Tying a corporate noose around social media can be tricky

A lawyer I spoke with who specializes in defamation lawsuits said the sheer nature of social media—the ease with which users can post comments—presents a hazard for employers who could find themselves facing a defamation lawsuit for something an employee has posted using a work machine or device.

The lawyer suggested ways to mitigate the risk for employers. Those included what one might expect, such as establishing clear policies regarding using social media on work assets, as well as educating and training staff on the consequences of defamatory statements.

But, perhaps less likely to find success in an organization was his suggestion of a formal approval process that would include a team of reviewers to double-check content before it gets posted. The challenge with making that work is the success of social media is partly rooted in the empowerment of end users to engage directly with their chosen audience in the manner of their choosing.

While an approval process will surely reduce risk of defamation lawsuits, such a formal process would surely negate end user autonomy by preventing employees the freedom of posting content in the rapid, personalized way that social media sites afford.

Approving what goes out will work for a company’s official marketing voice, but auditing the average employee tweeting for their own amusement will be a little bit more difficult.

That said, as social media does increasingly become a bona fide tool in the workplace, some sort of control process will naturally begin to form as organizations learn from their mistakes. But, hopefully, not the sort of mistake that begets a lawsuit.

Read the news story: Beware defamation lawsuits from social media use: lawyer 

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau  

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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