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Book Review: Navigating Social Media Legal Risks 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes "In the documentary Scared Straight! a group of inmates terrify young offenders in an attempt to 'scare them straight'" (hence the show's title) so that those teenagers will avoid prison life. A 2002 meta-analysis of the results of a number of scared straight and similar intervention programs found that they actively increased crime rates, leading to higher re-offense rates than in control groups that did not receive the intervention. For those considering the use of social media in their business, it is quite easy to read Navigating Social Media Legal Risks: Safeguarding Your Business as a scared straight type of reference. Author Robert McHale provides so many legal horror stories, that most people would simply be too afraid of the legal and regulatory risks to every consider using social media." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
Navigating Social Media Legal Risks: Safeguarding Your Business
author Robert McHale and Eric Garulay
pages 320
publisher Que
rating 10/10
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 978-0789749536
summary Definitive guide to social media law for the layman
But the reality is that social media is becoming required for nearly every business. With that, Navigating Social Media Legal Risks, author and attorney Robert McHale, with Eric Garulay, provide a fascinating and invaluable reference to any organization that wants to use social media, and not violate any of the myriad state, federal and international laws and regulations.

Social media makes it relatively easy for organizations to find and retain customers and increase sales, amongst many other benefits. At the same time, it can expose an organization to significant and highly-expensive legal risks and issues, and find themselves at the receiving end of a subpoena.

The books 12 chapters take a look at various aspects of social media and details how to use them in a legal and judicious manner.

In chapter 1, the book details social media promotions law around contests and sweepstakes. People often use the terms contest and sweepstake interchangeably, but the words have very different meanings. There are various contests and sweepstakes laws that must be dealt with before these promotions can commence. Often web sites will combines elements of contests and sweepstakes, include prizes, chances and considerations, which in turn make it a lottery. The issue is that it is illegal for most entities to create a lottery. So if not done correctly, a simple contest can turn into a costly legal mess.

Chapter 2 deals with online endorsements and testimonials. Any company that will use online endorsements and testimonials in their advertising must ensure that they are following all truth in advertising laws. The book details numerous areas where regulators have launched investigations and taken enforcement actions against violators. The book notes that one rogue blogger will not likely trigger a law enforcement action if your company has a reasonable training and monitoring program in place.

Chapter 5 shows how to manage the legal risks of UGC (user-generated content). UGC can drive significant amounts of traffic to a web site, but also creates legal risks.

Organizations can find protection from UGC via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). But those firms that want to enjoy the protections of the DMCA and CDA are required to fully comply with a very detailed set of legal requirements, leaving them very little room for error. The chapter details how to avoid those errors.

The book has scores of examples of things many readers may not have thought about. For example, chapter 8 writes of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The purpose of the ACPA is to protect consumers and American businesses and provide clarity in the law for trademark owners by prohibiting the bad-faith and abusive registration of distinctive marks as Internet domain names with the intent to profit from the goodwill associated with such marks-a practice commonly referred to as cybersquatting.

Yet what about the post-domain path of a URL, which is everything after the domain name. Of which question is, are post-domain path names protected under the ACPA? For example, is the post-domain path of twitter.com/Boeing owned by Boeing or simply the person who registered it first? The courts are grappling with that and similar questions.

In chapter 9, the authors detail the need for designing a geolocation data security plan. This is particularly important for firms that handle consumer's geolocation data. Such a plan is particularly important given that the tracking, storage and sharing of precise geolocation information is becoming increasingly subject to legal and regulatory requirements..

The book concludes with 10 social media lessons that details some noteworthy social media business entanglements and the lessons that businesses must learn from them. A few of these include: your Twitter hashtag can be used against your, do not pay for or use false endorsements and other invaluable lessons. The advice in these 10 tips alone are worth the price of the book.

Each chapter ends with detailed tactical lists of dos and donts around the specific topic.

The book should be required reading for every organization. Even those firms that have completely rejected any form of corporate social media interaction can still be held liable for actions of their employees. So such firms can't simply bury their head in the sand.

