Twitter’s in the news again, this time with the court system involved. Last week, a US court ordered Twitter to fork over the tweets of a guy that was arrested during an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York last October. Why’s this a big deal? Well, to date, Twitter has staunchly maintained that its users’ tweets belonged to the user, not Twitter, meaning that the tweets are protected free speech. So, Judge Matthew Sciarrino’s ruling was noteworthy because it tosses that notion out the window. Speaking of windows, Sciarrino said, “If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.” Ouch. I can see the ACLU sharpening their knives now.
This is but one example of the many grey areas created by the social media phenomenon. Another case is that of Eagle v. Edcomm. This one is truly scary because it involves a lady’s own LinkedIn account. Quick recap on the facts of this case: Eagle was an Edcomm employee for quite some time but was eventually fired. Edcomm changed the password to her account, effectively blocking access to her own account! Edcomm claimed that Eagle developed, maintained, and expanded the LinkedIn account for Edcomm’s “sole benefit and use.” Eagle got back control of her account and Edcomm then sued Eagle for “misappropriating” the account and the contacts within it after she got fired. If you aren’t rolling your eyes in disbelief yet, you should be.
The above cases haven’t been decided yet, but already, the issues they raise have huge ramifications. The collision of social media for personal use and for business use is becoming ever more inevitable. Increasingly, many industries are witnessing the use of an individual’s social media accounts for both personal and work purposes, especially since sites like Facebook and LinkedIn allow individuals to have only one account.
Regardless of how the above two cases end up, the key takeaway from both is the importance of having a social media policy in place that CLEARLY states what is owned by the company and what is owned by the employee. Try to be as specific as possible because these types of policies, along with employment agreements, tend to be upheld by the courts.
To toot our horn a lil bit, Actiance saw this coming some time ago. We published a white paper at the beginning of the year that outlined some potential grey areas of litigation involving social media, and lo and behold, one of those grey areas we highlighted was ownership of LinkedIn profiles when used for business purposes. Yup, sometimes we get lucky and other times we just “get it.”
We’ve got attorneys, social media marketing pros, and ex-regulators on our staff, so we understand the legal and regulatory issues around the use of social media in the workplace. At the very least, we aim to educate and enlighten folks on the “best practice” use of social, so you don’t end up arguing your case in front of a jury.