Beware of what you write on Facebook, Twitter

February 16, 2010 4:05:13 PM PST
Chances are your kids are on Facebook or Twitter. Make sure they understand potential legal troubles that can arise from what they write online.

Francine Ward's tips on understanding legal troubles with social media:

    1. Have a family / house policy on internet and social media use.
    Understanding the appropriate way to behave is as important to running a household as it is in running a business. Have a family meeting and develop an internet and social media policy. Sit down with your kids and let them know what you expect regarding their use of social media.

    2. Avoid making defamatory statements.
    What do Amanda Bonnen, Kim Kardashian, and Courtney Love all have in common? They've been sued for something they said on Twitter. It's easy to think because Twitter is ONLY 140 characters that you're safe and can avoid trouble. NOT, as these ladies and others have recently discovered.

    3. Understand that delete does NOT equal delete.
    Have you ever written something down and then erased it? Or written something in your computer and then deleted it? And you knew it was deleted because it was gone. Right? Not true with the internet. Once you input something into the Internet, it is indelibly written.

    That includes photos, words, stories, and any other information about you. There has been a recent rash of teen girls uploading nude and provocative photos of themselves into Myspace and Facebook. Not only is it in bad taste, it can interfere with your kids getting into a top school, or hurting your chances of getting that job you want.

    4. Read and understand Terms of USE (TOU) before clicking ACCEPT.
    How easy it is to click "ACCEPT" and not have a clue about what you just agreed to. TOU are binding and enforceable contracts. And as with all contracts, you should read them and understand them before signing. More than a few people have signed away valuable rights on Facebook and Twitter with the click of the mouse.

    5. Make sure you own what you think you own.
    The law is unsettled regarding content ownership in social media context. Providers such as FB, Twitter, and Second Life say you own your content. But it's hard to know, at this stage, if it's true. If you have valuable content, protect it BEFORE you upload.
About Francine Ward:

A 1989 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Francine Denise Ward earned her undergraduate degree in 1986 from the City University of New York -- Hunter College. Admitted to practice in both California and New York, her IP focus is on copyrights, trademarks, internet, and publishing law.

Ms. Ward has carved out a niche working with eCommerce entrepreneurs, information marketers, authors, and professional speakers.

Not surprisingly, Francine loves working with entrepreneurs and authors--because she is one! She understands from firsthand experience the importance of safeguarding what she's invested so much time and money creating, e.g, books, articles, web content, product, videos, her brand and the right to create these things.

She's written two self-help books (Esteemable Acts: 10 Actions for Building Real Self-Esteem and 52 Weeks of Esteemable Acts: A Guide to Right Living), has given a number of motivational business keynotes, and has talked extensively to entrepreneurs on the importance of protecting their valuable intellectual property. She has now expanded her reach to social media, including the Second Life.

Francine Ward is an active member of the American Bar Association's Intellectual Property Law Section, and currently chairs Committee 408 (In the Interest of Individuals and Small Businesses).

Always willing to be of service and forever involved in her community, Francine volunteers her time helping women struggling with addiction who have lost their kids, she's on the boards of the National Council on Alcoholism and Other Drugs in the Bay Area and the National Speakers Association, and is a pro bono volunteer lawyer through the VLSP program with the San Francisco Bar Association. Francine D. Ward resides in Mill Valley, CA with her husband Richard Lipfield, and three cats, Mango, Spike, and Kiwi.

Follow Francine on Twitter for useful and relevant legal information and check out her legal Fan Page on Facebook

For more information, visit and