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Social Media Policy: Still the Wild West

Social Media Policy: Still the Wild West

Jacey Kaps, partner at RumbergerKirk, and Melia Arnett-Archie, senior privacy and data protection counsel at Stryker Corp., team up to  discuss corporate social media policies and best practices in an article for ACC Docket.

Article Summary:

In a world where remarks and images can spread on social media faster than an uncontrolled wildfire, companies are finding that the greatest threat to maintaining the integrity of their digital reputation often is the indiscretion of their own employees.

All businesses – law firms and their clients – struggle with managing risk in this area where individual free speech rights bump up against a business’ rightful concerns about maintaining the integrity of its online reputation. Cultural norms, the hot temper of our political environment, speech and privacy laws and the integration of technology and social media into our lives all have to be considered when crafting policies that draw boundaries for employees and reduce the risk of reputational damage for their employers.

While no company can prevent occasional misbehavior on social media by employees, they can set standards for acceptable behavior and sanction employees who violate those expectations, and act quickly to mitigate the effects of a crisis caused by an employee’s social media behavior.

Some key insights include: 

  • Social media policies must be specific.  Many companies write social media policies that are broad, perhaps reasoning that it is impossible to highlight every possible type of violation. A broad sweep of prohibitions or prescriptions would seem to give companies discretion in how they apply social media policies, but it also gives employees little firm guidance on what they can or cannot do.
  • Companies should prohibit any behavior on social media that is banned in the physical workplace. Social media policies must not only prohibit such behavior but create mechanisms for targets of such posts to seek redress from the company,” the attorneys say. “While it might seem unnecessary to ban illegal behavior, not all such posts will result in a criminal complaint. Requiring employees to acknowledge that such behavior is illegal and cause for dismissal will make it easier to take disciplinary action.

Read the full article.