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Common Social Media Laws You're Likely Breaking

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Posted April 5th, 2019 by Jenn in

There are so many legal traps that people fall into every day on social media without even realizing it.

Social media is still so new, compared to the press or broadcast television, so social media laws are still unfamiliar to some people. The danger is that ignorance of these laws won’t protect you if you break them and if you break them, you could be sued.

We don’t want you to get in trouble posting about your next snack or sharing a celebrity's post so that’s why we've put together this helpful list of common social media laws and how to avoid breaking them.

Social Media Laws

Ignorance of the terms of service

We all know that just like flossing every day, no one is reading the terms of service for any of the sites they use.

We get it, it’s long and hard to read, almost as if they did it on purpose.

But there are important rules and terms that impact you in the terms of service. Such as "by posting an image, you give other users permission to share the image" on their profiles on that platform so be aware of these policies you’re agreeing to!

A helpful tool for better understanding the terms of service for a site and getting a quick glimpse at important information or dangerous policies, try using the Chrome browser extension Terms of Service; Didn’t Read. The extension gives you information about a website’s terms of service and privacy policies, with ratings and summaries from the www.tosdr.org.

Lack of attribution

When you decide that you want to regram/repost a post on Instagram or on any other social media site, it’s best to use attribution for the original author.

Most photos on social media don’t have a creative commons license allowing public use for everyone, so it’s almost seen as stealing when you use someone else’s photo without their permission or credit. Attribution will protect you from any copyright infringement issues but there are other legal problems that could arise from using someone else’s social media content.

Copyright law

All photographs are protected by copyright law whether it’s on Facebook or Google Images or a stock photo that someone else purchased the license for.

When you use someone’s photos on social media, either to regram a post or for a social media influencer marketing campaign, you run the risk of embedded intellectual property infringement.

Isn’t that a mouthful.

To avoid this, you need to make sure that you have signed releases from anyone in the picture so their rights of privacy or publicity are not violated.

I mentioned using a stock photo that someone else purchased the rights to or using a photo from Google Images. The reason this is a violation of copyright law is because you’re only allowed to use images that you have received permission from the copyright holder directly or a license such as a Creative Commons license. Anything else where you didn’t take the picture yourself and you’re using the photo is a violation of copyright law.

If you’re looking for images available with a Creative Commons licence, don’t use Google Images, try using a site like Pixabay or Unsplash.

social media and the law

Sponsored Posts

If you’re a company running an influencer marketing campaign or working with other partners to create sponsored posts, make sure you’re disclosing the fact that it’s sponsored with the correct formatting.

Recently the FTC reminded almost 100 Instagram users (including brands and celebrities) of the legal requirements for clarity in influencer marketing. Some of their guidelines included that “any disclosure should be placed before the “more” button since many consumers will not click through” and that “certain kinds of hashtags would not be clear disclosures”.

So if you’re doing a sponsored post or working with influencers for a marketing campaign, make sure to read the guidelines the FTC has put together on proper disclosure of sponsored marketing campaigns on social media.

Fraud

It is known as astroturfing to post fake reviews on social media or anywhere else online and it is illegal and heavily enforced now more than ever.

In one case, the state settled for $100,000 with a brand that had instructed its ad agencies to post fake reviews online. This means you can’t make your employees go online and post a review about your company talking about how great it is because this is also considered astroturfing.

If you’re looking to grow your online reviews, offer incentives to customers such as a free product or a discount if they leave a review. If your product is a software or piece of technology, you can list the latest version of the product or software on a site to be beta tested and garner feedback that way. Sites like Betabound offer consumer sourced beta testing for brands.

Hopefully, you weren’t breaking too many of these laws and now you have the tools and knowledge you need to avoid breaking them in the future. If there are any laws that you’d like to hear more about or that you feel we've missed, let us know!