, privacy breaches, and the misuse of personal information if they lack the necessary knowledge and precautions. It is essential to always be cautious when using instant messaging apps and to take precautions to protect your information.