Social media and business can be a potent mix. Social media platforms allow businesses to market their goods and services more cheaply than traditional media. They also help a business reach a wider audience than many other platforms.
But the mix can also bring new legal problems. Falsehoods about your business can go viral. Users can misuse or steal your intellectual property. And your use of social media can violate the privacy of your employees and customers.
Social Media Strategy
Most businesses do not have a plan for how to use social media. They often take a try-it-and-see approach, experimenting with platforms until they succeed or surrender.
But aside from commercial success, you need to be aware of the legal implications of your social media use. You should consider talking to a lawyer about designing a social media policy for your business.
Establishing rules will help you comply with consumer protection and privacy laws. The policy should also address how you and your employees can use your company’s social media accounts to minimize the risk of a legal dispute.
Legal Issues Involving Social Media and Business
Some legal issues that can arise around the commercial use of social media include:
Terms and Conditions Violations
Social media platforms set the terms and conditions for their use. If you violate these rules, the platform can suspend or ban your account. Platforms also use punishments like shadow bans, where you no longer appear on users’ feeds.
You should review these policies. When you become reliant on social media for connecting with customers, an account suspension or termination can cause serious damage. If you need help interpreting the terms and conditions, you can contact a lawyer to review the rules with you.
Defamation happens when someone publishes a disparaging assertion of fact that they know or should know to be false. Unfortunately, social media platforms are filled with defamatory statements. And these statements often catch fire and go viral.
You face two risks from defamation. First, you do not want your social media account to publish or propagate defamatory statements. Your business could be held liable if your social media manager posts or reposts a false and defamatory assertion of fact. As a result, you need a policy in place to prevent that from happening.
Second, your business could get defamed. When this happens, you must act quickly so your response can go as viral as the defamatory post. If your business suffers actual damage, you may even have the defamatory post taken down and pursue a defamation lawsuit against the person who created the post.
Intellectual Property Infringement
Intellectual property includes:
- Trademarks and service marks for names, logos, and slogans
- Copyrights for works of authorship like photos, artwork, songs, videos, and text
- Trade secrets for valuable confidential information
Social media was designed for sharing. As a result, you should assume everything you post will get misused or misappropriated.
You should look to both technological and legal methods to keep control of your intellectual property. Digital watermarks can help you identify when users misuse your intellectual property, and takedown notices can stop potentially infringing uses.
Privacy laws are some of the most complex legal issues you may face.
Every state provides some protection for individual privacy, but the laws vary. Once you add in the privacy laws of other countries, you have a huge morass of legal requirements and restrictions. Remember that even posting someone’s face or voice without their permission can violate these laws.
Addressing Problems Before They Arise
Social media and business use is an evolving issue. But if you anticipate and address problems with a social media policy, you can avoid disputes and lawsuits. To discuss your company’s social media use, contact Levy Goldenberg, a commercial litigation firm in New York, NY.