Jennifer Nachshen Headshot

You're Breaking the Law on Facebook and Don't Even Know It

Posted: Updated:

Sometimes the Internet feels like the Wild West. While some rules are made to be broken, in this instance we think the laws governing the Internet are only beginning to catch up to the misuses -- and it won't be long until the sheriff is in town.

Facebook Contests
Did you know that Facebook's promotions guidelines prohibit brands from running a "Like to Win" contest on their page, without the use of a third-party application? This may be old news to some, but we frequently see major brands risking its pages being shut down by asking fans to like the page, tag themselves in a photo, or comment on a post to win. Simply put, it's against the rules, poses many logistical challenges (how are you planning on contacting the winner on a public forum?) and is ineffective in achieving the virality needed to grow your brand community.

So why are brands using a strategy that could land them in Facebook jail without even serving their intended purpose? They don't know any better. And unfortunately, neither do many of the social media "experts" running their page. Sigh.What to do? Create a proper contest or sweepstakes following Facebook regulations, and abiding by your local laws. Include rules and regulations that have been checked by your lawyer, look into your local laws and hire a company that understands how to create contests that will get fans excited instead of making Facebook angry.

Facebook Images
After the Oscars, our Newsfeed was chock full of celebrity images and brands asking us which starlet sported the prettiest gown. Did these brands buy rights to these photos? Did they send a representative down to the Kodak Theatre to snap the shots themselves? If not, they're violating copyright, and it won't be long until image licensing agencies like Getty track down online offenders and ask for their fee, or worse, sue them. And with lawsuit-happy celebs like Lindsay Lohan trawling for any excuse to demand cash, a brand misusing personally owned images may find themselves supplementing LiLo's party fund. Unless you own the image, or have permission to post it...don't! There's a legal grey area regarding posting an image and linking back to the source, so post and link at your own risk.

Pinterest
The world has become pin-happy with this new networking site that enables users to create inspirational pinboards with online images. This Business Insider article reveals some copyright issues that arise from re-pinning images that the account holder doesn't own. If you're pulling the image from a source that is using the image without permission, you may land in hot water. Why can't we just pin freely without concern? Well, photographers deserve to make a living too. So do graphic designers and the people who work at image licensing companies. On their sides, brands can now add "no pin" codes and "Pin it" buttons to their sites to encourage or discourage pinning, but it's still the users' responsibility to ensure that their pins do not violate copyright laws (scroll down to read the terrifying links, disclaimers and indemnity sections).

Legalities concerning pinning and linking are fuzzy, so if you don't own it or have permission, do it at your own risk. When you do have permission to pin, include the copyright and credit information for every single pinned image. Yes, every single one.

Why do we care so much about these issues? Well, we're one of those agencies that strives to keep everything above board, and we respect privacy and copyright. We constantly see brands that skimp on social media, and think it's nothing more than typing a few words on a page once in a while. Brands need to understand that having a Facebook page and a following on Twitter doesn't make one a social media expert. Expertise does.