Online social networking users have grown exponentially over the past few years this is common knowledge. Every day millions of people post status updates, photos, and website links and it seems like second nature for us to share what goes on in our daily lives. Mobile computing devices like tablet PCs and smartphones have made social networking so much easier and made it faster to communicate all aspects of our lives with friends and family online.
Although there is a rapid rise of individuals and businesses that use social networking sites, the understanding or awareness of the legal consequences of such usage hasn’t really been given much thought, especially at the individual level. Corporations are wising up to all that public sharing of information and struggling to find ways to avoid information loss, publicity damage and more but individuals especially many of the youth who make up most of the Social Media user population don’t put much attention into it. Nevertheless, as some people have found out the hard way, it is possible to get sued over a status update, use of a photo, or a blog entry. Here are some things that social networking users must look into to help improve security and reduce liability and risk when using social media networking sites.
Employees must be aware of their company’s policy with regards to using social networking sites. In the absence of such, it still pays to be on the safe side. Thus, they must be careful when posting about work-related things, especially if it is detrimental to the company or their supervisors. It would also be prudent to note on their social networking accounts that their posts only reflect their own opinions and not those of the company they belong to. Basically don’t talk about your job, peers, customers you are working with, bosses…etc. It just generally isn’t a good idea to share this information on social media unless you are in a PR rep position for the company an encouraged to communicate company items on social media.
A lot of bloggers nowadays are also active members of social networking sites. Bloggers have a lot more to lose if they get sued as they often don’t have the financing for legal services. This means that they should be a little more responsible when posting. To begin with, they must avoid misrepresenting anyone especially if they get income from their blogs or if they are writing about a product in exchange for monetary compensation or a free sample of the product. Bloggers can avoid misrepresentation by properly identifying themselves and having a disclosure statement in their blog and making sure they only use things like Royalty Free stock images or images they personally take when sharing them on Social Media or their blogs. This is just a very short list, but being careful is important.
Businesses must have a clear policy on employees’ use of social media sites. The policy must explicitly state what employees can post on these sites during work hours or even after work especially if there is a mention of the company or a co-worker. It would be advisable to have a legal counsel draft the policy or at least have it run through the legal department before release. This is important because if a business sues an employee over a Facebook post, it may result in a wrongful termination counter-suit if their policy on Facebook use is not spelled out clearly.
To connect more with their customers, most businesses now have a website and a social networking page. Businesses that want to advertise on Facebook (on their own pages or the sponsored areas of the site) must know Facebook’s rules and policies or run the risk of being thrown out as well.
All users of social networking sites
Finally, all users must be aware of copyright laws and how to avoid copyright violation. Perhaps the most common violation is uploading or re-posting content such as photos and videos that are someone else’s copyrighted property. Sharing or using photos that one did not personally take happens without so much as a thought of legal implications nowadays. To be on the safe side, it would be prudent to obtain rights to post such content if one wants to do so without attribution, or get permission from the copyright owner to post with attribution. Now leveraging a share button on a website to share an image or photo isn’t a violation, but downloading and uploading/posting that image to your wall as you uploaded it would be. Make sure you know the difference between how to share meme’s, images, artwork that may have copyright requirements. Generally anything you click like/share you should be covered, it is when you are specifically uploading the file you have responsibility over it.
The popularity of social networking sites shows no signs of waning anytime soon. Take note of the suggestions raised and stay away from social media trouble.