By JOEL BERG, a freelance journalist and college professor
Media liability insurance is one sure-fire way for companies to cover the risks of posting content on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites.
But the coverage is not an easy sell to companies that don?t see themselves as "publishers," which are the traditional buyers of media liability, said Kirstin Simonson, an underwriting director at Travelers who oversees strategy for social media.
Companies mistakenly assume their general liability policies will pick up the slack, she said.
?You have to go into explaining the limitations around that,? she added.
Insurers generally recommend the extra coverage, as well as corporate procedures for using social media that account for its warp speed and the unintended consequences of using it. But often, a new procedural handbook is the last thing on the radar of businesses eager to attract fans, friends and followers.
?I can see them getting so captured by the design of the Facebook page and the content and not taking the next step and thinking, 'What kind of legal controls should we put on it?? ? said Jim Borelli, media liability practice leader for Chicago-based insurer CNA.
But controls are essential to safely harness the power of social media, Borelli agreed. His tips to develop these controls include:
-- Develop procedures for confirming the authenticity of photographs, videos and other materials before using them on social media, especially for materials found on the Internet. Remind employees that information online is not always true or in the public domain.
-- Ask employees to be transparent when they use social media and include pertinent business information such as their names, company and titles. Pretending to be someone else and gaining access to a person?s web page or ?friending? people under false pretenses can lead to allegations of invasion of privacy, fraud and more. Anonymous postings are also not advisable.
-- Caution employees against ?editorializing? about public controversies and espousing personal beliefs. Also, if employees use social media outside work, be sure they use a separate page and avoid identifying their employer. An ill-advised posting by an employee, if it goes viral, can create uninsured brand damage in the court of public opinion that dwarfs any damages that may be assessed in court.
-- Have a process for handling complaints. Demands for correction and threats of litigation should not be handled by the posting employee but instead should be referred to management for review, consideration and response. Consider designating one or more senior managers to fill this role. Involve in-house counsel and outside counsel as necessary.
-- If reviewing social media messages before they are posted is impractical, consider regular monitoring of a representative sample of posts to ensure employees are hewing to corporate policy.
May 1, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications