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Social Liability: The Legal Dangers of Social Networking

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Donald R. Scherer, Esq.

The use of social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, to market businesses creates a number of unique liability concerns. While no laws currently exist specifically regarding social media, traditional personal injury law is relevant here. Among other things, liability from defamation and intellectual property infringement is a concern. Other concerns include discrimination and harassment.

These liability concerns are magnified by the fact that a company can be liable for the actions of its employees undertaken within the scope of their employment. Thus, if a business actively creates social media pages, or encourages employees to utilize their individual pages to market the company, this can blur the line between private and professional conduct, and a business faces potential liability for its employees’ posts.

A good way to help minimize the risk of liability is to make sure management, employees, and the people viewing these social media sites are on the same page. Stark & Knoll has developed social media policies for employees that can be tailored to your business. These policies lay out the responsibilities and expectations of the company and employees when using social media. Additionally, Stark & Knoll has prepared terms of use for social media that define the relationship between the company and individuals viewing its social media pages. These policies can help minimize any confusion to the company’s brand, cut off embarrassment to the company for individual employees’ networking pages, and help evidence the fact that any posting not in accord with the company’s social networking policy is outside the scope of employment.

Ultimately, as business moves toward social media, companies cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. Fear over liability should not overshadow the usefulness of this technology. If a business is cognizant of the risks, it can formulate policies and procedures that help minimize the liability from utilizing social media. For assistance in protecting your company against the risks of social media, please contact your Stark & Knoll attorney, or, Donald Scherer, at dscherer@stark-knoll.com, (330) 572-1317.