Social media has become an indispensable channel for businesses and government agencies to communicate with the public.
Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, and other platforms can be effectively leveraged not only for promotional purposes, but also to share important updates, news, and even handle customer support requests.
However, you should be aware that although social media comes across as less formal than business email correspondence, federal and state regulations stipulate that electronic communications are public records. So, since government agencies are required to keep and archive all public records, all social media content is subject to these regulations.
The same applies to businesses – everything you post on your official social media account is treated as a business record. Therefore, a simple tweet or comment is taken very seriously from a legal perspective and might be used as evidence in potential litigation.
Let’s discuss how social media archiving will help you stay compliant and protect your organization from hefty fines.
Why Does Social Archiving Matter?
We’ve established that social media content, including posts, comments, images, likes, shares, and other attributes, constitute public records. But why do organizations need to archive this content when it’s already out there in the public space of social media platforms?
Social media companies aren’t legally required to retain their users’ content, not to mention that users can later delete or edit their comments. Therefore, relying on Facebook or Twitter to back up your content isn’t a good idea.
This leaves you with a responsibility to capture all the posts and comments across all the social media platforms your company uses is an impossible task. Let’s not forget that you’re up against 24/7 platforms where people interact with content all around the clock. Plus, such records will hardly be compliant since you have to make sure they’re not altered or modified in any way.
Additionally, public records might contain personal or sensitive information, and it’s crucial to ensure they’re protected from security threats.
To sum up, the benefits of social archiving include:
- Complying with industry regulations. This particularly refers to so-called regulated industries that include the financial, healthcare, educational, and government sectors. In these industries, there are more than 9,000 different regulations to comply with. A massive amount of unstructured data, such as photos, hashtags, videos, tweets, etc., is another challenge that prompts these industries to adopt archiving solutions that will help them stay compliant.
- Improving data governance. Treat information as an asset. A strategy for making it available to those who need it at short notice while ensuring its compliance and streamlining management is at the core of data governance. In a nutshell, it’s an accountability framework that regulates appropriate information handling in an organization.
- Ensuring litigation readiness. The ability to produce relevant data and hand it over to authorities in case of legal proceedings will minimize your costs, administrative workload, and disruption that litigation can cause to your organization.
- Minimizing data loss risk. Every business needs to safeguard its social media presence, monitor how data is being handled, and reduce the risk of data loss. For example, if a number of employees have access to your social media handles, the odds of compromising sensitive data increase. With the right data monitoring strategy and social media archiving, this scenario can be avoided.
The Trouble With Moderation and the First Amendment
Ensuring your organization’s social media content and interactions are in line with the First Amendment is crucial. So, if your moderation practices include deleting comments, blocking other social media users, and similar ways of solving issues and crisis situations, you risk violating the First Amendment and getting hit with lawsuits.
While in some cases blocking users and deleting harmful comments is the right thing to do, it’s still a legal grey zone, so before doing so, check free speech regulations.
Even if you rightfully deleted a comment or an entire conversation, having a record of the entire incident, together with deleted content, can help you justify your actions. Again, these records have to be compliant in order to be valid evidence.
Being able to present metadata is also of critical importance in case of litigation. Metadata refers to additional information about digital data, and on social media, it shows who the author of the content is, when it was posted, from what device, comments, likes, shares, etc. Given that screenshots of comments aren’t accepted as evidence in legal proceedings since they can be changed and doctored, metadata is necessary if you want to corroborate your claims.
In case of litigation, authorities will ask you to produce evidence within a certain timeframe. To comply with their requirements, you have to act quickly and find the archive where a particular social media post, comment, and other metadata is.
Now imagine having to go through the entire database in search of a single file. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Ediscovery is the process of collecting, accessing, and exchanging electronically stored records in case of legal proceedings.
As the volumes of data your company generates over time, it’s important to make sure all files can be quickly and easily retrieved.
Using a social media archiving solution can solve this problem by allowing you to capture all your social media content in a compliant manner. Such archives are easily searchable and time-stamped so that their authenticity can’t be disputed in a court of law.
Taking control of your social media data is a must in an age where almost 4.6 billion people use these channels of communication. Businesses heavily rely on social media, and this is what can backfire if not all measures of precaution regarding protecting data and ensuring its compliance aren’t taken.