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The Influencer’s Guide to Social Media Laws

Social media laws exist to protect our rights online. In fact, without even knowing it, you benefit from the protections of social media law every day! 

However, when social media becomes a part of your career and source of income 💰, understanding these laws becomes an important responsibility. Not only are you expected to follow social media law to protect your followers and fans, but also to protect your own accounts and revenue.

To help you acquire a general knowledge of some of the most important social media laws you need to follow, we’ve created a short list below. However, be sure to conduct your own research or consult a social media lawyer to ensure you’re always following the law online and NOT 🙅‍♂️ putting your business at risk.

⚖️ Law Name: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the equal rights of disabled individuals. More specifically, the ADA in part works to ensure that Internet users with disabilities have a fair opportunity to view, use, and experience content online.

⚖️ How it Affects You:

If you use a website 💻 in conjunction with your social media accounts, you need to make sure it is ADA compliant. Believe it or not, even Beyoncé has been sued for a non-ADA compliant site – so it can definitely happen to you.

Furthermore, private businesses with 15 or more employees with a non-ADA compliant site may be responsible for damages of $55,000-$75,000 or up to $150,000 for repeat offenders.

So how do you know if your site is compliant? 🤔

First, consider employing the services of a free website such as the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. These services take a look at your website’s font size, color contrast, image alt text, and more to ensure it is ADA compliant. 

While these services are great for the DIY-er, larger businesses with more legal risk should reach out to a social media lawyer to take a look at their site with a close eye. Overall, according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), websites should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust to ensure an equal experience amongst individuals of all abilities.

⚖️ Law Name: Communications Decency Act (CDA)

The Communications Decency Act (CDA) was enacted by Congress in 1996 for the main purpose of protecting children 👶 from accessing pornographic content online. However, the act was met with years’ worth of legal challenges concerning its violation of the first amendment. Furthermore, the act presented ISPs with a plethora of problems as well.

While the CDA has had its fair share of changes and revoked provisions, portions of the law – especially Section 230 – are still incredibly applicable to influencers today.

⚖️ How it Affects You:

U.S.C. § 230 of the CDA aims to protect social media platforms and other websites from legal penalties due to slander or misinformation spread by their site’s users. For example, under U.S.C. § 230, Facebook would not be held responsible for libel a user posted to their status.

Specifically, this law is very important for bloggers ✍️. While § 230 holds bloggers responsible for their work posted on any hosting site, it also releases them of any legal responsibility for comments on their blogs.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this law ensures “bloggers are not liable for comments left by readers, the work of guest bloggers, tips sent via email, or information received through RSS feeds” (Source: EFF).

Luckily, U.S.C. § 230 of the CDA provides us and our followers with an opportunity to share our opinions 💬 online without getting the host site into any potential legal trouble. Imagine how much the Internet would be censored without it!

⚖️ Law Name: Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed by Congress in 1998 to provide parents and guardians with control over what personal information is collected from their children online.

Today, COPPA strictly regulates what kind of ads are allowed on children’s content and under what circumstances. Furthermore, COPPA requires all websites that collect data from children under the age of 13 to disclose and obtain permission to do so from the children’s guardians 👨‍👩‍👦.

⚖️ How it Affects You:

Truthfully, any content creator could get in trouble over COPPA, but this social media law is especially tricky for YouTubers.

In fact, at the beginning of 2020, COPPA led YouTube to redesign their entire kids’ content strategy by banning ⛔ advertising, targeting, comments, and channel notifications on ALL kids’ content.

Furthermore, YouTube has rolled out intense consequences for COPPA noncompliance. Believe it or not, these penalties ranging up to $42,530 per violation have caused even child-directed channels to leave the platform!

Therefore, in order to ensure you don’t face these hefty fees 💲 or channel termination due to COPPA violations, you should always consult with a social media lawyer prior to labeling ANY of your YouTube videos as “safe for kids”. 

Unfortunately, the FTC’s guidelines for COPPA compliance are extremely subjective and even a bit confusing. As a result, keeping a detailed record of your reasoning for labeling content as intended for children is a great way to back up your decision in court – should you ever find yourself in that situation.

However, if you’re unsure whether your content is safe for kids, DO NOT ❌ mark it as such. This is the easiest way to get your channel into serious trouble, and it’s NOT worth your career. 

⚖️ Law Name: Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Ever heard of a DMCA takedown? This is what it’s referring to!

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) went into effect in the year 2000, and is intended to protect copyrights and provide a process for reporting piracy online 🌐.

Unfortunately, while the intention to protect creators against copyright infringement is a commonly supported endeavor, DMCA takedown notices have violated many social media users’ rights outlined in the fair use doctrine. 

⚖️ How it Affects You:

As a content creator, you need to be weary of DMCA takedown notices.

First, you can avoid the chances of DMCA takedowns altogether by utilizing royalty free content or obtaining a license to use content in your videos or social media posts. Otherwise, anytime you use copyrighted material – even if it’s fair use 🤷‍♂️! – you risk takedowns.

Therefore, every influencer who utilizes the doctrine of fair use to post copyrighted material on their social media should understand what a DMCA takedown is and how to fight against it.

That being said, you should not consider fighting a takedown unless you have actually been wrongly accused. Believe it or not, issuing DMCA counter notifications requires making statements ✋ under penalty of perjury, and you don’t want to mess that up!

In other words, if there’s even a slight chance that you received a DMCA takedown notice for an accidental case of copyright infringement, just let it go. Plus, be sure to consult with a social media attorney to help determine the best course of action in every case of a DMCA takedown.