2 Replies Latest reply on Sep 11, 2008 4:04 PM by MRowland

    Liability Issues in Community Moderation

      Hello Everyone,


      What are the liability issues for an organization when moderating a community?  Our community (in the planning stages) will be a closed community of verified medical professionals.  Clinical discussions will be one of the major categories.  This has lead some of the nervous legal types (unfamiliar with communities in general) to question what our organization's potential liability would be for erroneous or misleading information that could potentially cause harm.


      Privacy of the individual is another concern, even though HIPAA has very clear guidelines, a recent study shows that sometimes these guidelines aren't adhered to. http://www.springerlink.com/content/k7r6123g4x776q5l/.


      Lastly, what about the posting of copyrighted material, example a purchased article from the Harvard Business Review, that is intended for a single user?


      Will a terms of service be enough?  Do we, the organization, need to moderate and remove this kind of material?  It seems to me that it is a slippery slope, if we manage to find and remove some of the offending material but not all are we now liable?


      Any thoughts?


      Robert Hicks


      Message was edited by: Robert Hicks to correct spelling

        • Re: Liability Issues in Community Moderation

          Robert - i moved this discussion into the "Manage" space to help get better visibility by the community managers who frequent Clearstep.  In this section of the community will find links to some example terms and conditions that might help: http://www.jivesoftware.com/clearstep/docs/DOC-1031

          • Re: Liability Issues in Community Moderation

            Hi Robert,


            Your legal team's issues are common in health care, financial, and other industries where information (aka advice) is regulated. We've had discussions on this topic with the community manager at WebMD in our roundtable and with legal teams at AARP when we launched a health community pilot a couple of years ago. There are several steps that you should run by your legal team:

            1. All users who register must agree to the terms of service which have a specific clause along the lines of "this community does not provide medical advice but merely opinion regarding health issues, for medical advice you should contact your physician." A second clause that your lawyers probably are familiar with is the 'hold harmless' clause which shields your organization and the community from liability and negligence. The users must check the 'I agree" box to demonstrate that they actually took the time to think about agreeing with the terms of service. That's another protection.
            2. Regarding privacy issues, you must have a clearly written privacy policy that spells out what is and is not allowed to be revealed by members and how your organization will handle privacy issues. You should also have a less formal 'rules of use' document on the information allowed and the information that should not be put into the public eye of a community.
            3. Copyright issues are tougher, but very managable. If you know that the content is copyrighted as your example shows, the moderators should remove it. While you may file a safe harbor statement under the DMCA and wait for a takedown notice, we advise our clients to be a bit more proactive in this area. You have members who will report this violation as well. In general, a strong moderation defense is better than relying upon an untested act (just ask Bolt.com's former executives or your friendly neighborhood Viacom attorney).


            Good luck!