Social media has been part of our daily lives for many years now. Facebook remains to be the most used social network site in the world, followed by Youtube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Instagram. As of April this year, Facebook has 2.2 billion monthly active social media users, making it the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts. That’s almost a third of the world population.
With the prevalence of social media and its presence in our day-to-day encounters, it is important to get to know the laws that surround these social networking sites, as well as regulations that certain industries have in terms of social media use.
Legal Liabilities of Social Media Sites
- Section 512C of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This section shields a website, which allows users to post content, from liability for copyright infringement. This is as long as the website has a policy or mechanism, in which the copyright owner can request for the removal of the content, promptly removes content when notified, and has no actual knowledge that the posted content was infringing.
- Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It is one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet. This section immunizes online intermediaries, which host or republish speech, from certain liability that results from the publication of information provided by another. This is usually utilized in cases that involve defamation, negligence, privacy, and other tort claims. This means that if a user posts defamatory content, Section 230 shields the social network site from certain liability that arises from the publication. This section also offers legal protection to bloggers who act as intermediaries when they allow comments on their blogs. Under the law, a blogger is not liable for the comments posted by readers, or for the work of guest bloggers, tips sent via email, or information provided by RSS feeds.
Social Media Regulations in Different Agencies
Below are some of the regulations of different agencies that have implications for the use of social media.
- HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). If you work in healthcare, you must keep important patient information private. This means that you should not invite patients to post personal information, nor acknowledge a condition that a person discloses online. You should not share any patient information, for example, a photo of a patient or a tweet that can identify someone who visited your clinic.
- NLRA (National Labor Relations Board). Under the law, an employer cannot prohibit employee self-organization. Thus, if limiting Facebook usage at work keeps employees from self-organizing; such work rule cannot be implemented.
- GINA (Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act). Employers are not allowed to use social media to search for genetic information about an employee or a potential hire.
- COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). If a company’s product or service is marketed to children, it needs to follow the COPPA laws set forth by the Federal Trade Commission. This is why children under 13 years old are not allowed to use Facebook, which may have also driven the social media giant to launch Facebook Messenger Kids. Under the law, if you are collecting personal information from users under 13, you must notify the parent, seek their consent, and provide them the necessary information on the use of information and on how they will provide consent.
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