Social media is new but the concerns it raises are not. When we talk about social media and legal there is no big surprises – the issues of copyright infringement, privacy, defamation, trademark, etc., are the ones concerned.
They have always been there for businesses to deal with but now it’s a lot easier to have those potential liability concerns. The reason is that people just don’t take social media seriously.
But the consequences can be quite serious – lives ruined, employees fired, business reputation gone…Fortunately, there is a very good legal strategy that every business can use to protect itself, its customers and employees from legal issues related to social media.
Before I give you this, let’s look a little closer into…
…What is social media (legally)?
Social media and social networking do not only concern websites like Facebook or Twitter. Anything that an employee shares publicly (or to a private group of friends or followers) is considered social networking, including:
– messaging apps (like Whatsapp)
– social networking sites (like Facebook, Google +)
– personal blogs
– personal and anonymous profiles
– other public networks
And now that you know where to look, let’s make it clear what you need to look for:
3 Key Legal Facts That You Need To Consider
What your employees write or share on social media is their business right? Not true!
Your company might be held responsible for comments, pictures and shares by your employees.
Legal action can be taken against you and your employee if something they shared to even a small group of people online is found to defame another person.
And that’s not only on your social media accounts. Employees that use their personal accounts to share false information about your competitors for example, will be held liable in court, together with you!
On the other hand you can’t spy on their accounts to see what they are saying. Social media privacy is an important issue and has been debated a million times to no end solution. Your employees and customers need to be guaranteed that their social media account information will not be used against them or shared with anyone.
If you fail to provide this guarantee you are setting up your business for a court rodeo – especially if a dismissal of an employee results from your social media “investigation”. Everything employees and you share online publicly can be used in your defence or against you. However, you can’t “dig deeper” than what’s publicly shared (personal messages, passwords, etc., are off limits)
3. Employment laws
Employment laws regulate the relationships between employers and staff offline and online just as well. Discrimination, gender equality, confidentiality and nondisclosure clauses are just as valid online.
For example, sourcing social media to make hiring decisions has been deemed unfair by many courts don’t forget the same employment and fair treatment practices apply on social media as out of it.
(This is applicable to other business laws as well – competition law, contest laws and consumer laws.)
What to do?
One choice is to ignore social media laws. This is the easy way that many choose – to not take it seriously. However, with the raise of social media lawsuits in the last few years I wouldn’t advise any of my clients to do that.
Businesses that have a full and detailed social media policy drafted and attached to employment contracts are reported to have fewer issues. In fact, the odds are that you won’t have any problems with social media ever because you hire people that are responsible and have high integrity.
However, there is always the one who didn’t know. People act with the best intention with the information they have. Maybe they didn’t know they can’t share their personal opinion or make sexist comments about a colleague online. Maybe they didn’t know that answering to a comment on your Facebook page might ruin the business’s reputation. Maybe they didn’t know they had to keep records of communication with clients.
These are the things that happen in business without a solid social media policy.
It’s not another paper to sign – it is a document that enables people to take the right decision, socially.
Don’t wait until you lose face and respect online and end up in court!
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