Part 9: Protecting the Organization’s Social Media Presence

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We have more screening and assessment issues we want to discuss, but first, a few last comments on social media. What should the mission do to protect its social media presence on its own sites and on personal sites? Good policies and good training are key.

A good social media policy states that mission social media sites will be carefully monitored. There are legal limits on what you can tell personnel they can and can’t say, both on their own sites and on official sites, because the National Labor Relations Board considers that these limits can interfere with employees’ ability to discuss labor issues. (And yes, this applies even though you don’t have a union.)

Still, you can give some guidance as to appropriate social media speech. First, your policy can say that mission personnel will not make discriminatory, harassing, or bullying remarks that would be in violation of other laws. Personnel should keep privacy laws, such as HIPAA and GINA. They should respect other persons’ privacy and confidentiality (this must be phrased carefully). They should not share information or post material that would violate IP law, such as copyrighted or trademarked material that they don’t have permission to post.

A religious organization can add standards that fit its religious practice. For instance, although the NLRB would normally not consider it lawful to have a restriction on gossip, it would be lawful for a religious organization to deal with gossip if it is tied to a Scriptural standard. Because a mission can require certain moral and behavior standards, it can include these in the social media policies as well. Be sure that they are clearly expressed in policies, and don’t come as a nasty surprise in a disciplinary HR discussion. 

As many agencies have personnel serving in dangerous areas, policies should cover safety and security of the mission, what will be communicated publicly, and who has authority to do this.

Comments on the mission’s social media sites by mission personnel could be legally attributed to the mission, for instance in a defamation lawsuit. (This could even be true for personal sites.) This risk can be managed by training on what is appropriate to say and by site disclaimers as to what is official and what is not. Monitor your official sites carefully and frequently, and enforce a take-down policy. Avoid commenting on third-party posts, and take them down or screen them out if needed. Manage archived material as part of your regular document retention policy.

In training personnel, help them understand that while social media seems casual and temporary, and may be intended to be private, they should assume that anything they say online will be public and live forever. 

Social media is here to stay, either as a liability or as an asset. A careful approach can make it an asset for the mission.


Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations