Social Media & The Law | Things You Need To Know In 2022
Popularity of social media is spreading like wildfire, and it has become a famous avenue to promote business. At the same time businesses should have an in-depth understanding of social media law and litigation to get an idea of the potential legal implications of their activity.
With strategic marketing efforts, you can leverage social media to create your brand awareness and gain more leads. But improper use of it and misuse of social media guidelines can bring serious legal consequences to your business. To avoid any severe repercussions caused by abuse of social networks, organizations often develop a social media policy.
Social media law is a developing area of law that comprises both criminal and civil aspects. It covers all legal issues related to user-generated content and for the online sites that host or transmit such content.
In the blog, we have described in-depth about what social media law is all about and how you can develop an effective social media policy for your brand. Dive deep to get a precise apprehension of social media policy and other aspects of social media law.
- What Is Social Media Law?
- Social Media Law: Things You Need To Consider
- Importance Of A Well Crafted Social Media Policy
- How To Develop A Company Social Media Policy
What Is Social Media Law?
Social media law encompasses all the legal issues associated with user-generated content, and it comes under both civil and criminal law aspects. Some of the particular legal concerns for businesses' social media are the right to privacy, defamation, advertising law, intellectual property (IP) law, etc.
As a brand, you have to be careful while sharing any content on social media as sometimes it may infringe on a copyright, a trademark, or other IP rights. With the growth of social networks, the social media law-related scenario is also evolving. The vast terrain of social media law protects posting on content online based on guidelines, and it may broaden or protect the restricted privacy rights for employees.
Social media laws are associated with the copyright act and the communications decency act as well. Based on social media content, defamation and privacy lawsuits can be filed. Social media lawyers are the people who defend users who are accused of crimes or defamation, or online services.
These professionals can save you and your organizations if you are sued for your users' actions. Besides,Professionals specializing in intellectual property rights can assist you in protecting your trademarks, logos, or copyrighted materials that are being misused on social media.
Social Media And Employee Rights
Businesses should be well aware of their official account's privacy. They should clarify whether the social media account is affiliated with the employee or the employer to avoid any post that may lead to legal consequences. Usually brand provides access to employees to computers, social media accounts, and other devices associated with their employment.
When a dispute occurs, the business should be able to determine if the activity occurred during business hours or not, and they must also evaluate if the activity is personal or professional. Here the importance of an organization's social media policy arises.
However, regarding employees' social media rights, sometimes the process is complicated. Federal law prevents employers from discriminating against an employee because of their social media. But employers can legally terminate employees for several reasons that they may not truthfully disclose.
Besides, an organization can leverage social media for informal background checks on potential employees. However, it is always wise to stay updated with laws concerning social media and employee rights.
Social Media Law: Things You Need To Consider
In terms of social media law, businesses must pay attention to the following points:
Responding To Customer Reviews
Clients post reviews for a business on social media to voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Negative reviews can harm your business reputation, but negatively reacting to a negative review can be even more harmful to your business. It may even end up in legal action in certain circumstances. You as an organization can not retaliate to a customer for posting negative reviews.
Freedom of speech applies to online communications as well. However, be careful with your usage of language and tone because social media is a sensitive place. Keep your language clean and eliminate profanity from your online vocabulary.
Defamation Case On Facebook Group Admins
Posting comments on social media and communication patterns have taken a new turn after the High Court Of Australia’s decision on a Facebook comment. In 2019, Dylan Voller sued three renowned media houses, Fairfax Media, Nationwide Media, and Sky News. Voller claimed that these three media outlets were responsible for defaming him via the comments made on video of him, which were posted on their respective Facebook pages.
The claim was that these media outlets are responsible as they are owners as well as manage the page on which the comments were publicized. This equates to arguing that all three outlets have an active responsibility to monitor and censor comments on their social media account which are inappropriate.
Voller won this initial case and the Australian court has considered who can be held responsible for posting defamatory content, especially on social media. In that case, the news outlets are held accountable as they participated in the communication of the defamatory manner and facilitated and encouraged the comments.
Taking cases like this into consideration, businesses with Facebook pages and other social media accounts where followers or any third party can comment on the content should consider reviewing the capability of moderating the comments in real-time.
Also, there’s a need to be preventing comments visible immediately where the content holds the risk of generating a potential defamatory response. To avoid chaos comment moderation is crucial to save your business from any of such situations. Here comment moderation tools become handy for you. Statusbrew's comment moderation also empowers users to hide, delete, or make any content you think can harm your business reputation or lead to any legal consequence.
It allows you to automatically create a list of words and phrases to hide comments. It also helps you to band trolls or any derogatory posts. You can manage the comment management workflow by adding several conditions and actions to automate your entire process.
Business administrators should seriously consider updating policies to determine the apt form of moderation to be adopted on social media where prospects or followers can comment. Content with the risk of generating potentially defamatory comments should be actively moderated; neither should you ignore the lower risk content.
You should adhere to social media policy regarding posting third-party content, Ensure that credits are duly given, and pay attention to copyright and trademark laws. Besides, you should have a social media policy that protects customer privacy and financial information. This is a vital aspect to consider.
If you are using quotes, a passage, a song, or even a photograph which is someone else's original material, provide due credit. If the user content is available virtually, ensure to link the original content.
The copyright would focus on protecting creators' rights; if you plagiarized any original content you are infringing their copyright, besides while using Pinterest or any other social media platform, make sure that you know the about the copyrighted materials. Otherwise, you could be held responsible for the infringement.
Posting Discriminatory Content
Refrain from posting any discriminatory content and make it clear to the employees the potential impact of posting it. Never post any content that comes into the radar of threats of violence, hate speech, and harassment, or any content which may be illegal and are more than likely against the respective social media network policy.
Racism, castism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination have no place in social. Even if you are posting humorous content, think twice before sharing anything that could be seen as bigotry or defamatory.
Be Careful With Endorsements
With the evolving social media marketing, one of the significant emerging trends is endorsements from celebrities, athlete and influencers. Never post any image of celebrating endorsing your product without explicit consent from the endorser.
Besides be careful with posting photographs from any website, photos usually include the rights of social media users. Refrain from posting any third-party photo without the permission of the people depicted. If you are clicking pictures or videos of people at an event and sharing it on social media, a blog post, or any promotional materials, make sure to take consent.
Note: If the content you have posted in a social message is fodder for a lawsuit, taking down the content is usually an effective way to avoid litigation. To protect yourself online, you must adhere to three things: attribute, quote, cite, and use your common sense.
And most importantly, know the rules. It’s easy to understand them rather than breaking them; in the era of social media, news travels fast, and any legal litigation against your brand may fall heavily upon your brand reputation.
Image Source: The Ultimate Guide To Social Media Icons & Guidelines
Importance Of A Well Crafted Social Media Policy
Social media is gradually becoming an integral part of a business; it has become more critical than ever for companies to have a social media policy. People are getting influenced through social media to a greater extent than they have ever been. So, without a proper social media policy, you and your business might get into unnecessary troubles that might hurt your brand image. We have listed down the importance of social media policy.
1. Protecting Organization's Reputation
A social media policy clearly states what is and is not allowed for the employees to post about the organization on social media. Usually, a good social media policy will note that the employees shouldn't post anything online about the company; they don't want to be trolled on social platforms.
The policy will also state about consequences of posting critical information about the company on public platforms. The policy will also state that anything posted online which is even marked as private can or will be used against the company and the employees.
2. Explains The New Workplace Reality
Most of the employees try to keep their private and work lives separate. But the way social media is weaving itself into our lives has eradicated the distinction between personal and work lives. No matter how much you try to keep your private life private on social media, someone somewhere in the social media will connect you to your organization. Keeping this in mind, the policy explains to your employees that anything they post on the social platform or anywhere online may reflect the company or to them.
3. Aware Employees About The Organization And Values
A good social media policy will list your employees' do's and don'ts. It will clearly state the guidelines on how your employees can use the social platforms to help the organization achieve its business goals. It will also help employees incorporate organizational values in their social media conduct and make them aware of the best content they can share on social platforms.
4. Helps In Establishing Authority
A social media policy lets the employees know to whom they should forward online questions about your organization so that they don't answer those online questions themselves. A policy will designate a spokesperson who will be responsible for answering online questions and under which circumstances he or she will be answerable to the online questions.
5. Defines Private And Confidential Information
Every organization has some information that is private and confidential and should not be shared anywhere online. A social media policy will clearly state to your employees what information is considered public and can be shared online and what information is confidential. It also states the consequences one will face if confidential information is shared online on any platform.
6. States About Online Conduct
This is known to every employee in the company, but a social media policy reminds them to be polite and aggregable while engaging with others online. At any point, if your employees disagree with someone online, they should state their disagreement in a polite way and should justify it. A harsh or straightforward dispute can quickly turn into an argument and go viral. This can hurt your brand image.
7. Trains And Educates Employees
A good social media policy will educate your employee about the good and bad social media can do. Most policies state a few real-life examples showing what consequences the organization or the person can face if they don't follow the rules or the guidelines. In this way, your employees will refrain from violating the rules.
8. Clears Confusions About Legal Matters
A social media policy clearly describes how the employees can use social media in the workplace. What kind of behavior and conduct are acceptable and what are not? It also explains the penalties one can face if the rules or the guidelines are not obeyed. If specific actions lead to the termination of employment, the policy makes it clear.
Until and unless your employees are not aware of how they should use social media, they are vulnerable to making mistakes that can harm your organization's reputation. A good social media policy plays a vital role in preventing such mishaps.
How To Develop A Company Social Media Policy
A good social media policy should be self-explanatory. Your employees should understand the policies clearly when they read it. You shouldn't miss out on important things while writing your company's social media policy. Here we have discussed the points you should include while developing a social media policy.
