Use Policy. Social Media.


Social networking is the hottest discovery since email. It’s fun, fast paced, interesting, and allows you to connect with friends, colleagues, and clients in a way that you never could before. And for entrepreneurs and small business owners, it levels the playing field by allowing you to develop a network and marketing plan at a fraction of the cost. BUT don’t be lulled into thinking you can act with impunity. With all the good social networking can accomplish and the ease in which you can use it, there are landmines to be aware of.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll address a number of legal issues you should be aware of when playing in the social media sandbox, and actions you can take to side-step them. The first issue is the most basic and the easiest for you to comply with–having a social media use policy.

Have a social media use policy.
Do you have a social media policy in your work place? Do you think you need one? The average small business person does NOT have a policy on what’s acceptable behavior in their office, with regards to  social media use. Yet without a policy, which let’s people know what your expectations are, you can’t hold them accountable.  Whether you are a large or  small business, or sole proprietor, you should have a written policy letting people know, what you expect, in terms of their behavior in your workspace.

Communicate your policy.
Having a policy is essential to the effective running of your business.  But a policy alone is useless, unless everyone with a need to know, knows about it. So who needs to know about your social media use policy? At a minimum, the following people need to know about your social media use policy:

  1.  Full time staff
  2. Temporary staff
  3. Part-time workers
  4. Independent contractors
  5. Consultants
  6. Clients who visit and access your computers

Enforce your policy.
Having a policy and communicating that policy are all well and good.  But if you have a policy and don’t enforce it, or you enforce it against only certain people, then it is as if you have no policy at all.

Until next time, beware of social networking landmines!

Social Media and the Workplace


Navigating Social Media in the Workplace!

Social Media Workplace

Social Media. Workplace Policy.

Social media has infiltrated our everyday lives, and the workplace is no exception. Because of the rise of social media venues, such as Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, Second Life, and LinkedIn, employers are exposed, as never before, to vast bits of information about employees and potential candidates.  In the not so distant past, much of this information would not be available, but employers now face the challenge of being exposed to this extraneous information and the legality of using it. Employers must consider whether the benefits are worth the risks of viewing an applicant’s social media site and using it in the hiring process, and if they choose to use it—to what extent?

There are several considerations an employer should take into account when entering this technological minefield.  Here are a few:

  1. Develop a social media use policy, communicate to everyone with a need to know about it, and make sure you enforce fairly.
  2. Create a list of the social media that will be used for each and every applicant and what information they will use from the search, forming a consistent process.
  3. Delegate the social media search to a neutral party who can filter out protected class information.
  4. Strictly adhere to a policy of not “friending” the applicants to learn about nonpublic information from a social media profile.
  5. State a valid, business-related reason for the hiring decision and maintain the information to back up that decision.
  6. Consult with counsel before deciding to use social media information in the hiring process.

Outside of hiring, social media can be detrimental to a company’s productivity and employee relations, and can affect all aspects of the employment life cycle, making it important to address the issue in company policies. Companies, at the very least, should add broad statements and prohibitions regarding social media in the workplace to existing code of conduct, harassment, and confidentiality policies, and apply them with consistency.

Until next time, think ASSET PROTECTION!

Groupon. Instagram. Social Media.


Social Media Lawsuits.

Social media. Social Networking.

Social media. Social Networking.

Our society is awash in social media. Millions of people use some social media platform daily. Many use more than one platform. Furthermore, social media has become a near necessity for businesses, especially small business owners. These platforms allow people to market and build their brands without paying marketing experts thousands of dollars, as in years past.

However, as with any good tool, people need to be very careful that you are using it correctly and legally, or you may find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Recently, Groupon, the global eCommerce giant, which connects customers with locals, was hit with a class action lawsuit. Filed by more than 1000 users of Instagram, the lawsuit claims that the company violated their right of publicity by taking photos from their Instagram account and posting them on the company’s website – without permission.

Lawsuits involving use of content from social media are becoming more and more common. Way back in the early stages of social media, the music-sharing website, Napster, was sued for allowing users to download copyrighted music, free of charge. Lawsuits eventually caused the site, in its original form, to close down. In a more recent case, Agence France-Presse (AFP), an international newsfeed company was sued for copyright infringement for using photos of the 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti without permission. The photos were taken from the Twitter feed of photographer Daniel Morel. AFP was ordered to pay Morel 1.2 million in statutory damages.

Groupon’s line of defense against the suit is yet unknown, but often defendants in these types of suits use the argument of “transformative work” under the Fair Use doctrine. Transformative Work refers to copyrighted material that is transformed by the user, then published in its new form.

