Over 45 Years Of Legal Experience

Social Media Law Counsel Backed By Decades Of Experience

Social media comes in all shapes and sizes. There is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and a plethora of other sites as well as individuals’ personalized websites. These are designed to provide users with a way to not only communicate with their friends but also reach anyone who wishes to know what they are thinking. Any website that allows visitors to post comments, reviews or endorsements becomes a social media site. If you maintain a website that allows visitors to post on your site, you need to understand and respect the laws regarding social media.

What all these sites share is a need to work with them within the law, including copyright law and defamation law. While these subjects can be scary to the layperson, at my firm, Andrew M. Jaffe, Attorney at Law, I can give you a brief overview of what you need to know about these subjects in a short, free, no-obligation consultation. My name is Andrew M. Jaffe, and I have practiced internet law and e-commerce law in Ohio for more than 20 years, which gives me a rare depth of knowledge in these fields.

Cutting Through The Red Tape For My Clients

Working with a social media website’s customer service is often a difficult task. If you do not resolve the issue with the first contact with it, future contact may result in nothing but computer-generated responses that do not address your issues. You don’t want to sue the website – that would cost you a fortune, take many years to resolve, and likely result in a loss. You can, however, retain a lawyer to advocate for you. In my experience, someone from the social media website will respond to a communication on an e-commerce lawyer’s stationery. Its response will come from someone at the company who can research the issue and have the authority to take action if warranted.

Explaining The Laws Pertaining To Website Owners

Congress has passed two laws that gave a “safe harbor” against legal claims to websites for the activities of their posters. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) provides a safe harbor against legal claims to the website owners for the activities of their posters. If a poster creates a post on your site that violates a criminal statute or a civil law (e.g., defamation), then the liability for that action resides with the poster and not the website owner. Without this, safe harbor sites like Facebook and YouTube could not exist, as no company could afford the staff to review every post for potential liability to the company for every one of the millions of posts they receive daily. Every website with a social media component benefits from Section 230 of the CDA, and there is no need for the site to take any special action to benefit from this safe harbor.

The exception to the Section 230 safe harbor is copyright violations. However, while the CDA does not provide this safe harbor, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) created a separate safe harbor against liability to the website owner by creating the DMCA take down notice. Websites that post and practice the DMCA take down notice procedure are protected against liability from the copyright violations of their visitors. Unlike Section 230 of the CDA, the website owner needs to post a DMCA take down notice to enjoy the safe harbor congress created.

Use The Law To Your Advantage

If your website has employees, your actions could create liability if you do not follow the law. It is important to implement written employee policies that tell your employees of their rights and obligations while using the company’s electronics. This policy should include statements declaring that company proprietary information is confidential, that social media sites created for the company belong to the company (e.g., a LinkedIn site) and that all company information will be returned to the company upon termination of employment.

Be sure that the company owns the social media site and controls the login information. Otherwise, an employee could leave your company, and the company could be in a position of being unable to sign into and post to the company’s website. This problem occurs far more frequently than you might expect, and it is a problem that is very complicated to correct after the fact.

Another item that website owners need to understand is that regardless of what their employee policies say, the National Labor Relations Board has determined that employees are allowed to express their opinions on the company’s social media sites if they relate to, or can be construed to relate to, the employee’s rights to discuss collective bargaining with the company.

Finally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been responsible for overseeing companies’ business activities for decades, and social media is no exception. The FTC has published guidelines concerning testimonials on company websites and also has set rules in place regarding “negative options” (e.g., a one-month free trial and product then ships every month at a given price). Website owners need to understand the FTC’s stance on these items and others as well.

Ensuring That You Comply With The Law

While all Americans enjoy their constitutional right to free speech, there are exceptions to this right when you cross the line. As a website visitor, you need to make sure that you do not create liability for yourself by posting defamatory comments; participating in cyber bullying, harassment or stalking; posting revenge porn, etc. As explained above, the liability for these actions is the responsibility of the poster and not the website itself.

Learn More In A Free Consultation With An Ohio Internet Lawyer

If you are venturing into an online business, then you will need the counsel of an e-commerce and Internet law attorney like myself. If you have questions or comments regarding this information, please feel free to contact me at Andrew M. Jaffe, Attorney at Law. To schedule a completely free, confidential initial consultation, call my Fairlawn office toll-free at 855-445-5586 or use my online contact form.