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6 categories of laws on social media and digital content marketing

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 05 Mar, 2024
Essential Essential topic

Guidance on the latest digital media legal compliance legislations for social media and online marketing

As marketers, we create social and digital content which are published across a diverse range of media. From mobile apps, AMPS, and websites, to emails, social posts, videos, texts, and display ads - we strive to meet our customers in the most appropriate ways in their online/social media spaces.

Right now, in digital marketing - change is constant. So, whilst we grapple with the latest social media channels and content prompts, sometimes the due diligence processes which were so prominent in traditional publishing, can be hurried/missed.

However, your digital and social media content, whatever format you're using, must still meet the national and international legislations for both the channel type and the countries you trade in. Otherwise, you could risk penalties, restrictions, or legal action in more severe cases.

Digital media laws for businesses

Businesses who regularly check in and stay up to date with the latest digital media legal compliance legislations protect their customers, avoid legal consequences, and maintain a competitive edge in the digital landscape.

If this sounds like something your company would benefit from looking into further, keep reading this blog for a breakdown of 6 areas of social media and digital content law we have identified for marketers.

Business Members can also access our brand new training module, Digital media legal compliance, for a broader review of each category of social and digital media law.

This interactive training module serves as a comprehensive guide for marketers and their teams, providing insights into the practical implications of various types of laws, strategies for accessing information sources, real-world examples of enforcement actions against businesses, and assistance in mitigating associated risks.

Core Module
Digital media legal compliance

Digital media legal compliance

Part of the Digital marketing strategy and planning Toolkit

Learn how to make sure your marketing aligns with digital media legal compliance laws to protect your brand and customers.

Learn More

Legal considerations in digital and social media marketing

As with all legislation, laws are created in order to provide a framework of control and regulations that aim to protect individuals and businesses.

Adhering to laws governing online content and media is challenging for marketers and
businesses since:

  • Digital media are relatively new and innovation occurs on different platforms from the likes of Meta, Google and TikTok which may require new legislation.
  • Global distribution and access of online content means that businesses are subject to laws in different countries where their content and services are accessed.
  • Laws develop at different rates in different countries, so marketers need to ensure they are compliant with every local jurisdiction they trade in.
  • Digital media and services aren’t covered by a single type of law, they may be subject to advertising laws, trading laws, data protection laws, disability and discrimination laws, intellectual property laws and others.
  • If laws aren’t in place for new media, brands may need to define their own ethical
    approach in line with their brand values

Social media and the law

Navigating the legal landscape in social media marketing is particularly difficult due to the unique characteristics of these platforms.

Beyond general marketing/content laws, marketers must also consider guidelines established by social media platforms, it's not uncommon to be held to standards on:

  • Transparency
  • Accuracy
  • Fairness in advertising
  • Anti-cyberbullying/harassment

Following these standards on social media is particularly critical right now due to the widespread influence so many of these platforms have on users. These guidelines ensure you can maintain trust and credibility with your audiences, as well as avoiding legal liabilities.

6 categories for ensuring compliance with digital/social media laws

We've broken down the complex nature of online legislations into 6 categories for you to review:

  1. Data protection and privacy law
  2. Disability and discrimination law
  3. Brand and trademark protection
  4. Intellectual property rights
  5. Contract and distance-selling law
  6. Online advertising law

If you're looking for dedicated training to assist with understanding and actioning these legislations, we recommend taking a look at our Digital media legal compliance Learning Path module.

Core Module
Digital media legal compliance

Digital media legal compliance

Part of the Digital marketing strategy and planning Toolkit

Learn how to make sure your marketing aligns with digital media legal compliance laws to protect your brand and customers.

Learn More

1. Data protection and privacy law

Privacy refers to a moral right of individuals to avoid intrusion into their personal affairs by third parties. Protection of privacy of personal data, such as our identities, likes and dislikes, is a major concern to consumers, particularly with the dramatic increase in identity theft.

Digital marketers can better understand their customers’ needs by collecting and using this type of insight. As you’ll know, through collecting personal information either directly by asking or through observing behaviour, it is possible to develop highly targeted communications and develop products that are more consistent with users’ needs

Therefore, how should marketers respond to this dilemma? An obvious step is to ensure
that marketing activities are consistent with the latest data protection and privacy laws.

We recommend checking the following sources:

Government Websites:

Privacy and Data Protection Authorities:

Legal Databases and Research Platforms:

International Organizations:

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs):

2. Disability and discrimination law

Laws relating to discrimination against disabled users who may find it more difficult to use apps or websites because of audio, visual, motor, or other impairments are known as accessibility legislation. Here are some examples below:

United States:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: Requires that websites and online platforms be accessible to individuals with disabilities, ensuring they can fully participate in digital activities such as online shopping, accessing information, and communicating on social media.


