In some of my previous blogs I’ve covered some aspects of how social network services affect organisations and most recently, the advantages and risks involved.
Today I want to talk about some of the legal risks that an organisation may face as a result of being involved with social networks.
Let’s use McDonalds as an example, I think I’m pretty safe to say, everyone knows Mcdonalds! FUN FACTS 🙂 McDonalds is the “world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, serving more than 58 million customers daily.” The company operates over 31,000 restaurants throughout 119 countries.. and now they’re building another store just down the road from where I live.
According to the Nielsen report, ‘Global Faces and Networked Places‘ two thirds (2/3) of the world’s internet population are visiting social networking websites, with Twitter having 190 million visitors every month and Facebook boasting over 500 million users, think about those numbers… whoa! So McDonalds has 400,000 employees world wide, having staff numbers in this range is going to mean they must have some serious social network risks. Searching for ‘Mcdonalds work’ on Facebook straight up found me a page called ‘Not working at McDonalds’ with over 64,000 people liking it, many of them being current and past employees. This is an example of defamation of McDonalds by it’s employees, especially because many posts on the page give McDonalds a negative image (including lots of links to website that explain ‘the Truth about McDonalds’). McDonalds could reduce the risk of this happening by educating their employees of the importance of using social networking responsibility, as I heard one person say, ‘tweet responsibly’. They could even introduce rewards for positive posts and also listen to the complaints that employees are making to see if the issues can be resolved.
Another problem that could arise would be if a McDonalds manager accepted some of his/her employees as friends on a social network, but rejected others. This could potentially become a case of discrimination, and the employee could accuse the manager (and therein the company, McDonalds) of not treating him fairly or not equally. Obviously to mitigate the risk, McDonalds managers should either accept all – or none, when it comes to befriending employees online.
Also, if a third party created a ‘McDonalds’ social networking site, let’s use Twitter as an example, they could post tweets to the world pretending to be a McDonalds official, when in truth they are not. This issue would be classed as trademark infringement and would be a real issue for McDonalds because that third party than has power to say anything with the general public believing them. McDonalds would need to deal with this by possibly contacting the user to change their account name, and if not they could take legal action, as they own the Trademark.
As a not so relevant to this post point, I saw this trailer for the new movie, ‘The Social Network’, from memory, I think it has Justin Timberlake in it.