4 tips to reduce legal risks on social media

social media defamation

Innovation and multimedia have pushed companies and their employees in becoming digital geniuses. Companies are now regularly engaging directly with the public on social media, increasing online presence. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are just some of the sites used by businesses granting them access to unlimited connections and contacts. This instant connectivity on social media additionally cuts costs for businesses making the marketing process relatively simpler, and speedier through its immediacy. However, while social media assists in facilitating many unique advances in the way businesses interact with potential consumers, getting it wrong on social media is probable. This is why corporations must take greater accountability when using these platforms as there are many grey areas that can legally land a company in big trouble.

Misleading or falsely advertising
Legalities surrounding false advertising and marketing are proportionately applicable both on social media and for traditional print media. The laws prohibit any category of false advertisement making it crucial that businesses remain careful of what they publish online. There are several legalities in place that are often overlooked, and with serious consequences. The Federal Trade Commission (FCA) deems any unjust or misleading information unlawful. This can be the pitfall of a business and can lead to many issuances. In short, a business should not deceive its consumer, but remain truthful, appropriate and professional in what it communicates. The FCA particularly places great significance on claims by advertisers that directly affect their consumer, health and money.

Companies can reduce risk through:

  • The implementation of clear guidelines that are related to the conduct of employees and which should additionally cover users of the particular social media platform used. These codes should be clearly displayed to avert unwanted risk.
  •  Companies should steer clear of making announcements or declarations online that would not be made offline. This because the laws remain the same both offline & online.
  • It’s beneficial to have a lawyer that can evaluate social media activity. How regularly however, depends on the size of the company, but having a lawyer to review online activity better protects a business from falling into potential legal threats.

Sharing employment related content online
Events at work, whether it be new business ideas, promotions or employment issues, should not be shared outside the confines of work. While many people look to social media as an outlet of expression, or a place to share information, doing so may breach an employment contract. It is the duty of a worker to preserve confidentiality. This includes personal information, client details, business secrets, profits, losses etc.  Many companies implement written guidelines that clearly display what should be safeguarded from the outside.

Intellectual property and Copyright
Companies need to be mindful about sharing others’ content because it can lead to copyright infringements. Work republished on social media such as infographics, images, video footage or written text may breach copyright laws, necessitating the importance of staying clear on what can and cannot be republished. If a company decides to use content created by others, then this must be testified, still there are hazards involved such as abusing a person’s right of publicity or right of privacy. Copyright owners have absolute control of all creative content in all aspects, allocating them complete power of what can be distributed and reproduced. This further means that if an employer shares content without permission, their business could potentially become legally liable. This all may seem relatively simple, however with the speed of social media a worker may share content online without fully evaluating it, landing their businesses in legal difficulty.

It’s the responsibility of a company to speak truthfully about its products, services and about its competitor. A business that makes false claims that can harm the character of a competitor may constitute to defamation. Defamation laws are the same on the internet as they are for traditional media, however federal law safeguard service providers (ISPs) from many lawsuits. State laws classify defamation in two ways; slander, which is spoken and libel which is a written form of defamation. It is advised that an employer does not share ‘opinion’ about a competitor because classifying a statement as an opinion does not safeguard it from proving to be a statement of fact by the courts. The context of the statement is often evaluated to calculate if the statement was in effect an opinion or a statement of fact.

Don’t disclose privileged or confidential information
The structure of social media means that there are a lot of potential risks involved.  One major risks involves divulging confidential information whether done unintentionally or not. It is the responsibility of a company to safeguard confidential information such as the details of names and details of clients.

About Hidaya Warsame

Hidaya Warsame currently works as a project manager for a London based translation agency Language Reach and its sister company specialising in legal translations Translation Services 24. She mainly focuses on the legal and financial accounts. In her spare time she truly enjoys reading and learning about trends in Social Media Marketing.