-By Ethan Wall, Esq.
Social media is destroying the legal system. It is tearing at the fabric of our laws. Manipulating our fundamental rights. And eroding our justice system. In five years it will cause the downfall of society, trigger the apocalypse, and set forth a series of catastrophic events that will destroy our planet.
Okay, maybe that was a little dramatic. But hopefully it got your attention.
What I mean to say is that social media has a profound effect on the law. And that it is critical for businesses, entrepreneurs, and executives to understand how social media affects the laws governing their industry and business activities in order to succeed in our social marketplace and avoid serious legal trouble.
So let’s explore how social media affects the law and what you can do about it.
Be Wary: Social Media Advances Faster than the Law Can Adapt
When our forefathers gathered around to hammer our United States Constitution, guess what? MySpace didn’t exist. George Washington wasn’t a Facebook friend of James Madison. Thomas Jefferson didn’t live tweet the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. And John Hancock didn’t SnapChat a selfie with his quill. Of course, social media (and the internet for that matter) was never even contemplated (much less used) at the time our basic fundamental rights were formed. But that’s not all.
Nearly all state and federal laws that govern our ability to conduct business, manage employees, and promote products and services on social media were created long before social media was commonplace. We therefore must apply “old” laws to new technology – and most of the time – it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. But just because it’s difficult to understand the laws regarding social media, doesn’t mean you can ignore them. It will only be a matter of time until your company, your employees, or someone working on your behalf posts something online that violates these laws and YOU are held responsible. So what can you do?
Be Informed: Learn How the Law Applies to Your Social Media Activities
No matter what industry you’re in, you need to know the laws that apply to your social media use and how to comply with them. Don’t know what laws apply? No problem. Here are a few examples:
If you have employees that use social media personally or professionally, then your company is subject to the National Labor Relations Act. If you promote products or services on social media, then the Federal Trade Commission regulates your posts. If you are in the financial services, banking, or credit industry, then your company is governed by a whole lot of laws, including Regulation Z, the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Federal Financial Examinations Council.
To learn more about the laws applying to your industry, check out your local law library’s copy of corpus juris secundum or call a social media attorney. Once you know the law, what’s the most important step to prevent social media from destroying your business?
Be Proactive: Prevent Serious Lawsuits with Simple Risk Management Solutions
There is no bigger waste of time and money then to pay a bunch of lawyers thousands upon thousands of dollars to argue about insignificant things. So put that money back in your bank account and spend more time focusing on building your business empire by setting up a simple risk management program that is designed to avoid lawsuits in the first place. Sounds simple, right? Here three easy, peasy steps to setting one up:
Step One: Identify the laws and regulations that effect your company’s social media activities. These laws can be industry specific (like financial services) or activity specific (like online contests or sweepstakes).
Step Two: Audit your current risk management activities to determine whether you are fully compliant with these laws and regulations. Conducting an internal audit will help you determine what additional risk management, if any, are needed to protect your company.
Step Three: Implement a social media risk management program that includes social media related policies, internal compliance procedures, and employee training to ensure that you minimize serious legal risk that could destroy your business and drain your profits.
Be Smart: Consult with a Social Media Attorney when Needed
Experienced social media attorneys can assist your company in assessing applicable laws, conducting a risk assessment audit, and implementing your risk management program in a compliant manner.
Still have social media law questions? Twitter’s got answers: You can tweet to me at http://www.twitter.com/ethanwall and use the #socialmedialaw
Now that you know the effect of social media on the law, you can focus on what’s really important: Saving the world from social media, of course. Our founding fathers will thank you.
Ethan Wall is an attorney in Miami, Florida. He is the founder of Social Media Law and Order and the author of the Social Media Guide for Lawyers. He is a nationally recognized expert in social media and the law. Ethan has delivered speeches to thousands of attorneys, financial institution executives, and human resource professionals worldwide through his live and online multi-media programs. Ethan can be contacted at email@example.com