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Social Media: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Posted on Friday 7th February 2014 by Neil Andrews

If the words ‘social media’ make you nervous, here are two more that should terrify you: ‘vicarious liability’.Neil Andrews - Partner, Coles Miller

Yes…you the employer could be financially responsible for any damaging comments that your workers post on social media.

Social media is the Wild West* of our time – an exciting digital gold-rush but one fraught with danger for unwary tenderfoots.

Without a social media policy properly drafted by employment lawyers, your company could be defenceless against:

  • Misconduct – social media gives your employees many ways in which to misbehave and damage your company’s reputation
  • Defamation – your employees could use your social media profiles to libel others
  • Cyberbullying – according to ACAS, eight out 10 employees have experienced some form of online bullying, ranging from humiliation to threats of violence
  • Criminal liability – including hacking, stalking, phishing, contempt of court.

Added to that is the growing trend of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device to work. Aside from the obvious issues of security and viruses, it risks blurring the lines between what is acceptable when online at home and when at work.

And let’s not forget the possibility of disgruntled employees using your LinkedIn or other social profiles to poach your clients.

Worried? You should be. The issues raised by social media become more pressing with every passing day.

Some businesses have adopted the dinosaur approach by banning all use of social media at work.

But in doing so they risk losing business by ignoring the needs of Generation Y (born 1980-2000) which regards social media as a normal part of daily life (which it is now).

Others have taken the ostrich approach. They accept that social media is here to stay but ignore the risks.

Coles Miller recommends you take the sensible approach. Manage social media properly. Get a policy. Train your staff. Make them aware of what is expected of them. Review the policy regularly.

For expert legal advice on how social media affects you, contact Coles Miller Partner Neil Andrews, 01202 673011.

* Social Media, The Wild West Of Our Time seminar was held at the Hallmark Hotel, Bournemouth. The event featured presentations by Neil Andrews and Amy Cousineau of Coles Miller, Paul Tansey of Intergage and Jason Gault of TeamJobs. For comments see Twitter, #WildWest14

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