Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and many other social media platforms have become part of everyday life, as well as a fantastic tool to market a business and communicate to customers. With instant benefits, immediate communication, and the power to connect people, social media is a great personal and professional tool.
However, with the power and benefits, unfortunately, comes added risks social media users should be aware of. Here are a few possible legal risks to consider when using social platforms for business or personal use:
Social media is a common outlet for individuals and businesses to share their platform and opinions. Many believe anything can be shared or said with no consequences but that is not the case. Generally speaking, defamation can occur in different forms such as libel (written) and slander (verbal). Any content that is legally defamatory might lead to serious legal ramifications for both businesses and individuals. Defamation issues may be implicated when a person or business’ reputation has been damaged or injured. The elements of defamation are often not simple, and anyone may be well advised to visit with their attorney anything they are about to publish or broadcast about another person or business which is derogatory or otherwise negative. Defamation laws vary state-to-state, but generally, there is often a risk in posting defamatory content.
Well strategized social posts can build culture, tone, credibility, and reputation. At the same time, distasteful social posts can also destroy a reputation. Having social media policies in place with employees can minimize the risk of an employee hurting business credibility and reputation. Before creating a social media platform, it is wise to thoroughly plan the desired tone and style for the social media channels at hand with due consideration to restraints on posts. Once the desired tone is achieved, a plan may be put into place to implement the social influence and protect the reputation of the individual or business. If the question has to be asked “Does this content go against the desired tone/culture?” then it may be best to be avoided. All publicity is not good publicity, and bad publicity can really damage the reputation of a business or individual.
3) Accuracy of Information and Misrepresentation
No matter the information being provided, it’s essential that it be accurate. This is especially necessary when describing products or services. Any room for false advertising can be a serious legal risk. Opinions might be acceptable in some instances (example: “We think this is the best air conditioner to fit your needs given what you’ve told us”), but any statements of fact should be thoroughly checked and sources should be documented to cover all bases. If the truth of the content at hand is questionable, it is typically best left out.
4) Abide by Various Social Platforms Terms and Conditions
Each social platform has unique terms and conditions. As an account is created, the terms and conditions should be read and evaluated to ensure legality. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have specific guidelines, especially when it comes to marketing a business. It’s best to be familiar with these terms and conditions before beginning a social media endeavor. Many businesses use social channels to run contests or promotions in order to boost their business, increase followers, and increase engagement. Different states often have different laws when it comes to contests and gaming. Before running any kind of contest or sweepstakes on social it’s best to be familiar with state laws and channel-specific terms and conditions. For more information read this article about social media contests or this article about social media contests and sweepstakes.
Any social posts that breach confidentiality agreements, whether in business, medical, or personal matters, could face legal consequences. In regards to businesses, it is best to train all employees on social media policies and thoroughly educate on any confidentiality measures. Employees may not realize the liabilities of what they share on their personal social channels. Even vague information about the employer, clients, or other co-workers can be a risk of a confidentiality breach. A violation of confidentiality might also quickly lead to employment termination and a lawsuit, so it’s best to be thoroughly educated on confidentiality and make sure any applicable employees are trained as well.
In conclusion, it is best to be well educated on legal risks when beginning or otherwise undertaking a social media venture and especially when using social media for business, advertising, or during legal negotiations. Create a social media policy and educate all staff on said policy as well as the risks. If you would like more business advice or guidance, reach out to Ilam Smith Law Office.