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Protecting Your Reputation While Using Social Media

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Nichole J. Derks
Foster Swift Municipal Law News
March 2010

"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it." - Ben Franklin

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be great ways to promote a public body’s activities, inform about services offered, connect with the community and share information. These online tools help a public body build its reputation in a progressive and cost effective way.

However, social media use can lead to liability. Be aware that prosecutors, employers, probation officers, and state workers will review social media posts. One could be disciplined or fired by his or her employer based on his or her use of social media. For example, a posting on Facebook stating that a person is off to another "boring meeting" could lead to a reprimand at work. Criminal consequences can also occur. For example, a person found sharing photos of himself using drugs or posting "drunk in Florida" while that person is under a court order to abstain from drugs or alcohol could lead to criminal penalties.

Also, entities and individuals should not share information about ongoing legal matters through social media outlets. Statements on social media sites may be admissible in Court. It is imperative to keep confidential information out of the hands of the Internet-viewing public.

If you have a personal account, adjust the privacy settings and closely manage who your "friends" are. Think about what image you want to portray to your friends, employer, and community. It only takes one post or photo to soil a reputation.