The fact is that many people still don’t understand that using other people’s social media content, even when giving credit to the owner of the content, can be a violation of federal copyright laws. As they say, ignorance of the law is not a defense, even if the infringement is not intentional. The sad reality is that big companies with lots of resources will often risk lawsuits gambling on the chance that the average person will not know of the infringement or challenge them on legal grounds. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

Supreme Court. Social Media. Freedom of Speech. Facebook.


Supreme Court. Social Media. Freedom of Speech. Facebook.

Freedom of Speech. Facebook.

Freedom of Speech. Facebook.

Since its inception, social media networking services such as Facebook and Twitter offer us an outlet to share our thoughts, concerns, opinions, and everyday lives. But what happens when we cross the line on the Internet and make threats against another individual? Is this simply our freedom of speech or should this be considered a criminal act? Well this is exactly what the Supreme Court plans to rule over in the case of Elonis v. United States.

Supreme Court. Elonis v. United States.

Following the breakup of his marriage in 2010, Anthony Elonis, a 31-year-old former theme park employee from Pennsylvania, started posting violent statements on his Facebook page regarding his ex-wife. One of Mr. Elonis’ posts said, “If I only knew then what I know now, I would have smothered [you] with a pillow, dumped your body in the back seat, dropped you off in Toad Creek, and made it look like a rape and murder.” According to a Los Angeles Times article, when the FBI got involved, Elonis posted that he felt as though he wanted to kill the agent who questioned him as well as to shoot a kindergarten class. Elonis was convicted by a jury for posting such threatening messages and a judge upheld the verdict. Mr. Elonis’ attorney, John Elwood, is appealing citing that his posts are similar to songs such as “Kim” and “Kill You” by rapper Eminem where the artist sings about killing his then-wife and mother of his children.  Ironically, Eminem is now purported to be terrified that his daughter is dating a guy who was raised on Eminem’s music and worships the rapper. Freedom of Speech–how much is too much especially on social media venues?

Furthermore, advocates for freedom of speech are quite concerned about giving the government too much power where people can be punished for rants and offensive language via the Internet. However, Deputy Solicitor Gen. Michael Dreeben said “You’re accountable for the consequences” of your words, and went on to say that it is a federal crime to transmit “any threat to injure” another person over the Internet or telephone. A decision is expected in January or February, so stay tuned.


Facebook has a battery of lawyers to defend its every action.  Yet, in an age where domestic violence is taking center stage, this is definitely a case to watch.  Plus, it’s likely to have a large impact on how and what people can or cannot say on the Internet, so stay tuned.

I’m Francine Ward, Attorney, Speaker, and Author sharing my opinion. Share your thoughts about this case. Join the conversation on my legal Facebook Fan Page, legal Twitter Page, or in one of my LinkedIn groups.


Twitter. Cyberbulling. Instagram Online.


Twitter. Social Media Use. Instagram Online.

Social Media. Twitter. Instagram Online.

Social Media. Twitter. Instagram Online.

Fast paced, fun, useful, and interesting, however, social media use—when done outside of the bounds of the law—can land you into trouble.  A 17-year old teen in Philadelphia discovered this the hard way, as he faces criminal prosecution.

The suspect, Nasheen Anderson, was arrested at school on Tuesday, allegedly because he used Twitter and Instagram to intimidate witnesses.  He is accused of posting photos on Twitter of a 2012 attempted-shooting victim who had testified in a homicide case. The suspect allegedly wrote “Expose All Rats” next to postings of police reports of the attempted shooting, according to the Inquirer.  And, the police have evidence that Anderson is the person behind an Instagram account (rats215), which posted the identical photos that are found on Twitter.

Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, Seth Williams, said his office will seek to prosecute Anderson as an adult. ADA Williams said, “the actions of this teenager could have lasting repercussions on untold cases” in a city where witness intimidation has reached near “epidemic levels.”  ADA Williams said, “I don’t care how old you are, if you intimidate a witness in this city I’m going to come after you.”

No surprising, Anderson’s mother described her son as a “good kid”, when she was interviewed by the Inquirer.

What are your  thoughts? Should kids be tried as adults? is there ever a behavior that would compel you to try a kid as an adult?  It seems people get upset about Cyberbullying, so long as it’s not their kid who is the alleged predator.   Ironically, when it is your kid, people seem to make excuses for their behavior, and when it is someone else;s  kid, we say ‘burn them in hell”.  What are your  thoughts?

Join the conversation on my website, or my Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, or one of my LinkedIn Groups.