Twitter is the fastest growing social networking site. Presently, more than 8 million people use twitter worldwide. So, how does it work? A “follower” is a person who has elected to receive twitter messages. These are commonly referred to as “tweets” from a specific person who is registered through twitter.com people. Individuals can then register with twitter.com to follow a particular star’s twitter posts. Tweets must be short messages of 140 characters or less.
Most individuals who use the twitter site are doing so as an outlet to express their thoughts and to obtain a following. Recently, many high profile sports figures and celebrities have grasped the ability to tweet such as numerous stars from the NBA, PGA Tour, major league baseball and the NFL. In fact, Shaquille O’Neal, NBA all-star and recent addition to the Cleveland Cavaliers, is rumored to have the largest twitter following of more than 2.8 million people.
The risk for employers is, of course, the content that is disclosed on twitter may lead to the disclosure of unauthorized company information that is private and/or confidential, not to mention violate various employment handbook rules and regulations. Employers, and especially those with a younger workforce, should make sure they have an existing policy on electronic communications which includes email and internet communications. In addition, employers should consider the following when adopting a twitter policy:
- Prohibit the disclosure of any confidential, proprietary information of the company;
- Determine if employees should be prohibited from tweeting;
- Prohibit the use of company pictures, logos, trademarks or other intellectual property; and
- Ensure that if tweeting is permissible, make sure the employee represents they are not speaking for the company.
NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.