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Social Media Policy Overview for Universities & Colleges


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This session reviews social media policy concerns from the perspective of universities and colleges. It offers best practices and a series of scenarios as to what and how social media policies can help institutions of higher education.

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Social Media Policy Overview for Universities & Colleges

  1. 1. + USG & TCSG Social Media Policy Overview Deborah Gonzalez, Esq. Law2sm May 13, 2014
  2. 2. + Disclaimer Information provided in this session is for general educational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. It is recommended that you seek legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction for handling of specific legal matters.
  3. 3. + Session Overview • Introductions • Putting it in context • Basic Facts • NLRB • Lessons Learned • More… Why does it matter? Social Media Policies Q&A
  4. 4. + Context
  5. 5. + Context
  6. 6. + Context
  7. 7. + Social Media: Higher Ed Version Two students in a course who are dating break up. The professor has set up a Facebook page for students to comment on the course. One of the students involved in the breakup posts a defamatory comment about the other. Can the professor take the comment down? (Based on a University of Chicago case) An admissions counselor tweets about a student-athlete’s glasses being thicker than the previous pair and questions why.
  8. 8. + Social Media: Higher Ed Version An adjunct professor requires social media in his course for grading. A visually impaired student complains she cannot access the information and it is affecting her grade. (Based on California State University’s Accessible Technology Initiative Report, released June, 2011)
  9. 9. + Social Media: Higher Ed Version A faculty member, who is advisor to a student club, has a practice of cutting out relevant articles and putting them in a folder for students to review. The student club creates a Facebook Fan Page. The faculty member searches online and posts links to some articles on the fan page. Some she cannot find, so she scans them and posts the .pdf files on the page without citing sources. A faculty member opens a twitter account and uses his university’s logo as the profile image
  10. 10. + Social Media: Higher Ed Version A faculty member posts on Facebook that he completed the initial phrase of a research project that proves XYZ theory. A faculty member serving on a search committee is Facebook friends with one of the candidates. A college student commits suicide because he is bullied online.
  11. 11. + Social Media Legal Concerns Marketing Privacy Publicity Promotions Free Speech Employment/HR Recruitment NLRB Ownership of Accounts Mobile/BYOD Regulatory Compliance Finance, Insurance, Medical, Pharma, Legal, etc. Professional Association white papers, guidelines, rules Disclosure, documentation, etc.
  12. 12. + Social Media Policy: What? A policy is basically a statement of intent by an institution as to how certain issues are to be addressed by the institution and those affiliated to it – faculty, staff, students, third-party vendors, etc. Policies list the express rules that will govern certain decisions the institution makes and how violations of these rules will then affect employees and those subject to the policies.
  13. 13. + Social Media Policy: What? A social media policy outlines how employees (and faculty, students, etc.) should use social media whether on behalf of the Institution or even on personal accounts. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a lot to say about whether certain clauses in these policies are valid or violate the National Labor Relations Act.
  14. 14. + Social Media Policy: Why? To comply with regulatory guidance (i.e. FERPA) To be legal To avoid misuse by affiliates To protect the institution’s affiliates To protect the institution’s reputation To protect the institution’s assets To minimize risk and litigation
  15. 15. + Social Media FFIEC Definition The FFIEC considers social media a form of interactive online communication in which users can generate and share content through text, images, audio, and/or video.
  16. 16. + Social Media FFIEC Definition Social media can take many forms, including, but not limited to, micro-blogging sites (e.g., Facebook, Google Plus, MySpace, and Twitter); forums, blogs, customer review Web sites and bulletin boards (e.g., Yelp); photo and video sites (e.g., Flickr and YouTube); sites that enable professional networking (e.g., LinkedIn); virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life); and social games (e.g., FarmVille and CityVille).
  17. 17. + Social Media FFIEC Definition Social media can be distinguished from other online media in that the communication tends to be more interactive.
  18. 18. + Social Media Policy: Facts Social Media is here to stay. Social Media is public, permanent, and powerful. The line between professional and personal is blurring. Employees are using social media every day, sometimes multiple times a day on multiple devices.
  19. 19. + Social Media Policy: Facts Faculty, students, and staff have rights in regards to social media use.  Institutions of higher education have rights and responsibilities to protect their data and reputation. Social Media policies can benefit the staff, students, faculty and the institution.
  20. 20. + Social Media Policy: Facts Social Media policies are part of an over-all strategy that includes ongoing communication and training. Social Media policies relate to other policies such as email, communication, privacy, confidentiality, technology use, ethical code of conduct, etc. Social Media policies must match the culture and operating characteristics of the institution.
  21. 21. + Risk Management Have a clear and comprehensive social media plan, policy, & protocol
  22. 22. + Social Media Policy: The 5 C’s Control Connections Content Confidentiality Coherence Bloomberg BNA,
  23. 23. + Social Media Policy: Components  Identify benefits of social media  Address the risks of social media  Designate contact person(s) for people to consult with in regards to this policy (name, title, contact info including telephone, email and/or other communications contact)  Describe the institution’s expectations, the fact that individuals are going to be responsible for their online activities  Acknowledge that there are risks referring to the college’s name in social media (opinions of individual vs opinions of institution)
  24. 24. + Social Media Policy: Components  Refer to institution’s computer usage policy (and other related policies)  Requirement of protection of student and employee privacy – FERPA, HIPAA, etc.  Address rules on advertising and disclosure.  Outline the potential for conflict of interest/risks
  25. 25. + Social Media Policy: Components  Institution reserves the right to take disciplinary action against who violates – and must outline what those actions may be  Does the policy state that the institution reserves the right to monitor use of social media by the individual while the individual is using company equipment?  Social Media account ownership issues, BYOD?
  26. 26. + Social Media Policy: Lessons Learned  Do not be overbroad with your prohibitions: employees have the right to discuss about their terms and conditions of employment, including: to discuss their supervisor’s performance, to complain about their supervisor, to criticize their supervisor and to protest their supervisor’s actions.  Employees have the right to discuss these things with co-workers AND third-parties.
  27. 27. + Social Media Policy: Lessons Learned  Give examples of confidential information, trade secrets, etc.  Give examples of what behavior is considered violations of the policy.  Employers can put limits on postings that appear or would appear to be on behalf of the employer.
  28. 28. + Social Media Policy: Lessons Learned  Do not rely on catch-all legalese clauses.  Do not use overbroad or vague terms such as: defamation, disparagement, or inappropriate.  Do not require employees to report violations of the policy.
  29. 29. + Social Media Policy: Lessons Learned  Do not warn employees to avoid controversial topics – may be interpreted as encouraging employees to keep grievance internal.  Have the employee sign the policy.  Make sure the policy is accessible.  Train employees on the policy.  Review the policy whenever anything major happens.
  30. 30. + Thoughts Social Media is continuously evolving. Students & faculty are creative, innovative, & sometimes unpredictable. Social media is public, permanent, and powerful.
  31. 31. + Thank you! Questions? 31 Deborah Gonzalez, Esq. Law2sm, LLC 678-404-6516 Twitter: @law2sm Facebook: Law2sm LinkedIn: Deborah Gonzalez