Law on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities: Mandates that websites and online services accommodate individuals with disabilities by providing accessible interfaces, alternative text for images, and compatibility with assistive technologies, ensuring equitable access to digital resources.


Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: Specifies that websites and digital platforms must be designed to be accessible to persons with disabilities, incorporating features such as keyboard navigation, screen reader compatibility, and text alternatives for multimedia content.


Law No. 13,146, the Brazilian Law on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (Estatuto da Pessoa com Deficiência): Requires that websites and online services in Brazil adhere to accessibility standards, making provisions for accessible design, content, and functionality to accommodate users with disabilities.

United Kingdom:

Equality Act 2010: The Equality Act requires that websites and online services in the UK be accessible to individuals with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in digital contexts and mandating accessibility features to ensure equitable access to information, goods, and services online.

3. Brand and trademark protection

Online brand and trademark protection covers several areas, including use of a brand name within domain names and use of trademarks within other websites and in online adverts.

Domain names

Most companies own multiple domains for various purposes, such as different product lines, countries, or marketing campaigns, leading to potential domain name disputes.

Given the ongoing creation of new top-level domain names like .biz and .eu, it's essential to keep checking domain names for potential 'squatters'. This service is typically conducted by your hosting company.

Reputational damage from advertising and PR activities

Companies fear reputational damage through advertising on sites with which they wouldn’t want their brand associated because of ad buys on social networks or ad networks where it was not clear what content their ads would be associated with.

Monitoring brand conversations in social networks and blogs

Online brand reputation management and alerting software tools offer real-time alerts when comments or mentions about a brand are posted online in different locations, including blogs and social networks.

4. Intellectual property rights

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) protect designs, ideas, and inventions. This includes content and services developed for e-commerce sites.

IPRs serve as a crucial legal framework safeguarding various forms of digital creative expression, innovations, and proprietary assets - encompassing not only tangible products but also intangible assets such as designs, ideas, and inventions.

For example, visual elements of a website may be protected by IPR, including:

  • Logos
  • Graphics
  • Photography
  • Typography
  • Animation
  • Colour schemes
  • Multimedia
  • Website layouts
  • User interface

Closely related is copyright law, which is designed to protect authors, producers, broadcasters, and performers by ensuring they see some returns from their works every time they are experienced.

Copyrights grant creators the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their works, thereby allowing them to reap financial benefits and maintain control over their intellectual property.

5. Contract and distance-selling law

Online contract law relates to the sales process rather than marketing communications, so is mainly relevant to transactional e-commerce businesses.

Regardless of legal jurisdiction, which is typically based where the merchant is located (‘the country of origin principle’), the principles of distance-selling law are that buyers' rights should be protected too.

These rights will be subject to international legislation, but some of the most common rights for online buyers include:

  • Right to Information
  • Right to Privacy
  • Right to Cancellation (Cooling-off Period)
  • Right to Return and Refund
  • Right to Redress
  • Right to Fair Treatment

Tax law is closely related to distance-selling law. It’s now common that online sales value-added tax (VAT) is paid by the consumer in their country, which is known as ‘place of supply’. The details of taxation can vary depending on whether the supply refers to physical goods or digital goods.

It’s also important that merchants check the costs carefully since if items are mispriced too low, the onus is on the retailer to supply goods at the fees advertised. Since returns are common for some e-commerce categories such as clothing, it’s also required that merchants are clear on their cancellation or returns policies and any associated costs

6. Online advertising law

Many marketers now include online advertising within their marketing mix. Global online advertising law today encompasses a complex framework of regulations and guidelines that govern how businesses can advertise their products and services on digital platforms worldwide.

As online advertising continues to evolve alongside technological advancements, staying informed about these laws is essential for businesses to navigate the digital landscape responsibly and ethically.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Truth in Advertising
  • Disclosure of Sponsored Content
  • Privacy and Data Protection
  • Targeting and Discrimination
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Endorsements and Testimonials
  • Regulatory Compliance

Adhering to the latest digital media legal compliance is crucial for businesses to avoid legal repercussions and maintain trust with consumers. Now that you've reviewed each type of law, you can audit your own digital and social media channels to consider where extra guidance is needed. We recommend building these checks into an annual process too, to stop you from getting caught out with more checks in the future. See our training module for more information.

Core Module
Digital media legal compliance

Digital media legal compliance

Part of the Digital marketing strategy and planning Toolkit

Learn how to make sure your marketing aligns with digital media legal compliance laws to protect your brand and customers.

Learn More

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, Confused.com, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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