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Take Away


users).Even though website owners have legal pro- tection, they should have clear and specific policies and disclaimers for handling complaints when users occasionally make offensive or otherwise objectionable comments online.This act also pro- tects websiteowners fromliability when theown- er makes voluntary, good-faith efforts to monitor and restrict other third-party content providers from posting objectionable material.


Antitrust Issues Social-media sites, emails, texts, and blogs all can be used by organization employees, cus- tomers, ormembers to knowingly or unknowing- ly commit antitrust violations.Every organization should have written policies clearly specifying that anticompetitive discussions and activities are not permitted using network or Internet systems, or any other electronic media sponsored by the organization. The written policies specifically need to apply to interactive media (e.g., blogs and social-media sites) where user-generated content can be added.


Social-Media Marketing and Advertising Many organizations accept advertising on their websites by members or by third parties.Advertis- ing that is false or misleading can be banned or be held liable in a civil lawsuit.


FTC Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released revised guidelines that address endorse- ments and testimonials by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities in advertising.The intent of the guidelines is to ban deceptive endorse- ments and testimonials.The guidelines affect all tes- timonials and endorsements delivered through all channels, specifically referencing newmedia (i.e., social-media sites, blogs, listervs, etc.). Endorse- ments must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of the endorser.


Oneof the key cornerstones of the guidelines is


to require disclosure of material connections between the advertiser of the product or service and the endorserwhere the connection is not reasonably expectedby the audience or reader.Amaterial ben- efit means that payment or some other benefit is conferred on the endorser.For instance, a profes- sional or trade associationmight seek out several members and ask them to post messages on the association’s blog about the benefits of belonging to the association, in exchange for discountedmem- bership dues or other compensation. That is a material benefit thatmust be disclosed. Professional and trade associations frequent-


ly use “affinity” programs to endorse the products and services of third parties.These programs not only generate non-dues revenue for the associa- tions but also provide a service to their members by identifying relevant products and services, usually at discounted member prices. Endorse- ments and testimonials are valuable marketing tools, but all organizations are required to follow the new guidelines with regard to transparency to avoid liability with the FTC.


Social-Media Policies If your employees engage in social media with third parties, such as customers, members, volun- teers, officers, directors, or other stakeholders, your organization should have guidelines govern- ing the use of social media both at work during business hours and at home on employees’ own time. In basic form, an organization’s social-media


policy is a statement of how the organization and its stakeholders will use social-media tools to achieve its goals.The best policies encourage employees to engage in social media online. They also offer guidance on how to use social- media tools effectively while providing protection to both employees and the organization as well as to third parties that interact with, or on behalf of, the organization online. 


ON_THE_WEB: Read a NewYork Times article about a groundbreaking case involving workers and social media at http://nyti.ms/9avPcU.


www.pcma.org


Strategies For Reducing Web-Related Risks The following strate- gies are excerpted from The ePolicy Handbook by Nancy Flynn (second edition, 2009), for all organiza- tions that maintain an online presence, in order to avoid liability risks in the future. Flynn recommends that organizations prohibit employees from:


 mentioningthe organization,itspeople, products,services, secrets,suppliers,or customersonpersonal or third-partywebsites without first securing writtenpermissionfrom management.  identifying them- selves asemployees of the organizationonper- sonal or third-party websites,including LinkedInandother social-networkingsites designed for business- people,without first securingwritten per- missionfrommanage- ment.  postingbusiness email addressesonper- sonalandthird-party websites,including business-relatedsocial- networkingsites,with- out first securingwritten permissionfromman- agement.


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