At $30, Navigating Social Media Legal Risks: Safeguarding Your Business is the cheapest legal advice you can get, and is worth every penny. If you are looking for crystal clear and detailed advice on social media law, you won't find a better book.

The world of social media is fraught with legal danger which can be quite expensive and embarrassing to recover from. It lives up to its title, and provides an outstanding path to navigate the dangerous waters of social media.

Ben Rothke is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know.

You can purchase Navigating Social Media Legal Risks: Safeguarding Your Business from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Book Review: Navigating Social Media Legal Risks

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  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Monday August 13, 2012 @02:45PM (#40976761)

    Theoretically, anyone can sue for anything in the United States. If the suit is completely groundless, it may be thrown out at the first hearing, but they can sue anyway.

    The important question is, what are the actual chances of a business getting sued for social media related activities? If it's low enough, then the best resolution may be to simply not worry about it. You can't avoid every single conceivable risk. Are there a small number of specific behaviors that are more likely than anything else to result in a lawsuit?

    Anecdotes can't settle this issue, and from the review, it sounds like McHale's book consists mostly of anecdotes about specific legal cases. We need real statistics.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday August 13, 2012 @03:06PM (#40976945)

    In the very first paragraph, what does the first half about "Scared Straight" program not working have to do with the second half about Social Media legal risks??? I don't see the connection.

    • by vlm (69642)

      In the very first paragraph, what does the first half about "Scared Straight" program not working have to do with the second half about Social Media legal risks??? I don't see the connection.

      I think the implication was that propaganda backfires when applied to teenagers, so trying to scare them by introducing them to hardened criminals isn't a good idea after all.

      In a similar way, exposing small business owners to propaganda would backfire, for example think of propaganda like Fox News, no small business owner could believe any of that ridiculous stuff, so I'm sure they all hold opposing opinions... oh wait... Hmm well maybe that doesn't work.

      This might mean that "scared straight" could actual

      • by slew (2918)

        This might mean that "scared straight" could actually work to keep small businessmen honest. Might want to make introductions with convicted tax cheats a mandatory part of getting a business license... apparently it would work pretty well.

        Uhm, perhaps you might consider that exposing small businessfolk to convicted tax cheats would increase the number of tax cheats. If you believe the first half about "scared straight" actually increasing propensity to crime, apparently it would work pretty well***. If you show a book like this to some businessfolk that haven't used social media before, perhaps there is something else going on....

        1. Invest in Social Media
        2. Note that businesses that used your Social Media illegally, don't yield much in repe

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      The first paragraph is an irrelevant anecdote to disguise the boring review of a boring book as an interesting story. Never mind that it appears to have the opposite meaning to the tenuous link the submitter tries to draw.

      • ok....what about the other 11 paragraphs?
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          No idea. The poor writing in the first paragraph very effectively convinced me I didn't want to read through the rest. It appears to be a book about advertising though.

          • Nope. Book is about social media and how to stay on the good side of the law.
            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              I read the next paragraph:

              Social media makes it relatively easy for organizations to find and retain customers and increase sales, amongst many other benefits. At the same time, it can expose an organization to significant and highly-expensive legal risks and issues, and find themselves at the receiving end of a subpoena.

              Nope, looks like I was right. It's about organizations using social media to "find and retain customers and increase sales..." i.e. advertising.

              • Here is the book desc. from Amazon...now sure how you can say it is a marketing book. It is a legal book for non-lawyers.: The plain-English business guide to avoiding social media legal risks and liabilities—for anyone using social media for business—written specifically for non-attorneys! You already know social media can help you find customers, strengthen relationships, and build your reputation, but if you are not careful, it also can expose your company to expensive legal issues and reg
                • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                  The book is about the legal pitfalls of using social media to sell stuff. Potential problems of using social media to sell stuff. Selling stuff. Marketing.

                  I suppose it's not fully accurate to say it's about marketing, but it's certainly written in the context of marketing.

