Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
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Gary Audin | September 25, 2013 |


Social Media's Legal Impact

Social Media's Legal Impact In issues of discosure and discovery, what your users are doing on social media could have a broader effect than they understand.

In issues of discosure and discovery, what your users are doing on social media could have a broader effect than they understand.

Social media has now moved into the realm of business, finance, education, and government, including courts. What was once just a new and convenient way to communicate has evolved into tools that affect us beyond our personal lives. And why not!

The legal industry has caught up with the rest of us and now has to factor social media into their operations. The use of social media has started to impact its legal use, and users will have to consider who uses social media and how they use it. Social media could benefit the organization, or it could produce legal dilemmas.

Here are three instances that could affect your organization and impact how IT supports social media.

The Organization Announcement
Organizations may want to notify a number of individuals, other organizations, or investors about a piece of news. What media site is acceptable? How do the senders ensure that all the appropriate receivers will be notified?

A situation occurred when the CEO of Netflix posted information on his personal Facebook page about the company exceeding 1 billion viewer hours in a month. This prompted activity for the Netflix stock, which rose on the following trading day. The SEC became involved because of this cause and effect.

The SEC issued a report, which clarified that the Commission allows such announcements to be posted on social media sites if the investors were made aware in advance which social media sites were to be used for announcements. This means that the organization has to be active in notifying investors of the sites and ensure that the investors are properly informed. Individuals within the organization, especially non-IT executives, have to adhere to the organization's social media posting rules with no exceptions. An organization's policy should be, no use of personal social media sites for disseminating organizational information. The alternative is to risk running afoul of the SEC.

New York Court Allows Defendant Service Using Social Media
There was a case where the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued five defendants over a money-making scheme that involved India-based call centers. The use of Facebook arose. The court reasoned that the defendants had Facebook accounts that could be used by the FTC as a secondary means of reaching the defendants.

The NY court issued the opinion that, "[Process] service by Facebook is a relatively novel concept, and that it is conceivable that defendants will not receive notice by this means. But as noted, the proposed service by Facebook is intended not as the sole method of service, but instead to backstop the service upon each defendant at his, or its, known email address."

This could be carried further into allowing an organization's legal team to use Facebook and any other social media to notify people involved in a legal case, as long as it can be proven that the notified people had the social media accounts active. This is something that IT may have to get involved with if the legal team wants to use the social media notification method.

Will Destroying a Social Media Account Protect You?
What if you are in an accident and are suing someone? You went and posted information on your Facebook page that was subsequently sought by the defendant for use in the suit. If you blocked access or changed the password or deleted the account, this can have an adverse effect on your case. This issue arose in a New Jersey case when an airport worker sued over alleged injures.

The claim by the defendant's lawyers was that a Facebook account contradicted the claims of the suit, and that was why to access to the Facebook account was important. However, the Facebook account was deleted before the defendant's lawyers could access it.

This issue is called spoliation, where it's alleged that evidence was destroyed or altered, or where a party is accused of failing to preserve property where litigation may occur. Do not let IT or individuals try to protect the organization thorough spoliation. The coverup can be as bad as the initial incident.


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