As a business using social media, it’s critical to understand the risks of allowing user generated content on your website or blog. Scout Moderation can help ensure that you comply with the law on a day-to-day basis.
What laws control UGC?
The First Amendment rights of all Americans guarantee free speech. But, as a business with a reputation to uphold and a marketing plan to carry you forward, you can and should control the content that is being posted on your social media site. Your users can decide whether or not to agree to a Terms of Service (TOS) and Posting Guidelines.
There are three U.S. regulations that affect your liability for third party, or user-generated, content: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act; the Communications Decency Act; and the Safe Harbor Provision.
Intellectual property infringement: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
In Section 512 of the DMCA, copyright holders can send “takedown notices” to website owners. You as a site owner risk a lawsuit by those who claim to hold a copyright to the material that someone else posted on your site if you do not promptly remove the material when notified, and if you can show that you did not know it was infringement. In addition, you should not tolerate repeat offenders, blocking their access to your site if necessary. Trademark law is also a concern when users post text and images on your site.
Defamation: The Communications Decency Act
If users post defamatory comments about others on your site, you may be liable for allowing them, as laws are cropping up that could challenge the safe harbor provisions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Obscenity and Child Pornography: The Safe Harbor Provision
The Safe Harbor provision reduces liability for website owners regarding most user generated content but doesn’t provide any protections for obscene materials that appear on websites.
Case law in certain other countries, such as the U.K., New Zealand, France and Germany has held hosting providers responsible for defamatory materials under varying conditions, in some cases even when the host was located outside of that country. It can be generally said that providers should act quickly to remove the defamatory material when it is brought to their attention.
Cyber Stalking, Harassment and Bullying
Many states also have cyber stalking, cyber harassment and cyber bullying laws, and the U.S. government is working on proposed legislation for the future. If this bill becomes law, anyone found guilty of these forms of cyber crimes could face a fine or a prison term of up to two years.
What Should a Business Do to Protect Its Liability?
Moderators are most effective in helping businesses guard against UGC risks, if the business has a clear Terms of Service (TOS) agreement, notifying users that their accounts will be disabled or deactivated if they engage in any illegal, hateful or obscene behavior. Enforce your TOS by using a moderator to review user comments on your website, blog, forums and any other social media sites. This moderation can be most effective when it’s applied on a 24/7/365 basis.
Scout Moderation can help your business to enforce legal compliance by keeping your UGC under control. Contact us to find out more about how we can take the risk out of social media.