Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Avoid a Social Media Lawsuit

Businesses are utilizing social media to develop their brand and connect with customers. They often overlook the legal ramifications that could arise. Here's what to watch out for.

By Lou Dubois

1. Properly identifying yourself and offering full disclosure is not only recommended, but required by the Federal Trade Commission. If you're a company that is paying bloggers to write about your product or if you are a blogger writing about a product you've received for free or from a client, you need to disclose that information. Failing to do so amounts to improper and false reviews. Another simple way to look at this is your Twitter account: many employees who speak publicly about the company but also about their personal lives need to make it clear that they are employed by this organization but also that their thoughts are their own and not opinions of the organization, simple additions to a Twitter profile.

2. Whether it's in the hiring and recruitment process or when an employee is legally employed, setting a clear and specific standard for social media usage and guidance is a requirement. Defining what your employees can and cannot do, both in the workplace and at home, needs to be spelled out. If you fire an employee for something they've said on Facebook or on another social network, that needs to be spelled out in your own company's policy or you could be subject to a wrongful termination suit.

3. In social media, users and businesses upload content (photos, videos, etc.), often including copyrighted material. Do you have a legal right to repost a photo or video without proper attribution? Just because content is online does not mean it can be reposted. Every time it happens you are open to a $150,000 violation, but it's all about self-policing at this point.


Manny’s Opinion: We live in a world where it’s simply too easy to share, store information whether legit or not, at no cost. However, I and others need to realize that personal self-judgment is really the only tool that can make a difference. Companies should never collect, share information which is unnecessary to perform a task and should make every possible effort to protect and dispose of information responsibly. People willing to risk the lives, and safety of others should disclose their real names and not hide behind anonymous titles. Finally, I think we all can agree that what’s on the internet cannot be an effective assessment of people or companies.

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