Mind Your Own Facebook Business: Insurance for Libel, Slander and Defamation

By Rob Sabo on March 27th, 2010

Homeowners Insurance

With the rapid rise in popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, the importance of watching what you post has never been more crucial. One careless post could put you in a difficult situation with your peers or your employer, and may even lead to a lawsuit against you.

Online Posting: What's the Harm?

A recent survey, sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, polled 1,000 Americans about their use of social networking sites and blogs. The survey found that more than one in four people (27%) have posted online comments to news sites or blogs. While most people are naturally cautious about their postings, the survey found, many were unaware of the possible legal ramifications of their online comments.

"A foolish post or a tweet could cost you a job or even trigger a libel lawsuit," says Christie Alderman, vice president of Chubb & Son. "We all should think twice before posting any comment online."

Of the 1,000 people polled, 45% belonged to social networking sites, with Facebook leading the pack.

That Stupid Post: What it Could Cost

A foolish post about coworkers could put you in a compromising position at work, but even worse would be a civil or criminal lawsuit that can arise from a moment of thoughtlessness. New York radio talk host Curits Sliwa points to the case of a Chicago woman who tweeted negative comments about the management company of her apartment complex and was hit with a $50,000 defamation suit.

The Wall Street Journal cites 106 civil lawsuits in 2007 against bloggers and users of social networking sites, up from just 12 in 2003. Additionally, as of mid-year 2009, there were judgments for more than $17 million against bloggers, according to the Media Law Resource Center in New York.

Insurance to cover your mistakes

If you have a habit of clicking "enter" before you think about your blogs, tweets, or Facebook news, you might want to consider buying personal injury coverage. Most home insurance policies do not provide coverage for libel, slander, or defamation claims.

A personal umbrella insurance policy that includes personal injury coverage can also add an extra layer of protection from lawsuits brought on by blog posts or social networking comments. The Insurance Information Institute reports that a $1 million personal umbrella policy costs between $150 and $350 a year. Purchasing an additional $1 million in coverage costs about $75 more annually, and each additional million after that adds another $50 to your umbrella policy costs.

However, personal umbrella policies only go into effect after your home or auto insurance coverage is exhausted. Most insurers specify that you carry a minimum of $300,000 liability on your home insurance before selling you a personal umbrella liability policy.

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