As Ebsco expands our social media efforts, concerns over possible legal implications grow. Our HR vice president has met with our attorneys and insurance representatives to begin tackling this new media. Good, lawyers always have answers, right? WRONG.
Lawyers like specific, detailed enormous written laws that they can analyze, dissect, and spin to their advantage. Lawyers need specific paragraphs, sentences, and phrases that they can spin to their clients advantage in a court of law. None of this exists for the World Wide Web, also know as the Wild Wild West.
The Law of the net is much like that of the old west. Who ever draws first (writes a new terms of agreement) is the new law until someone comes along with a faster key stroke. Have you ever read these terms of agreement? No of course you haven’t or you wouldn’t be reading this, you would still be reading the terms of agreement page 632, clause 1,277. The government has come to some loose agreements to hold social media sites harmless of postings, but they didn’t extend this to other sites like forums. Few tested laws actually exist.
The lawyers really don’t know what a companies exposure is. Of course your insurance carrier will provide you coverage, for a price. They have no more idea of what is legal and what is not but they will restrict you to the point you can’t use the web and then provide you coverage if you did. WOW I’ld love to get into that business. The lawyers are lining up also. Billable hours are billable hours you know.
The real truth for small to medium-sized business is that the law really doesn’t matter. Judicial extortion (my term) basically trumps all laws, regulations and common sense. Regardless of laws and the weight of evidence, Judicial extortion seeks to hold the business at fault financially. For those of you that understand the term “Judicial extortion” I need not explain further, for those who do not, please move onto the next paragraph. I do not intend to teach anyone else.
So where does that leave business. Completely exposed. Social media is becoming a necessary component to any companies marketing effort. I believe the importance of social media and SEO will continue growing over the next few years. As social media is utilized more and more there will be a small group watching, determining where they can cash in, and I don’t mean utilizing the web. They will look for companies to single out of the herd and take to court. They will attempt to apply publishing and privacy laws not intended for the web for their own personal financial gain. Lawyers will square off, adding up billable hours and the business will suffer. It’s inevitable.
We are going forward with our social media, SEO marketing efforts but listening to the lawyers. We have begun to expand and communicate our social media policy and ensure we receive releases from everyone involved. We proceed with caution to protect ourselves but realize there is no such thing as being completely protected. As business social media increases, we will see new laws and definitions from the courts. Many will be the results of court cases. Until then tighten your six shooters, it’s dangerous here in the wild wild west.