The law can be very anti-social

November 13, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Nonprofits using social media can find themselves dealing with the worst humanity has to offer if they do not cover themselves legally. Bad things can happen to good organizations, but legal precautions can help avoid or minimize problems.

Gene Takagi, a nonprofit lawyer, lists 10 issues that nonprofits need to be thinking about when it comes to their social media policies. They are:

  • Copyright and trademark infringement. Understand the Fair Use Doctrine;
  • Fundraising and foreign state registration requirements. Most states in the U.S. require registration;
  • Events and foreign state qualifications to do business. Think about whether the organization is responsible for an event organized through its social media channels;
  • Volunteers (and agents of the nonprofit) or independent supporters. Do not have individuals act in the organization’s name without providing rules or limits to their authority;
  • Supervision of agents of the nonprofit. Make sure people do not use the organization’s social media to misrepresent what it does;
  • Advocacy and rules regarding lobbying and political activities. “Liking” political candidates can jeopardize nonprofit status;
  • Collaborations with other organizations and partnership/joint venture issues. Make staff aware of legal commitments and exposure to liability;
  • Ownership of social media accounts. The organization should know if it owns or has controlling rights over social media accounts;
  • Employee use of social media and protected accounts. Understand that complaints by an employee could be protected from retaliation; and,
  • Violations of policies. Policy should include rules that are fairly and reasonably enforced.