Don't Let Your Company's Social Media Team Get You Sued

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 15, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Social media can be a great way for a company to expand its reach and build consumer loyalty. REI's Instagram photos of kayaks and mountains have garnered a following of more than 1 million. Coca-Cola has nearly 100 million likes on Facebook. That's more followers than the population of Germany. And General Electric (yes, that General Electric, the one with the dishwashers and refrigerators) has been named one of the best brands on Snapchat.

So, social media has its benefits. But, of course, it also has its drawbacks, including potential legal liabilities. Here's what they are and how you can avoid them.

Be Cautious With Content

Of course, one of the main risks with corporate social media accounts comes from handling content, yours and others. You'll want to make sure you don't violate any intellectual property protections if sharing others' content online. And you'll want to be very cautious using your followers likes, comments, and content in separate advertising -- the legal issues surrounding such sharing are still pretty murky.

"Like Our Post and Win!"

It's not unusual to see companies running sweepstakes or contests via social media. If you follow one company on Instagram, you might win a free backpack. If you share a corporate status on Facebook, you could be eligible for a free car. You get the idea. But just because your promotion is online, that doesn't mean it's operating outside of regular laws. So be sure your team is complying with all necessary regulations, disclosures, and the like.

Don't Misuse Your Social Media Platform

Social media companies have terms of use that govern how corporations can use their services and interact with consumers. Violating them can get you in trouble with the platform, and even get you kicked off. (And remember, those terms raise contractual implications as well.) But if your company continues despite being told to knock it off, it might also be guilty of violating federal hacking laws that impose both civil and criminal penalties. Just this week, the Ninth Circuit ruled that a social media company had violated the anti-hacking Computer Fraud and Abuse Act when it continued to use Facebook to recruit, after being told to cease and desist by the company.

So, with a little caution, you can make sure your corporate social media presence stays on the right side of the law. After all, if General Electric can conquer social media, you can too.

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