Legal Risks of Social Media – Cisco

In my last blog post I discussed the benefits and risks of implementing Enterprise 2.0 into the business realm. While this is all well and good, we did not touch on the legal risk and implications to the company in regards to the use of Web 2.0 tools.  Grasping the legal implications that Enterprise 2.0 can have on your organisation can be slightly confusing. Businesses have found a new place to present themselves through social media sites. Having a channel available to communicate with customers in a non-formal way creates connection and awareness, though can leave a company vulnerable to their own Enterprise 2.0 success.

Social Media Policy (SMP)

According to Dundas Lawyers: “A Social Media Policy (SMP) is a document that suppliments a contract of employment to be legally enforceable by an organisation on its employees. The aim of an SMP is to clearly communicate what is acceptable conduct on Social Networking Sites by an organisations employees and contractors and what conduct is unacceptable and would make an employee liable to dismissal. An SMP is distinct from an organisations Social Media Strategy (SMS) which is a high level document that communicates how an organisation plans to participate in social media.”

social media policy is a must have legal document for any company. An SMP may protect or attempt to address the company both internally and externally for the below:

  • Copyright breaches
  • Privacy breaches
  • Defamation
  • Conduct of employees that an employer may be vicariously liable for
  • Discrimination claims
  • Trademark
  • Confidentiality breaches

Organisation Case Study: Cisco

Cisco is a global corporation that designs and sells consumer electronics, networking, voice, and communications technology and services.

In this following case study we will analyse and discus policies that they have set in place.

Cisco can be found on many social networks, including Twitter and Facebook; and are no strangers to implementing Web2.0 tools for internal use.  While this creates new openings for collaboration and communication, it creates new responsibilities for Cisco employees. Being a big company embedded into social networking, there are lots of legal concerns that Cisco has to consider.

Confidential information and breach of continuous disclosure obligations

In Cisco’s SMP it is made very clear the legal implications and internal dealings if any unauthorized information is posted. “Your Internet postings should not disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary to the company or to any third party that has disclosed information to Cisco.” Posting any confidential materials may impact the company in a negative way and may effect business competition. Releasing of internal documents is threatened with contract termination and the pursuit of legal advice.

Copyrighted Infringements

Social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs enable users the ability to upload content such as music, videos, text files. This leaves employees venerable to uploading copyright material to these websites, which can be a major legal risk with daft implications to both the company and the individual.

Cisco in their SMP state: “Because you are legally responsible for your postings, you may be subject to liability if your posts are found defamatory, harassing, or in violation of any other applicable law. You may also be liable if you make postings, which include confidential or copyrighted information (music, videos, text, etc.) belonging to third parties. All of the above mentioned postings are prohibited under this policy.”


While it is always difficult to avoid a social media disaster from happening, implementing a social media policy is the best way to inform your employees about the risks that is involved and having a preventative option in place.

Cisco have made their social media policy available for public viewing and ironically it has been published on their public blog.

*Note*The materials and information provided in this blog itself are general commentary on the law only.  It is not legal advice


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  1. #1 by matthewdam on September 2, 2011 - 5:35 am


    I strongly agree with the copyright infringments, it is difficult though as third parties may post inappropriate comments as you have stated therefore you have to monitor comments quite regularly unless you want a fine.

  2. #2 by akklam2011 on September 4, 2011 - 3:29 am

    I totally agree that without good policies made from companies to manage social media interaction between customers or staff members, a possible damage of reputation could occur.

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