Social Media Policies Under Government Fire

Portions of GM's social media
policy were called out by the
National Labor Relations Board.

The National Labor Relations Board, the government body that tracks unfair practices in employer-employee relations, just may change the face of brands' social media policies.

The New York Times
reported on Jan. 21 that the NLRB has targeted the policies of companies like Target, General Motors and Costco, stating that specific stipulations in their social media rulebooks are unlawful.

For example, GM's rule that "offensive, demeaning, abusive or inappropriate remarks are as out of place online as the are offline" was cited as unlawful. The NLRB's explanation: "This provision proscribes a broad spectrum of communications that would include protected criticisms of the employer's labor policies or treatment of employees."

Costco was called out on a social media policy rule stating that online posts that "damage the company, defame any individual or damage any person's reputation" could lead to termination of employment.

The NLRB argued that employees could be inhibited by this rule in talking about "valid topics," which include complaints about staff treatment.

Why the government scrutiny? "Many view social media as the new water cooler," Mark G Pearce, chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, told the Times. "All we're doing is applying traditional rules to a new technology."

The board's actions should prod organizations into taking a much closer look at their social media policies.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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