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7 Digital Marketing Strategies That May Expose You to Legal Risks

Legal Risks for Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is using Internet technology to advertise products and services to a target audience.

The internet revolutionized how we sell. Paid ads, social media buzz, and informative blogs put products at our fingertips. But with great reach comes great responsibility.

Today’s online marketer needs to navigate a minefield of legal risks to truly succeed. From data security to consumer protection, online marketers must be aware of these legal risks to ensure digital marketing success.

Are you developing a digital marketing strategy? In this article, we will discuss 7 digital marketing legal risks to avoid.

  1. Risk of defamation and exposure
  2. Imagine this: your perfectly crafted social media campaign goes viral, reaching millions. But instead of brand awareness and sales, it sparks outrage because of an accidental misstep.

    Defamation, also known as libel or slander, involves making false statements that damage someone’s reputation. In the online world, this can take the form of cyber libel, where untrue or damaging information is spread about a person or brand on blogs, social media, or forums.

    The wider your reach, the greater the risk.

    An offended audience can cause significant harm, leading to lost sales, followers, or even business deals for your client.

    Here’s how your campaigns can turn into legal trouble;

    • False claims:
    • Imagine a social media campaign comparing your client’s product to a competitor’s. If you falsely claim the competitor’s product is harmful, you’ve crossed the line into defamation.

    • Damage to reputation:
    • Let’s say your ad campaign portrays a restaurant’s food as causing food poisoning, even if it’s untrue. This can severely damage their reputation and lead to lawsuits.

    • Malicious intent:
    • If your marketing campaign makes demonstrably false statements about a competitor using unverified information, that’s defamation.

    How do we minimize the legal risk of defamation?

    By meticulous fact-checking and responsible content creation. Whether it’s social media posts, marketing emails, or website copy, ensure everything is accurate and avoids negativity towards competitors or individuals.

  3. Abuse of online marketing tools
  4. Digital marketers have access to an array of powerful tools like SEM, SEO, and content marketing. But just like any powerful tool, misuse can lead to legal trouble.

    Here are some ways marketers can get in legal trouble;

    • Black Hat SEO & PPC:
    • Using clickbait, misleading keywords and other deceptive tactics to boost your search rankings is known as Black Hat SEO and PPC. This can trigger penalties from search engines and even lawsuits, especially in jurisdictions that have specific laws regarding deceptive advertising and fake information laws.

    • Deceptive Coupons:
    • Digital coupons are a great way to attract customers, but offering defective, expired, or misleading coupons is a recipe for disaster. The same goes for "bait and switch" tactics, where you lure customers with a low price but don’t have the stock to fulfill the demand.

    • Spam:
    • Nobody enjoys spam. Sending marketing emails or texts without a consumer’s consent is a violation of digital regulations. These regulations also frown upon bombarding people with unwanted messages.

    How to avoid legal risks from marketing tools

    • Consumers deserve clear and honest information. accurately represent your product, including limitations and expiry dates.
    • Avoid ambiguous language that could mislead people into buying something they don’t need.
    • Have clear policies in place to address customer complaints and liabilities arising from your marketing campaigns.

  5. Neglecting consumer protection
  6. Consumer protection safeguards the interests and rights of consumers who purchase your services or products. 

    There are regulations that ensure online marketers align their campaigns with ethical standards, practice transparency, and uphold consumer rights by delivering what they promise in adverts. 

    Here are some of the ways you may be exposed to legal risks;

    • Unfulfilled promises:
    • Imagine an ad showcasing a sleek, feature-packed gadget. But when customers receive a cheap knock-off, that’s a violation of consumer trust and potentially a breach of warranty lawsuit.
    • Deceptive imagery: 
    • Using a picture-perfect image of a product on your website and delivering a low-quality version is a recipe for trouble.  This can be seen as a violation of consumer rights.
    • Wrong targeting:
    • Digital marketing is about reaching the right audience.  But bombarding minors with sexually suggestive ads for products like sports apparel is not only inappropriate but could be considered a violation of consumer protection laws.

  7. Using bots in digital marketing campaigns
  8. Bots are computer codes designed to perform automated tasks and mimic human behavior on websites. These codes, also called non-human traffic, are used in Pay-per-click ads and the creation of fake downloads to falsely promote products. 

    With a huge number of brands online trying to compete for attention, you may be tempted to use bots to boost numbers — a tactic often employed by many unscrupulous online marketers.

    These tactics can expose you to legal risk. 

    Using bots in your marketing campaign can also cost you money. According to research, digital ad fraud through the use of bots cost advertisers $125 billion in 2023

    This is why strict policies are in place to curb the use of bots in online marketing campaigns, especially on social media, to ensure fair play in the digital marketing space.

    An example is the California Bolstering Online Transparency Act (BOT), which prohibits using web crawlers or bots to deceive people into making purchases.

  9. Trademark infringement
  10. Trademark infringement is using another company’s registered trademarks without their permission. Trademarks safeguard a brand identity and are protected by copyright laws determining how companies create and distribute original works. 

    If you replicate the logos, social media handles, jingles, or advert ideas of another individual, brand, or company, you may face trademark infringement lawsuits.

    In the digital realm, online marketers must adhere to regulations such as digital rights management (DRM) laws that protect copyrighted materials. These laws protect consumer privacy and prevent unauthorized access to consumer data.

    An effective way you can adhere to  these laws is through attribution. For example, by acknowledging the owner of a photograph you use in an advert or sales blog as part of your digital marketing strategy.

    The United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects copyright owners by allowing them to send takedown notices to websites hosting copyright-infringing material.

    It takes a long time for your brand to gather a wide following and become an authority in your sector through social media branding strategies. Therefore, protect your concepts by registering them.

  11. Inaccurate use of data
  12. Data is the lifeblood of online marketing, but with great power comes great responsibility. When you personalize campaigns using consumer data, you need to navigate a minefield of data protection laws.

    Data protection boils down to protecting consumer privacy. This includes the ethical and legal obligation to handle personal information responsibly. 

    Gone are the days of shady data collection practices.  Regulations like the EU’s GDPR require transparency and user consent when it comes to data usage. This applies to everything from cookies, those tiny trackers that monitor browsing habits, to email marketing campaigns.

    Here’s how to protect yourself from legal trouble;

    • Get explicit consent:
    • Before using any personal data, obtain clear and informed consent from the user.  This includes specifying how, where, when, and for how long you’ll be using their data.
    • Be transparent:
    • Be upfront about your data collection practices. Inform users about the type of data you collect and how it will be used.
    • Data security:
    • Take data security seriously. Encrypt any personal information you collect to minimize the risk of breaches or misuse.

  13. Non-compliance with laws and regulations
  14. As an ethical digital marketer, you should comply with federal, state, and local laws when creating digital marketing strategies. These laws govern data security, consumer protection, advertising, and privacy.

    Some examples are;

Final thoughts on digital marketing strategies that may expose you to legal risks

Are you facing legal challenges due to a digital marketing strategy gone wrong? Seek legal advice from a reputable attorney who will guide you in complying with the relevant laws and regulations concerning digital marketing. 

If you keep yourself informed about ethical online marketing practices, you will adapt business practices that comply with industry standards and succeed in your marketing campaigns.


Digital marketing risks are problems associated with harmful online marketing practices, such as reputation damage, data breaches, and trademark infringements.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act, are some regulations that digital marketers should comply with to avoid legal risks.

These regulations prohibit digital marketers from misusing consumers’ personal information or sending them unwelcome marketing messages through email or text.

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