Social Media - Legal Perils & Managing the Risk – Stephen von Muenster

(Sarah Hawk) #1

Stephen von Muenster

This was a really interesting presentation, and one that I was looking forward to. Unfortunately there wasn’t time for questions at the end.

"Community Managers present one of the biggest legal challenges. They carry power and control, which carries with it great risk."

The bottom line is that when you use social media for commercial purposes, it is ultimately about risk management.

CMs are possibly potentially liable for what happens with regards to their brand. They are part of a chain of services, with social media being the output.

Here is a comprehensive list of the laws, regulations and codes that create legal, commercial and reputational risk sources when engaging in social media:

  • Consumer protection (you can’t be misleading or deceptive). This is the biggest risk for brands and CMs.
  • Copyright. If community members post appropriated images to your site, you can be liable as a brand if you show indifference. If something is clearly breaching copyright, you are responsible for moderating it.
  • Trademarks.
  • Defamation. As well as the writer, the publisher is also liable. Have community guidelines or TOS that cover this. It is not possible to defame companies - only live individuals.
  • Injurious falsehood (similar to defamation but for businesses). Be wary that you don’t say something false that could cause injury to the profits of a competitor.
  • Privacy laws. If you collect personal information, you must have a collection statement and a privacy policy.
  • Discrimination/hate speech/indecency (stalking, offensive behaviour)
  • Spam
  • Trade/promotion/lottery (if you give something away, the prize has to be achievable and awarded)
  • Codes of practice and ethics (you can be held responsible for things that people say on your site)

The 4 Ts of risk management

Tolerate (if something is low risk you can probably just make the call to ignore it)
Treat (for low to med risk - clarify or offer explanation “we’ve tried to find the owner and can’t - is it you?”)
Transfer (for med to high risk, ask for advice - transfer the risk to a legal team)
Terminate (if the risk is high, remove the post)

What I was most interested in finding out was how international laws apply. One of the most common legal issues that I have come up against is people asking for content to be removed and saying that it is ‘their right under American law’. What laws actually apply to an international community? Does anyone know.

Swarm 2015
Legal terms for community content