Canada: Managing The Legal Risks Of Social Technology

Last Updated: February 12 2010
Article by Vanessa Grant, Véronique Wattiez Larose and George S. Takach

Most Read Contributor in Canada, September 2018

The Internet has spawned the creation — and phenomenal growth — of a range of social technologies. From a standing start in 2004, Facebook® now has 350 million users. That's right — 350 million. And while most of these users are between 18 and 35, the business world — and executives — are starting to participate in social technologies. Therefore, it is useful to explore certain of the dimensions of these new technologies, and to consider how to manage some of their attendant legal risks.

Web 1.0 Websites and E-mail

Most of the social technologies are associated with what is called "Web 2.0." This is in contrast with Web 1.0, which essentially consisted of the first generation of website technology. This is the generation that saw the creation of fairly static Web experiences (users would read generally unchanging information on websites; useful stuff, but largely the equivalent of the organization's paper-based materials made more accessible for being online).

Also part of Web 1.0 was "basic" e-mail. We may consider it basic now, but e-mail is no small thing — it's possibly the killer application of the Internet so far, and it's hard for many Internet-enabled people to imagine life without it. But the core use of e-mail is to effect "one-to-one" or "one-to-some" communications, while Web 2.0-enabled social technologies are about "many-to-many" communications.

Web 2.0 Blogs

Passive websites and e-mail remain very important to this day. Advancing from them, however, are a spate of social technologies that build upon the foundations of Web 1.0, but then go on to create user experiences of greater engagement and immediacy.

Consider the blog, essentially a type of website, but with regular entries (usually daily, often updated two or three times a day), opinion, commentary, photos and graphics. There are many types of blogs (a newish word, derived from the contraction of "Web log"), some no more elaborate than an individual's personal diary; but some quite sophisticated and far-reaching in their content (consider the

People today are blogging about just about everything. It's estimated that five per cent of the US workforce have their own blog, and the current number of blogs is pegged at around 112 million.

From Blogs to Tweets

Blogs are just the tip of the iceberg of Web 2.0. Consider Twitter®, a fascinating form of micro blogging called "tweeting," as in the chirping of a bird. A "tweet" is a short burst of information. Each tweet message is limited to 140 characters, betraying their ancestral evolution from SMS texting (which is also limited in the number of characters per message). Of course, what the tweet lacks in number of characters per message, it makes up for in the number of messages.

Although started only in 2006, Twitter® is estimated to have some 55 million monthly visits worldwide, essentially reflecting a growth rate of 1,382 per cent. In a recent survey of some 2,000 tweets, a market research firm found about 40 per cent to be "pointless babble"; 37 per cent, conversational messages (with perhaps eight per cent worthy enough to pass along); six per cent, self-promotion by companies; and four per cent, news).

But even though most tweets are not dealing with weighty matters of state or some such, that is not say Twitter® cannot be pressed into action for a higher purpose. In the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Twitter® users distributed the location of hospitals that needed blood. In February 2009, Twitter® users in Australia distributed valuable updates and alerts on bushfires. Later in 2009, Iranian street parties were fuelled by tweets (especially after the government blocked access to other means of communication).

Social Networking Sites

So-called social networking sites on the Internet, like Facebook® (and MySpace®) allow users to create profiles, where they can upload photos, post comments, and create links to spaces created by friends, colleagues or other like-minded individuals. Essentially, a site like Facebook® allows users to create a series of different online communities, brought together by a common interest or allegiance, but capturing a large number of "friends" (the average user has about 220 "members").

While younger people are the mainstay of a site like Facebook® (at least for the time being), consider the social networking site known as LinkedIn® (slightly like Facebook®, but not as interactive or personal, it is for business people and professionals). Users of LinkedIn® — and currently there are some 50 million in over
200 countries — maintain a list of "connections" (which includes connections of connections — think an old-fashioned Rolodex on steroids), which can then all help find someone a job or other opportunity.

Social Media Goes Corporate

To date, social technologies have been used largely by younger people to stay in touch and interact with one another. But as the rise of LinkedIn® illustrates, social media is starting to go mainstream. Economists have sites on Facebook®, and scientists are staying in touch via Twitter®.

Sure enough, the corporate world is not far behind in its interest in adopting some aspects of social technologies. Already the sales/marketing groups at certain companies are venturing forth into the choppy waters of social media. At trade shows, one can see organizations tweet their constituents. New product releases are also starting to come out in social media settings. Investor relations professionals are intrigued at the possibilities presented by social media. And some CEOs are starting to reach out to various stakeholders of their companies with social media-based messages.

As the corporate world begins to participate in social media, and take advantage of social technologies, it is imperative that organizations understand a number of dynamics of these new means of communication in order to respond to the attendant legal risks.

Characteristics of Social Media


One major difference between the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 environments is the degree of interactivity found in the latter. Blogs invite, and receive, commentary from readers. A blog posting is often merely the first word on a subject, and rarely the last.

Now, we have had "letters to the editor" for as long as we have had paper-based newspapers, but the difference between them and a blog comment is like night and day. Most importantly, a newspaper or magazine in the traditional print-based media has an editor, someone who reads the letters submitted by readers, and who decides which to print (perhaps after some judicious editing).

Blogs typically have no formal, pre-publication editors. Rather, anyone can submit their "letter" and see it come up on the blog; if it is offensive or libellous, it can only be removed after the fact (presumably only after the initial damage has been done).


The tone of much Web 2.0 typewritten communication is very informal. Rather than sounding like a formal business letter, or even a memo, it sounds like a colloquial e-mail. Indeed, so much of Web 2.0 messaging is like a conversation. Therefore, even when serious topics need to be dealt with, the tone and voice of the writing is very casual.

Often Web 2.0 writing is also very space-constrained. A tweet on Twitter® is limited to 140 characters. As a result, a whole new shorthand has developed, as "u can c if u txt message with your teenagers." In tweets and other short Web 2.0 messages, there is little room for context or nuance. As a result, much misunderstanding can be generated by a short text-based message. While this may not have grave consequences when teenagers are keeping in touch, it can have a profound impact when the tweet is from a CEO to the investment community.


While blog postings and tweets are colloquial and conversational, and may seem ephemeral — like an oral conversation — in fact, they are permanent writings. It's as though all your conversations were indeed recorded for posterity.

Not only are these writings permanent, they are easily searchable, so that anyone can quickly locate what you've said in your online conversations. Are you getting nervous yet?

Global, Ubiquitous

Another feature worth noting about Web 2.0 dynamics is the global reach of these technologies, just like the Internet itself. And the access points available to users now include a range of handheld devices, making accessibility truly ubiquitous.

Moreover, the increasing mobility of the authors of Web 2.0 messages compounds some of the other dynamics noted above, such as the tendency to immediacy in these communications. Given that much of Web 2.0 communication is like a conversation, responses to short electronic messages and postings are given rapidly, often without any serious thought being given to the relevant issues or questions. Web 2.0 is all about acting — and reacting — in real time, and the nature of Web 2.0 writing exemplifies this super-heated cadence.

If you are getting nervous about the legal implications of some of the writings being transmitted over these social technologies, you will be interested in the legal cases already emanating from Web 2.0 dynamics, and the related legal risk management technologies, topics to which we turn in our next edition.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions