Does your commercial policy cover social media liability?
Given the ubiquitous use of social media by the general public, businesses have embraced it as an effective marketing vehicle to interact with customers and expand brand recognition.
Yet, the more a business uses social media, the greater the exposure to lawsuits for libel, slander, copyright infringement, and privacy invasion. Couple this with the exposure to employment-related claims such as discrimination or harassment, when supervisors post or tweet a poorly thought out comment or employees participate in cyberbullying, and the employer’s risk escalates.
Does your business need additional insurance to cover this exposure? The answer requires a review of your existing coverage. A commercial insurance or business owners’ policy (BOP) provides property insurance and general liability. Whether or not the general liability insurance covers claims resulting from social media activities depends on the language and exclusions in your policy, as well as the policy limits. Similarly, the language in Employment Practices Liability (EPL) policies may contain social media and cyber exclusions.
Companies should look at how they use social media and how many employees are involved in the social media activities. Then, with their agent they should review the risks of possible claims and their existing insurance coverage, identifying gaps and business requirements. If needed, specialized insurance coverage is available for claims arising out of social media use.
While proper insurance can help companies survive lawsuits, it’s important to have policies in place to limit exposure. Here are a few tips:
- Create and continually reinforce a social media policy with employees.
- Require anyone who posts, tweets, etc. to check and recheck, verifying facts and sources, before they post.
- Be careful about the use of images and stealing content, avoiding copyright issues.
- Obtain proper releases for all marketing materials.
- Avoid modifying photos and videos.
- Be careful with hashtags and images. Some words and images have offensive overtones.
- Keep all personnel information private.
- Tighten security with strong passwords and change often. When employees with access to social media accounts leave the company, immediately change passwords.
- Be on the lookout for signs of trouble. Monitor activity regularly.
Ignorance is no defense, even if it is an unintentional mistake. Once it’s on the Internet, it lives on causing reputational harm and potential lawsuits.