Category Archives: Social Media

Protecting Your Business from Social Media Risks.

Engaging with customers via social media is a cheap option for businesses and thus an attractive one to take advantage of. As with all things, there are risks that must be examined and planned for when choosing to use social media as a tool for your organisation.

Key to effective consideration of risks is developing a carefully deliberated social media strategy. This plan should examine three different categories of social media usage as they will apply to the organisation:

  • the individual employee’s personal use of social media,
  • the organisation’s advertising, marketing and internal use of social media, and
  • the organisation’s and individual employee’s professional use of social media for building connections, hiring personnel and networking

Following consideration of the different categories of social media that your organisation would or could allow within their strategy there are five different areas of legal risk that the strategists need to be aware of: legislative risks, contractual rights, non-contractual obligations, non-contractual rights and dispute risks. Within these legal risks, consideration of trademark and copyright laws, advertising, fair trade and ethical standards, employment contracts, protection of confidential information, product disparagement, patent infringement risks and prevention of defamation, to name a few, should be examined and managed.

Having a trained professional lead your organisation’s formation of the social media strategy can help set at ease any lingering concerns about missing an important legal risk that must be mitigated.

By taking the time to either re-evaluate your social media strategy or take control of the employee’s social media usage by drafting a strategy, your organisation can prevent the more typical impacts of social media risks to the more extreme impacts, such as major damage to the organisation’s reputation leading to embarrassment or heavy costs due to court-ordered damages. Having some control over social media usage within the organisation will also help set at ease any worry about these risks not being managed.

If your organisation is considering drafting and social media strategy or requires guidance in re-evaluating or updating the strategy in the face of ever changing legislation and international standards, please contact us for our help.

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Defamation and Social Media: Guarding Your Business’ Online Presence.

Social media has blossomed into almost every person’s life on earth. The effects of social media, however, seem to be that those who choose to express themselves online do so with a bit more bravado than they would do in person. The result has been a rise in cyber-bullying and the like and a reduction in privacy expectations by many. Internet defamation is a growing tort heard by judges the world over. With the near limitless reach of the Internet, the expectation is that Internet defamation cases will be costing people and businesses big money.

Countries around the world are hearing the first social media defamation cases: Australia, South Africa, the US, and more. In the UK, a New Zealander brought an Indian to answer for a defamatory tweet which will cost him £90.000 in damages and around £1-million in attorney’s fees.

Online defamation isn’t limited to social media. Posters should be wary of blogs and comments to blog postings, chat rooms and comments made on any site where the option is given. While most victims of online defamation would look to the defamer for resolution, it has not been uncommon for them to look to website hosts and Internet Service Providers for restitution. In the US, a federal law called the Communications Decency Act protects this group.

Product Defamation. Just as individuals tend to feel more shielded online, so do businesses. Online unsubstantiated claims made about a competitor’s goods or services are landing businesses in trouble in court. Those who hide behind some type of online alias wont be spared having to answer for defamatory conduct online. Attorneys work with Internet Service Providers and private detectives to uncover the true identities of those who are defaming businesses. A business’ online presence must guard against defamation, trademark infringement and consumer fraud. It is extremely important for businesses to coach those in charge of the business’ online contributions, website and social media about the dangers of online defamation and product defamation.

If you or your business has been defamed or is accused of being defamed, please reach out to us for assistance. We can also help with laying the ground rules to avoid defamatory conduct online.

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Data Privacy and Social Media in the UK

For most businesses, modern marketing, advertising and promoting involve having a presence in social media. Though a business may not be engaged in social media at present, social media participation, whether official or unofficial, seems to be an inevitability for all. Whilst the number of social media networks may be incalculable as previously non-social sites develop a social aspect, one thing is certain: the number of people, and thus potential customers and critics, who use social media is staggering. Facebook alone garnered 1.15-billion users by 2013. Twitter and Google+ enjoyed 500-million users each last year. Whilst Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are social media giants, business gains can be derived from countless social media outlets.

The benefits to social media participation include the ability to engage more personally with individual customers and critics, being able to “listen” or monitor what is being said about the business or other topics of interest, scanning for potential employees and getting to give a business a unique voice. Some businesses use big data analytics on social media activities to derive valuable consumer data to use in advertising. The biggest concern with social media participation is privacy.

At first blush, one might think that social media and privacy are on almost opposite sides of the spectrum, but privacy is a fundamental right protected by the EU under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and therefore must be guarded. More specifically, in the UK, the Data Protection Act of 1998 protects the processing of data of identifiable, living individuals. These pieces of legislation were developed before social media really took off. The future of legislation in the EU in regards to social media is being debated for the proposed General Data Protection Regulation, which contains protective provisions such as the “right to be forgotten” and restrictions on profiling.

In addition to wider privacy concerns, businesses must also consider privacy concerns of their employees that use social media, whether during the course of their employment or from their homes. Employment contracts naturally contain disciplinary policies that businesses now seem to have to turn to routinely in reference to social media activities. At the same time, however, businesses must balance their employees’ right to freedom of expression.

If your business or your business’ employees participate in social media, be sure to make your expectations clear. For those who have a social media voice with an official presence: make sure that the employee management team is well-trained and kept abreast of all company policies, activities and stances so that their interaction with customers and critics is intelligent, informative and appropriate. Please contact us if you are ready to speak to your employees about social media behaviour or ready to train a social media team to give your business a new electronic voice.

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