The proliferation of social media over the last several years has opened Pandora’s Box for companies that now face a surplus of liability issues, such as invasion of privacy, defamation and many more. This said, many companies either haven’t created a social media policy, or are reluctant to create one in fear that if the policy is violated, they will be opening themselves up to increased liability. In the Lawyer Monthly article, “When Social Media Becomes Anti-Social: Application of the Communications Decency Act in the Wild”, Partner David Fink and associate Andreas Becker discuss how the Federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) and social media policies protect Internet users and providers from liability.
The CDA is designed to protect Internet users and providers – websites, blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter – from being held liable for defamatory content published or spoken by third parties, as well as the freedom to block, edit or delete the content. However, if the user or provider contributed to the unlawfulness of the information, they are not covered. “Although defamation claims are the most obvious avenue of attack for would-be plaintiffs, the CDA is not so limited, and has been applied to numerous causes of action,” says David and Andreas.
In addition to the CDA, social media policies are an effective tool to set parameters on what company employees may and may not post to the Internet. While this protects a company, this does not change the protections granted under the CDA. “There are certainly many situations that remain unaddressed by the CDA – situations like copyright and trademark infringements and criminal offenses, among others,” added David and Andreas. “However, hosts and users of social media, blogs and other internet platforms should not be afraid to use them for business promotion, to create for a public commentary, or to generate interest in current topics.”