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Social Media, Compliance and the Law: Part 1

by on July 28, 2011

One area of data management that we’ve seen our clients challenged by, especially over the past year or so, is the need to manage the volumes of data produced by social media. The two main questions they’re wrestling with are:

  1. How do emerging legal and compliance requirements apply to our business’ social media activities?
  2. Once we understand what we need to do, how do we capture, manage and store social media content to meet these requirements in a way that is also practical for our business?

Socialmedia-compliance-law
A quick Google search tells me our clients are not alone: These questions are on the minds of business and IT managers everywhere, particularly those in firms that are part of regulated industries like finance and pharma. Why do these questions loom so large for a growing number of organizations?

First of all, the courts have ruled that social media is both discoverable and admissible in a legal case. Recently, courts have even ordered disclosure of non-publicly available, “friends-only” data. While the rules around social media content and e-discovery are still emerging, what’s clear is that organizations have “a duty to preserve relevant or potentially relevant information once litigation is pending or reasonably anticipated as long as it is in your custody or control,” according to the Social Media Law Blog. When you add in the fact that failing to preserve data from third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook can result in significant court sanctions, the urgency around systematically capturing and managing social media becomes clear.

If that’s not enough, companies in state or federally regulated industries have it tougher—they’re required to maintain and demonstrate compliance in all media, including the social variety. For example, according to Business Insider, FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), which regulates securities firms, applies “old media” standards to new media interactions—likening Twitter content to advertisements and Facebook sites to sales literature—creating a whole world of complexity for organizations. And that’s just in this one vertical. Other regulated sectors are grappling with how to meet similar mandates.

There’s no cut-and-dried solution to these novel challenges. But firms are beginning to find their way. In an upcoming post or two, I’ll talk more about how firms are dealing with these challenges.

But what do you think. How can the industries stay compliant while dealing with the deluge of social media data?

Read Social Media, Compliance and the Law: Part 2

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