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Legal Issues Around Social Media

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While social media can be an important business tool, make sure you understand the related legal parameters.  The following tips can help you avoid legal issues related to social media use.

 Responding to Reviews - Customer feedback is a valuable tool, but negative comments can be difficult to read, especially if you thing the comments are unfair. While you may want to, avoid responding in a combative manner or delete the review.  Businesses are not allowed to delete negative reviews or to retaliate against customers or employees who leave negative reviews.

Establish a Social Media Policy - Having a clear and enforceable social media policy can alleviate questions as to who owns social media content and accounts. If you have employees or contractors posting to social media on your behalf, your social media policy must clearly outline who the accounts and content on your social media platforms belong to. This can avoid potential litigation when you no longer have a relationship with those employees or contractors.

Asking For Credentials - Think twice before asking for employee social media credentials. While employers may use this to monitor staff social media usage, it can also result in a discrimination lawsuits.

Undisclosed Endorsements and Deceptive Advertising - If you pay a blogger or other social media user to write a positive review about one of your products, that individual must list that you paid them for the review. Along the same lines, any of your employees posting about your products or services also must disclose their relationship with your company. Additionally, any claims you make about your products and services on social media must be accurate and true.

 Do Not Use Licensed Content Without Permission - Intellectual property violations are a common issue on social media. Unless that IP is in the public domain, or the creator haexplicitly given permission for the item to be used for commercial purposes, you must obtain permission to legally use the IP. This includes images that users post on social media sites, such as Instagram. The exception to this rule is images that are of an event in the public interest. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure you remain compliant in your usage of other people’s and companies’ intellectual property on social media.

Know the Rules of Each Platform - The major social media platforms all have similar rules, but there are some differences. Additionally, each platform carries its legal risks for users. Read the rules and guidelines for the platforms you are considering using. Analyze how well these guidelines fit with your company’s legal policies. Talk to an attorney about the risks each platform carries and how you can mitigate those risks.

 Make Sure Third-Parties You Work with are Legally Compliant - It may be tempting to just assume that a professional company you contract with to handle your social media knows the law. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and you can be on the hook for any rule-breaking done on your behalf. The contract you sign with any social media agency should clearly state who takes the financial and legal responsibility for the content the agency posts.

 Don’t Post Fake Reviews or Testimonials - Even if you are convinced that all of your competitors are boosting their review scores by posting fake reviews, don’t do it. First, if you get caught, it can ruin your credibility. Second, it can also get you in trouble with the law. State attorney generals have been cracking down on laws against posting fake reviews and testimonials online and businesses that violate these laws may face hefty fines.

Make sure you understand the laws around any promotion or business advertising.   If you have questions, reach out to one of the trusted attorneys at LDM LAW.  For over 40 years, we have been providing our clients with expert direction and services to ensure their continued success!