Social media has become very familiar to legal professionals due to the lawsuits that have arisen out of its use. Whether you are using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook as an individual or as a representative of an organization, it is important to be careful about what you post. Records of statements and postings on these services are stored indefinitely and can be subpoenaed as evidence in court proceedings.

 

Exercising good judgment and etiquette online can dramatically lower and perhaps eliminate the risk of litigation arising from social media use. However, even some seemingly mundane comments and posts can cause legal issues.

 

What are the Legal Ramifications of Social Media?

 

In recent years, young people have been called into court because of comments they made on the internet. Charges have been filed for:

 

·       Threatening behavior, when someone believes the defendant expressed intent to harm him or her.

·       Menacing behavior, which is related to the fear caused by threats and similar behaviors.

·       Harassment, meaning persistent contact with someone who has requested it to be ceased.

·       Grossly offensive comments and outrageous comments regarding sensitive issues.

 

Many people use social media as a public rant space, where they can air their grievances in search of validation from their social network. Take it from legal professionals who know: do your venting in private or in a therapist’s office, not on social media.

 

Companies and organizations expose themselves to litigation risk through social media marketing as well. Copyright, terms of use, and data collection conducted surreptitiously could land a company in court and may end in a huge settlement or judgment.

 

How to Avoid Breaking the Law

 

Avoid using copyrighted images or other media unless licensed for the purpose for which you intend to use it. Google image search offers filters based on the copyright licensing of images. Use these to ensure you never use an image that could get you into hot water.

 

In some cases, using copyrighted material is subject to “fair use,” which is an exception to copyright law meant to allow teachers, artists and others to use materials for non-commercial purposes. However, for-profit companies rarely qualify for this.

 

Social media is a valuable source of the data companies need to make their decisions. However, many regulations in the United States prevent private collection of personal data without express permission. Never collect data without first crafting an iron clad terms of use statement.

 

Most social media sites have terms of use that define the acceptable and unacceptable practices in the above-cited instances. It is important to have a qualified attorney evaluate the terms of use and determine if your content and marketing strategy violate the terms of use at all. In some cases, a terms of use violation can end in a ruinously expensive legal battle. 

 

Get the Best Defense Possible

 

Individuals and organizations are often blindsided by social media related lawsuits. Contact a legal expert who can guide you through the process of impending litigation or assess your current social media presence to determine your risk exposure.