Social Media and Litigation

For many businesses, social media has become an indispensable part of their culture as well as an integral part of their marketing strategy. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube and LinkedIn are affordable and effective ways to promote a business, draw in new customers and keep connected with existing ones. Cost-effectiveness, popularity and ease of use makes staying connected with social media a high priority and a smart business decision.

However, along with the many benefits of social media comes a set of responsibilities for companies in the forms of eDiscovery and information governance. Without good policies and protections in place governing data usage pertaining to employees, clients and social media, it’s possible that a business could encounter nightmarish legal issues down the road. Problems could arise not just internally and from clients, but from information requests from outside parties.

What are eDiscovery and information governance, anyway? The term eDiscovery pertains to stored electronic information, data and statistics that are called forth for use during a trial or other legal proceedings. Information governance refers to the policies, procedures and structures that a business can put in place to help manage the information it has collected about employees and clients.

While most businesses haven’t given much thought to having an information governance policy in place, that seems to be changing. As the number of court cases and litigation related to Internet privacy and usage of personal data continues to rise, more and more businesses are realizing this is a matter that warrants some attention. An increasing number of legal cases require the use of data posted on social media sites as evidence, and a company could be subpoenaed for this information at any time. The more engaged with social media a business becomes, the more it should consider whether or not it could disclose requested information from social media accounts in a timely manner.

More and more businesses are taking this question seriously. They are taking steps to identify the ways they can best collect the information and content generated through social media and preserve it securely in the event it is ever needed for litigation.

However, the creation and development of information governance policies is in its early stages. Many businesses are in the trial and error phase of crafting these policies, despite the fact that the need for them is clear. Companies are legally required to produce information from social media outlets when requested.

Navigating the complexities and differences among all of the different social media channels in reference to an information governance policy might be enough to scare a business away from social media. However, with the growing awareness of the need to preserve and index data collected from social media, it’s likely that those who are familiar with these waters will soon be offering their services to companies on a wider scale, allowing businesses to consult with an expert.

To be sure, all of the nuances of social media disclosures during litigation are still developing, and there’s still much to be determined. But if a business makes a sincere effort to implement a solid information governance policy, they will have done more than most.

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