Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be useful tools for communicating Association news and updates. Meeting date reminders and community event headlines can be shared with owners in quick and convenient fashion. However, issues can arise when communication is mishandled.
Below are six issues that can arise when utilizing social media in your Association.
- Commentary chaos
Announcements can be hijacked by unsolicited opinions and indiscriminate speculation. False, offensive, inappropriate, or off topic comments can derail what was intended to be an informational posting. Given the opportunity, Association members may use social media to begin or continue a dispute, assign blame, or attempt to force a dialogue with fellow owners or the Board.
- Unintended consequences
A careless post by a Board member could result in personal or privileged information being released. Improper vetting or a lack of proper security measures creates a greater risk that Association related information could inadvertently be disseminated to third-parties that should not be in possession of such information.
- Legal concerns
Courts generally find that information posted on an online forum can be utilized in litigation. Accordingly, Board members should expect that communication shared through online forums will be available in the event an owner initiates legal action against the Association. Depending on the content of such communication (ex. libelous statements, hates speech, copyright infringement), that could certainly be quite problematic.
- Lack of record-keeping
Unlike physical mailings, social media does not provide return receipts confirming that members received notification of an Association issue. Boards cannot rely on social media posts and comments to run Association business, establish quorum, levy fines, or share community announcements.
If the Association’s social media profile is inconsistent or incomplete, it can send the wrong message to current owners and potential buyers. Infrequent and out-of-date postings communicate that your Association either does not care or have time to maintain its social media pages.
An unhappy owner can create a social media account with a name and/or design similar to the Association’s legitimate account. They may use this fake account to spread inaccurate information to members of the Association.
Boards should keep in mind that discussing matters in-person with members of the association will ensure the highest accuracy of information and is the best means of preventing the inadvertent disclosure to non-members of the association. Notwithstanding, Board members should be cautious and restricted if they use social media for Association communication.
With the rise of social media use by Associations, Board members should be cautious and restricted in the information they choose to disseminate via social media. Courts generally find that information posted on an online forum can be utilized in litigation. Accordingly, Board members should expect that communication shared on social media will be available in the event an owner initiates legal action against the Association.
It is imperative that the Association proactively work with their legal counsel to draft a social media policy that provides guidance and protects the Board from significant legal consequences including libel, slander, privacy, and harassment. Any of these can lead to issues can have repercussions involving liability and/or litigation.
If your Association has questions regarding your current social media policy or is interested in adopting a policy, do not hesitate to contact our law firm. Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome Associations throughout the Chicagoland area. We have multiple offices including downtown Chicago, Mundelein, and Naperville. Please call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.
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