Social Media and The Law
August 19, 2011 2 Comments
Disclaimer: I have no legal background and do not claim to have any expertise in law. Below is what I ‘understood’ from listening to someone who does.
I had the pleasure this past week to attend a presentation by , a practicing attorney who teaches social media law at Rutgers. We were both speakers at SocialCrush, a conference for small to medium sized businesses.
Glen gave some very interesting insight into a couple of gray areas of social business. I found myself raising my eyebrows and wondering how many people are aware of this.
Here are a couple of issues Glen covered:
National Labor Relations Board As a business, you can’t tell employees that they can not say anything negative about your company on social channels. He referenced unionization protection laws which specify that employees have the right to speak about their working conditions.
Cases have gone to court and have been won.
Understanding the rights the NLRB protects before writing your employee social media guidelines is a must.
Federal Trade Commission The FTC revised endorsement guidelines a few months back. Many of us remember this. There was a lot of talk about bloggers being required to disclose ‘material connection’ for writing reviews.
But what I wasn’t clear on, and I think many are probably in the same boat, is exactly what material connection could include.
From what I understood Glen to say (and I am no legal expert so don’t quote me), if you give anything to a blogger and ask them to mention you, that relationship must be disclosed by the blogger.
And guess what, micro-bloggers can be considered bloggers.
So does that mean if you give an ice cream cone to a person who has a Twitter account and ask them to mention your ice cream shop you have a material connection that must be disclosed by the twitterer?
Glen said this also means that if one of your employees promotes one of your clients in their blog or Twitter, they need to be transparent about that relationship.
This part got a little hazy for me. What if you’re a large company and the employee doesn’t even realize the brand he’s promoting is a client of the company he works for?
And lets not miss the obvious. Glen said this also means that if an employee promotes his employer and his employer’s products and does not disclose that relationship, well that can get us in mucky water (not a legal term) with the FTC too. I’ve already sent notes to a couple of friends telling them they need to add who they work for in their bio since I know they sometimes promote their employer on Twitter.
For more clarification, here is the FTC’s “Guides Concerning The Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I’m definitely taking a more proactive approach to staying informed about these matters after hearing Glen speak. Does anything above concern you?
- 5 Legal Considerations for Your Social Media Campaign (mashable.com)
- Feds Raise Questions About Employee Social Media Rights (socialtimes.com)