The first thing that you should include in your social media policy is the roles and responsibilities of your employees. Mention who will run which social media accounts and what responsibilities they need to carry out for those accounts.
Image Source: Starbucks Partners (employees)
Attach the contact information such as name, email IDs, official phone number of the people responsible for handling your social accounts. This will help other employees to reach them easily whenever needed. The jobs that you can assign to responsible persons are:
- Posting content and engagement
- Customer service
- Preparing social media strategies
- Handling social media ads
- Security and credentials of social accounts
- Monitoring social accounts
- Managing legal and financial matters
- Responding to a crisis
- Training other employees
Do not forget to mention who among your employees will be the social media spokesperson for your company.
Define Security Protocols
Just like your company website, your social media accounts are company assets. You need to devise a plan or protocols to protect your social media accounts at any cost.
Protecting your social media accounts is essential because several risks are involved in it. If access to your social media accounts falls into the wrong hands, it can brutally harm your company's reputation.
Mention at what frequency the passwords of social accounts should be changed and who will be responsible for it. State a calendar to check for the updates of all your organization's software tools to keep them equipped to prevent any security threats.
Create a team that will be responsible for the security of all social media accounts of your organization. Other employees will reach out to them to report any security breach or issues.
Develop A Plan To Handle Social Media Crisis
The ultimate goal of creating a social media policy is to prevent your organization from any social media crisis. Therefore, you need to create a policy that should clearly outline the necessary steps to protect your organization's social reputation.
You should also be ready to handle any crisis if it arises. That's why you need to create a good crisis management plan. It should explain all the steps your employees should take to restrain the damage.
Your crisis management plan should include all emergency contacts of the essential stakeholders. Assign specific roles to distinguish teams such as social media, PR, legal, and other top executives to manage the crisis effectively.
Your plan should also state how you can identify a social crisis and the damage it can cause. It should also detail the internal communication protocols to manage the emergency. A clear hierarchy to approve responses should also be mentioned to make sure only the proper responses are going out on social platforms while going through a social crisis.
Detail Out Legal Compliances
Your social media policy should also state all the legal compliance you need to follow while using social platforms. To state all the legal compliances, you can take some help from your legal department. Try to simplify and explain the rules as much as possible so that your employees can understand the laws easily and there is no confusion.
Image Source: Dell Technologies
Legal compliances may vary from country to country or even state from state. However, some common compliances that you should follow are:
User Data Privacy: Make sure you protect your customer and user data at all times and any cost.
Copyright and Plagiarism: Make sure whatever you are posting on social media it should be copyright and plagiarism-free when they are from other sources.
Confidentiality: Your policy should also clearly state what consequences one may face when confidential data is shared outside the organization.
Define Guidelines For Usage Of Personal Accounts
A social media policy not only states how your organization's social accounts should be handled; it should also state how your employees should use their social media accounts. Outline proper guidelines on how your employees should use their social accounts.
The policy should restrain them from posting any hate speech, racist content, online harassment, cyberbullying, and giving violent threats to others, etc., on their personal social media accounts.
Such online conduct may go against the law, and it can also violate your organization's ethics. You should also clearly state the consequences of such actions. This will help prevent your employees from engaging themselves in such online behavior.
Guidelines For All Employees
Your social media and PR team are aware of their responsibilities and trained on how to conduct themselves on social platforms. However, all other employees might not be aware of their responsibilities. Mention the responsibilities of all the employees in the policy.
Outline the roles of all the employees. What role should be assigned to which employee depends on your organization.
Once you are done preparing your social media policy, you need to decide where you will deploy it and where it will exist. You can put the policy on employee handbooks. In this way, your employees, including the new hires, can easily refer to them whenever required.
You can deploy the policy on your organization's internal network. You can make your social media policy public by putting it on your public website.
Whenever you launch your policy, make sure to announce it. This will make everyone look into it, and you can have feedback if anything needs to be improved.
Once you have deployed your social media policy, the job doesn't end there. You need to make sure your policies are up to date. An outdated policy can put you in a social crisis. Set a calendar to review the policy regularly.
Make sure to update the contact information of important persons whenever a change takes place. This will help your employees reach out to the correct person in time of need.
Social media is public even if you remain in private settings. Any improper content is released, it is out of your control, and it can potentially harm your image. Hence you must have a plan to reduce social media liability for your business.
In such scenarios you can leverage the social media management tool such as Statusbrew to avoid any accidents, offensive and embarrassing posts from your company account.
It lets you streamline your team workflow; you can create, review, communicate, & approve social media content and conversations with Statusbrew easy-to-configure approval paths. You can have access control and permission for clutter-free management and reduce erros.
Your brand's online reputation is crucial for business success. While you can't control what your prospects say about you, Statusbrew can help you control how you respond. Using Statusbrew Engage inbox, you can manage customer engagement across social media and reviews in one place.
Monitor and manage reviews for all your business locations across Facebook, Google My Business from unified inbox. Statusbrew can help you ensure that no harmful content is posted on social media, which can harm your brand image.
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