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Read this to avoid legal trouble on Twitter

If there's one thing we preach to people getting on Twitter, it's this: Think before you tweet!

So Bridget was really pleased to have a great conversation on that theme with Web attorney Gaida Zirkelbach (@Gaida), who works with Gunster in West Palm Beach - so much so that we made it the topic of tomorrow's newspaper column. 

Zirkelbach originally presented this at a meeting last week of the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association, but basically, it's just five tips every worker/business owner needs to know to avoid creating some serious legal trouble on Twitter:

  • Exposing company secrets -- Workers can inadvertently send out tweets that convey Handcuffsproprietary or confidential information about the company or its clients.  "'A lot of people don't think twice about sending out a tweet,'' she said, adding this is the most likely culprit in the horror stories she hears.
  • Retaliation/wrongful termination -- Say you want to fire a worker because they're constantly tweeting about how they're slacking off, or worse, complaining about a boss. If your company doesn't have a formal social media policy, firing over tweets can backfire if that worker sues you for wrongful termination.
  • Defamation -- This is obvious, but tweets could become the basis for a defamation lawsuit. The offhand criticisms you make about someone could be interpreted as malicious.
  • Contracts -- Badmouthing about other companies can be dangerous if there's a contract involved. Say your competitor has a deal you would love to have. Zirkelbach says knowingly interfering with that contract -- even if the tweets are seemingly lighthearted critiques, or attempts to get business -- could one day cause serious legal trouble.
  • Trademark infringement -- Tweets can misuse, dilute or cause confusion regarding a trademark. Lots of folks are on Twitter posing as celebrities and public figures. Recently, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa filed a lawsuit against Twitter for allowing someone to tweet offensive messages under his name. Zirkelbach has yet to hear of anyone getting into serious legal trouble with a fake account -- usually the name is just taken away and given to the real person.

The point: We get that the lure of Twitter is how fast it works - that's why we like it. But be careful. Use the same filter for your tweets as you would when having a conversation with your boss or client. It may end up saving you a whole heap of "twouble.''

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