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June 15, 2006

Social media, the illusion of control & legal stuff

Sue posts:

I’ve been doing some more thinking about Guy Kawasaki’s ideas on creating community, and all that’s involved to make one work in a virtual environment. The benefits, as Guy outlines, are many. The only problem, as I see it, is that both corporations and associations are terrified to lose control of the conversation. What if someone says something bad about the organization, or innapropriate, or downright libelous? By providing the resources and encouraging the community, is the organization liable for what that community says and does?
Well, in truth, the conversation is already happening outisde of the corporation's or association's control. Maybe it's happening only during informal face-to-face meetings, e-mail dialogs or telephone calls, but it's still happening. And they have no control over it. By taking the conversation online, now the association or corporation at least has an opportunity to engage in the conversation. But let's face facts: the conversations are already taking place, and nobody can really 'control' them.

As for whether or not corporations can be held liable for libel (heh) and slander spread by its community members, well, probably not. eBay had a libel case against them dismissed recently. Yahoo! was sued in 2004 for not removing libelous user-generated content from their site when the person being libeled asked Yahoo! to do so. I can't determine if this case has concluded yet.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV, but if you remove libelous stuff from your site upon the request of the offended party, I think you're safe.

In his four random rules o' bloggin', Kevin Holland writes:

Don’t let the lawyers win. Lawyers don’t like this stuff and they never will. But for every issue they raise there is a way around it...

He's right.

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2 comments:

Sue Pelletier said...

Sorry to be chiming in so late on this one (I've been on vacation--ahh--and am just catching up on my favorite blogs). I don't think it's the reality that would get in the way; you're right, of course, people are already talking. It's the fear of actually having to acknowledge this fact, and that they really don't have any control over it, that people would have to get over. That and the need to control, rather than facilitate the conversation.

Ben said...

Welcome back to reality, Sue! Too bad some associations aren't willing to acknowledge reality...