Are You Breaking the Law with Social Media?


I recently attended a Webinar looking at new legal developments in social media. Through the hour long session, I came to understand that, in recent years, social media has become so enmeshed into our everyday lives that we don’t always realize the legal issues that surround its use. However, these issues are important for businesses to consider before making the decision to utilize social media.

Legal Issues with Social Media

Privacy Issues
Due to the nature of the content on social media, it has the potential to cause privacy issues for businesses. Even through businesses accounts, personal information is being shared. This could be something as simple as sharing a photo from an event in which staff or customers faces are visible. While this may not seem like a privacy violation, you need to ensure that any personal information, whether visual or written, has been approved for use by its owner. These types of issues are especially important within the social media realm, as its foundation is built on the sharing of information.

Intellectual Property Rights: Who Owns What?
There are numerous challenges associated with social media and intellectual property rights. Social media gives users the opportunity to post as much content from as many accounts as they would like, which makes it hard to track where information is going. This results in a ton of material being created at rapid speed. With this combination, you have a potential recipe for disaster!

If you are writing a post for your business, take a minute before you post the content and ask yourself, do I have the right to post this information? If you don’t know for sure, then it is best not to post it. This is the simplest way to avoid unintentional infringement.

Franchises and Social Media
For businesses with Franchises, best practice dictates that social media issues should be addressed within franchise agreements. This can include an outline of what type of content can and cannot be posted by franchises, compliance to organizational objectives through social media use, and mandatory education of proper social media use. Ensuring that all branches of your business are working toward the same goal can help you avoid unwanted legal issues stemming from social media.

Who Owns My Social Media?
Ownership of social media accounts is another pertinent issue for businesses, as it is likely that multiple employees are going to be using the accounts on behalf of the business. In order to avoid any future legal issues, businesses should determine who takes ownership of the social media account, including the content posted and leads generated through it. Taking the time to determine whether they are the property of the business or the individuals posting will avoid any future legal disagreements.

Limits to Social Media Use
It is unlikely that your business would ever have a prospective employee apply for a job who has no personal social media presence online. While doing a quick social media search of their name to see what you can find may be tempting, try to resist. Even if it is unintentional, using social media to research prospective employees can uncover information that may lead to discrimination. Even if the information you uncovered did not impact the decision not to hire, if it was discovered that you did find it through social media, there is risk of discrimination claims.

Now What?
Do all of these legal issues have you thinking twice about using social media for your business? Don’t let it! While these issues are something that all businesses should consider before signing up, as long as you have guidelines in place about who can post and what can be posted, and you only post content you are sure you have the right to post, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

If you only remember one thing from this blog make it this: If you ever have to question whether or not to post something, you probably shouldn’t do it!

Showing 2 comments
  • intriguevanessa

    Super insightful! Thanks for sharing Tori! Keep the great articles coming 🙂

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    Stella Johnson

    Great information Tori, a follow-up to this blog could be information on privacy issues related to e-mail marketing and the proper use of lists and how one’s data base is developed.

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