Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

Should you publish photos and videos of people you think have stolen from your retail business?

Mark Fletcher
April 8th, 2019 · 6 Comments

More and more retailers are sharing images and videos of people they say have stolen from them thanks to free access to social media platforms.

It seems to me that the biggest risk of such action is the possibility that publishing such material could be defamatory. All Australian states and territories passed the Defamation Act 2005, which stipulates under section 439:

(1) A person must not publish matter defamatory of another living person (the “victim”)— (a) knowing the matter to be false; and (b) with intent to cause serious harm to the victim or any other person or being reckless as to whether such harm is caused.

Are retailers able to reasonably determine truth as well as harm that could be caused.

I hear the argument – the video does not lie. However, in a court, with robust defence, theft may not be determined.

While we retailers want swift justice in the event of shoplifting, I am not sure that publishing a video or image on social media is justice.

No, I am not saying don’t publish videos and images on social media. Rather, I am saying take care, make an informed decision. Be sure of your facts. Make sure that the action you choose to take is worth it.

I’d note that in the US, the 7-Eleven approach is to build the cost of shoplifting into their product pricing model.

Here are some more resources on this for you:

  1. Life Hacker.
  2. Adelaide Now.
  3. American Express.

Category: Newsagency management · Social Media · Social responsibility

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 MARK R // Apr 11, 2019 at 10:21 AM

    So how is it that we often see photos of suspected criminals, taken from security cameras, on tv and in print media


  • 2 Lance // Apr 11, 2019 at 12:49 PM

    When we had a milk bar in Mitcham (90s) we had mags stolen by a local rough-head we had tried to help.
    I put his pic, name and address on a notice in our window. His mother came in 3 days later and paid for the stolen items and I removed the notice. Worked well in this case.


  • 3 Michael // Apr 11, 2019 at 3:28 PM

    Mark R. I believe it comes down to if the police deem it to be a chargeable offence. IE footage is sufficient to charge said person for the crime committed. But only once it has passed into the hands of the police. I am not a professional in this matter but just what i assumed to be the case.


  • 4 Glenn // Apr 11, 2019 at 4:57 PM

    It’s a double edged sword. We understand we could be exposed by putting pictures / video of offenders on Facebook, however it is a fantastic deterrent and effective tool in getting our money back.

    We only post where we are 110% certain of the theft and the footage is irrefutable, and we have an approximate success rate of 90% in getting paid. We ask that any details are sent to us in a private message rather than on the page. More often than not the offenders contact us asking how they can get the footage removed. If I get the offender identified, I will send them a private message with a link to the footage asking if they can assist.

    Best thing is the locals get to know we will post on Facebook if they are caught stealing, so they tend to avoid us. All info is sent to the Police to deal with.

    I just feel that at some stage we need to make a stand and make it known we will fight back if we catch them stealing.


  • 5 Mark R // Apr 12, 2019 at 11:47 AM

    Michael, How can you make a statement claiming you “believe” you know the law on this issue then say you don’t know the law and you are just assuming ? Makes no sense


  • 6 PJ // Apr 12, 2019 at 2:26 PM

    You just post a still of the person with a comment of ” we are looking to contact this person.” It avoids directly accusing them but most will get the subtext that they are probably a shoplifter.


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