Social Content is on the Record as being Record Content

Organizations have been quick to adopt social channels as a new communication mechanism.  But the records aspect of these channels is often ignored.  Control over instant messaging (AOL Instant Messenger) was ignored by trading companies fourteen years ago until word got out.  But oddly, the problem is still happening today.  As new social channels are adopted, organizations have to look at how to manage posts as records.  It’s not a question as to if but when a post will become common content for records manger and attorneys.

As many of you long time readers may know, I find myself in a unique world.  Being a computer person I should, live in a world of absolutes, one-and-zeros.  But I often find myself discussing eDiscovery and most recently social content with attorneys.  So as social has emerged in enterprise content, I’ve taken a longer look into what’s happening legally.

Last year, I decided to take some formal training on the subject by attending AIIM’s Social Media Governance training program.  Jesse Wilkens developed the material back in 2012.  It’s great content and gets students to start to think about social content as records.  But one comment was stuck in my mind, the doubt that a post or a Tweet would ever become record.  Especially as a tweet is limit of 140 characters.   The last year has shown several situations where Facebook posts or Tweets have made their way into the legal or regulatory conversation.  Here’s what I’ve seen so far, starting with the latest:

And there’s more if you dig deeper.  Think this is just tied to individuals, I did find one case of corporate litigation in the last year in the news:

  • Chobani is being sued for trademark infringement for the post, “@DovSeidman Thanks for inspiring the world to care about “how.” Can you help inspire the food industry, too? How Food is Made Matters #howmatters.”  Dov Seidman owns the trademark to certain uses of the word “how.” (believe it or not)

Concepts like liable, slander, and negligence and the enforcement of contracts and agreements all exist in the cyber world no matter what the form.  The stories so far seem to say that it is we individuals that need to think before we post.   Corporations seem to be doing a good job of controlling what they post. But organizations need to remember what is tweeted or posted on Facebook should not only be controlled but maintained as a recorded, no matter which social media platform is being used.

2 thoughts on “Social Content is on the Record as being Record Content

  1. Hi Marko,

    Thanks for the kind words. I’d have to go back and look at the specific context and examples but I know that whenever I talk about social media today I am careful to note first that “record-ness” is dependent on context, not format. I think there are many examples of where Tweets would not be records because they are duplicative, or difficult to categorize as such without the context of other tweets, much in the way IMs and SMS messages can be difficult absent context.

    I also note that whether something is technically a record or not is often not terribly relevant to whether it can be evidence and required to be produced for litigation, audits, and so forth. Most of the examples you cite above wouldn’t be records in the traditional sense but they’d sure be fodder for legal cases and of course PR ones as well.

    In short I certainly think that social content can be records – and that even when it isn’t it needs to be managed appropriately. That was the impetus for the course and has been the focus of most of my presentations since then. The old New York Times rule for email – don’t send something you wouldn’t want posted on the front page of the NYT – certainly applies to social media.

    All the best,


    1. Hey Jesse,

      Thanks for the comment. The training you developed absolutely gets the point across that Social Content is record content. That is what got me to watch for these short posts that cause a BIG stir. I hear from organizations and individuals that tweets don’t matter. As you say, these short posts can be difficult to categorize as record content because context is often necessary.

      That’s certainly the case with the Chobani situation where you need to really look hard to see the plaintiff’s point. Very little would indicate that it should ever be retained as a record. But the plaintiff built the context.

      Another case in point may be this very article on a social channel. My intent was to re-enforce what I learned by showing some current scenarios that show how short messages can become part of the legal conversation. I certainly didn’t not mean to imply that you do not believe that social content could not be record. When I in fact know that you believe that all social channels can create content than can be classified as a record.

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