Companies that publish content on the internet should view themselves as just that--publishers. Just as a newspaper is responsible for its reporters, employers may be liable for content published by their employees. They are subject to the same liability risks as newspapers, magazines and broadcasters while enjoying fewer privileges and immunities. The First Amendment protections for "newsworthy" speech, such as news and political opinion, are diminished for commercial speech, including advertising and marketing.
Under agency law, even unauthorized posts can be attributed to the employer through legal doctrines such as respondeat superior (Latin for "let the master answer"). Generally, courts and juries look to whether the employee was acting in the scope of his employment with actual or merely apparent authority. Yet these doctrines can also include unauthorized conduct if it benefits the employer. And liability can arise from posts by employees on social media sites, forums or blogs, particularly when they claim company affiliation or discuss company business.
Here are the areas where liability is most likely to arise.
Third Party Statements
Employees may put …