How Online Publishers Can Protect Themselves From Social Media Liability

Improper use of social media can mean more exposure to potential litigation. Example: NBA referee Bill Spooner sued the Associated Press for a tweet one of its reporters made during a game.The Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA) recently held a webinar on social media liability that got me thinking. The most important take away for online media was that if you treat social media as another content channel, and keep the same standards and practices of your other publishing venues, you should generally be safe. But with the new scenarios presented by social media, here are some questions you should ask yourself in order to protect your legal exposure:

  • Are you editing comments on your website or blog? If you are, that might limit the protection your receive under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. This section protects publishers from liability for user-generated content but if you do any substantive editing, you might not be protected. Consult your lawyer.
  • Are your employees using their personal social media accounts to promote their work under your employment? You might be liable for what they say if they are using the accounts in the context of their employment. Make sure your employees are trained in best social media practices and consider how and if you want them to use their personal accounts for work purposes.
  • Does your business or liability insurance protect you (or pay for legal services) in case you are sued? SIPA’s insurance expert noted that there are very important exclusions in many of these policies that don’t cover trademark and copyright infringement. Consult your insurance agent.

By the way, if you’re attending the SIPA Conference in Washington, DC next week, come see my presentation “The Holy Grail of Online Conversion Strategies: The Landing Page – Best Practices for Creating Awesome Landing Pages” on Monday, June 6 at 2:15 p.m.

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