                  • Most businesses use Social Media for marketing and marketing communications. Actually, I forget..what were we disagreeing about? :)
  • Other legal risks (Score:4, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday August 13, 2012 @03:07PM (#40976957)

    Nice review, thanks.

    What about other legal risks not mentioned above (presumably also not mentioned in the book) ?

    So... you google and facebook future employees as part of the hiring process, and inadvertently learn their age / sex / race / orientation / marital status / religion basically all the stuff you can be sued for. You can lose quite a bit of money if you make an employment decision based on a candidates religion, for example.

    How bout tangentially related legal risks, like you sign a contract with groupon which backfires and would bankrupt the company. Your next step is... The internet enables some business models that might not be wise. Another example of unwise is the absolutely famous case from the BBS era where a pr0n BBS in a "free state" had horrible legal problems from a "unfree state" just because they were nationally accessible. I'm sure there are more modern examples. Technically there's nothing stopping you from selling wine / gun parts / ammo online, its just a legal minefield, that would be an interesting discussion.

    How about dealing with internet-related outright scammers instead of the borderline above? Everyone with a domain name registered has gotten absolutely crazy weirdo postal spam, fake invoices, etc.

    Finally similar to above q, how to deal legally with your ISP, what is standard and what is not in contracts, what is "unlimited", etc.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      So... you google and facebook future employees as part of the hiring process, and inadvertently learn their age / sex / race / orientation / marital status / religion basically all the stuff you can be sued for. You can lose quite a bit of money if you make an employment decision based on a candidates religion, for example.

      There exists third party services that do the Googling and Facebook checks for you, and you get back a report containing only the information that's public, and even the photos are blacke

  • Fine print (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Monday August 13, 2012 @03:14PM (#40977035) Homepage Journal
    Your world has installed the Lawyers addon. Now everything you do becomes risky, no matter how harmless or common sense it seem to be.
  • Folks get sued because they have money. If you have enough money, someone will try to sue about about something, for money. This is just a new front of attack for lawyers. As to the "Scared Straight" bit, the legal folks are a bit like arsonists selling fire insurance: they will generate their own market for themselves.

    The "Scared Straight" idea failed, because those kids learned that the folks in prison were no worse that the rest of the folks in the neighborhoods they lived in anyway. For the program to be a real deterrent, the kids should have been forced to spend a night in jail . . . with Jerry Sandusky as a cell mate.

    As for big corporate lawyers, they also know the folks in their legal neighborhood, and probably have had their eyes on social media anyway for a long time.

    • Excellent reply...thank you. Folks get sued because they have money. If you have enough money, someone will try to sue about about something, for money. That is an unfortunate byproduct of capitalism and a country with too many lawyers.
  • The more you control your corporate message, the more you control your exposure to corporate liability.

    If you lose control of your message, you lose control of your ability to limit your exposure to corporate liability.

    It isn't that complicated.

    • So how does a company control the corp message?
      • So how does a company control the corp message?

        New cover sheets on the TPS reports. Didn't you get the memo?

      • by lennier (44736)

        So how does a company control the corp message?

        Arrest, torture and kill everyone who says something nasty on the Internet about the company. If more than one IP of an anonymous disgruntled customer is traced back to a single city, glass that city with thermonuclear devices from orbit and put it up on the frontpage of the corp website as an inspirational grassroots marketing success story to create fantatical best-of-breed exceeded-expectations viral brand adoption among the staggering, glassy-eyed survivors.

        Sheesh, this corporate image management stuff

      • So how does a company control the corp message?

        Public Relations.

        The idea is to control the message by putting your best face(s) forward. PR agents dress in power suits and have the good hair, white teeth, and classy bling, which allows journalists to take them seriously and/or put them on camera. They tend to be good at writing/videoing releases/posts/tweets/virals that distract from anything negative that other people are saying, without giving any actual information or committing to a course of action (since that's Marketing's job). Most people tend t

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